THE BLOG

What if MJ Fans Left a Legacy Rather Than Flowers

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET
  • Matt Petersen Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Los Angeles. pLAn.lamayo.org

What if the images from the tribute(s) to Michael Jackson in the days ahead told another story besides the love of millions of fans for the music and the moves of the King of Pop?

In the week since Michel Jackson's unexpected death, hundreds of thousands -- a number that will doubtless grow to millions -- of his fans have been seeking ways to pay tribute to the man and his music. Armies of Jackson admirers and journalists made the pilgrimage to his Neverland ranch after false reports of a Friday public viewing made headlines. Elsewhere around the world Jackson fans have been dancing and holding candlelight vigils outside US embassies. There is now a public memorial planned for Jackson at the 20,000 capacity Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 7 with overflow in the Nokia Liva "public square."

What if instead of spending $20 on flowers to leave behind on tribute sites, or tying $10 Mylar balloons to fences, Jackson's fans instead honored his humanitarian streak by making a donation to charity? Outpourings and love and grief are natural and cathartic, but Jackson, of course, was among other things a well-known and longtime supporter of many charitable causes. His We Are the World project which supported famine relief efforts in Africa may be his best known philanthropic work, but the Guinness Book of World Records Millennium Edition listed Jackson as the world's most charitable pop star, who supported 39 charitable organizations through donations, sponsorships and by participating in auctions. Some of the charities he supported were the Make A Wish Foundation, Minority Aids Project, American Cancer Society, Heal the World Foundation, among many others.

What if the incessant MJ news coverage in store for us the week ahead spoke of an incredible spike in charitable donations, with billions of dollars going to humanitarian organizations around the world -- ideally fighting child abuse and pornography, stemming violence in Africa including against women and girls (not to mention Mother Earth), and other similar critical issues -- rather than panning the camera to show endless fields of flowers and balloons at Neverland, US embassies, the Jackson family home, and elsewhere?

Surely the planet would breathe a sign of appreciation as tons of waste would be averted from landfills (and the ocean would be spared a mountain of balloons), and I would also venture to guess that the famous philanthropist's children will one day thank his millions of fans for leaving a lasting and sustaining legacy for the truly best of their father's memory.