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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paul McCartney at European Parliament

Last updated on October 30, 2020


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From paulmccartney.com, December 16, 2009:

Its 6.55am on a freezing December morning in Hamburg. In one of the city most prestigious hotels a familiar face bounces through the lobby saying good morning to the bleary eyed hotel staff who are still in the process of waking up and not quite sure if they are in a dream or not.

Outside the hotel an army of fans and photographers are eagerly awaiting the arrival of someone special, happily oblivious to the fact it’s unforgivably cold.

Just less than eight hours ago the same familiar face that is now moving through the hotel was bringing a three-hour epic rock show (his day job) to a close in front of a capacity audience in Hamburg largest arena. The face is, of course, Paul McCartney. The occasion was the start of a special European tour that started where his career first began, in Hamburg, and it will end with the singer only UK performance of this year at the O2 Arena – a show that sold out in just four seconds.

But this morning it is a different story altogether. Paul will be facing a very different audience indeed.

Most rock-stars (and anyone for that matter) who had finished work so late would be forgiven for getting some kind of lie-in the following day. By the time Paul McCartney had completed his set, returned to the hotel and enjoyed a short wind down period it had gone 2am in the morning. Now, just four hours later, the cultural icon was his usual chirpy self, readying himself for a trip to Brussels.

The reason for the trip? Paul was set to address the European Parliament at a major international conference Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat‚ on an issue that is close to his heart; his Meat Free Monday campaign. He wanted to do his bit for the environment by calling for an effort to change eating habits and help save the planet from global warming. Paul would be talking alongside Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri (Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change).

Paul commitment to the cause was clearly solidified by the fact he was prepared for such a small amount of rest and that he was due to rock Berlin with another marathon show later on that night.

Recently in an interview Paul explained, “Many of us feel helpless in the face of environmental challenges. It can be
hard to know how to sort through the advice about what we can do to make a meaningful contribution to a cleaner, more sustainable, healthier world. But having one designated meat-free day a week is a meaningful change that everyone can make that goes to the heart of several important political, environmental and ethical issues all at once.

Back in the lobby of the hotel and the security team have decided it would be better for Paul to leave via the underground car park and he is ushered off that way. The waiting fans and paps work this out and run as fast as they can around the building to find the alternative exit for a glimpse of the man they’ve been waiting for.

Paul car leaves the hotel and flash bulbs start firing off – overly enthusiastic fans stand in the road and reluctantly move out of the way allowing the car to continue on its journey. Paul is driven to the city’s airport to catch a plane to Brussels.

At the entrance to the terminal the doorway is blocked by another army of fans. How do they know he was going to be here? They just do. Somehow many of the fans seem to know Paul’s movements before he does!

On the plane Paul settles himself in and pulls out a bundle of paper work, which he quickly starts diligently working his way
through, making copious notes. As the rest of Paul’s team enjoy a morning coffee and small breakfast in an effort to get themselves kick started for the long day ahead, he politely declines the offer and concentrates on his job in hand, no distractions. When asked about his reasons to visit the European Parliament, Paul explains, ‚Äú I was asked to speak there and, although it’s not the kind of thing that I would like to do for a living (I’ll stick to my day job, don’t worry), it was such a good opportunity to spread this message of the campaign that we’ve got going for Meat Free Monday that I thought I had to grab at it.

90 minutes later the plane has landed and Paul is greeted by Edward McMillan-Scott, the Vice President of the European Parliament. He is whisked into another car to make the short journey along to the European Parliament HQ.

Following in another car, one of Paul’s team is talking non-stop into his mobile about arrangements upon their arrival. When he gets off the phone he reports that apparently there are hundreds of people lined up with cameras and Paul McCartney albums, awaiting his arrival.

Sure enough, when the car pulls up it as if Paul has arrived at an in-store signing event. The hall he enters is full of crowds doing all they can to get a picture, an autograph, or even just a glimpse.

Primarily Paul is here today to address the parliament and take part in a press conference after his speech. As Paul is led to a holding area, a growing swarm of people are following him, including untold amounts of cameras. One of the EP press team remarks; ‘Wow, it like moths to a flame, I’ve never seen this kind of reaction!’

Eventually things settle. Paul is introduced to EP President Jerzy Buzek along with Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri. They have a private meeting in the President office and attend a short photo call afterwards. Considering Paul is working on less than four hours sleep it’s remarkable he has so much energy and is happy to chat with anyone that says hello.

Before his speech Paul agreed to give an interview about why he has travelled to Brussels today, what his campaign means to him and what he hopes the outcome will be.

During the interview Paul explained why he thinks eating less meat will help the environment:

The idea is basically that the livestock industry has got out of control, so the things that happen because of the amount of meat that most people in the western world (in particular) eat are very detrimental to the environment. There is the emissions of the Greenhouse Gases – in livestock that’s methane (caused by things like belching) which is just part of the normal way the cow regurgitates the food and these gases come out. And then there also nitrous oxide, which is produced by the fertilisers. These gases go into the atmosphere and, we’re all normally worried about CO2, but they hang around much longer and they’re more dangerous and more powerful than CO2. In actual fact, the livestock industry is responsible for more of these dangerous gases than the whole of the transport sector – so you’re thinking cars, lorries, airplanes… those used to be the villains, but now it has been proved that the livestock industry is largely responsible for a lot of these problems, more so than transport. So the idea that we’re trying to get into is just to encourage people to reduce meat consumption, so we have a campaign called Meat Free Monday (of course it can be any day of the week, but in our case it’s Meat Free Monday) where we just suggest to people that they don’t eat meat on that one day. If they do that it can be very helpful for the planet in the future. If people continue at the current rate it’s going to be very dangerous for the safety of the
planet and it means that our children will inherit a mess of our making.

How did Paul first get involved in this campaign and where did he do his research?

It was first brought to my notice by a report that the United Nations put out in 2006 which was called Livestock’s Long Shadow. They started to mention these kinds of facts. What intrigued me was that these were not vegetarians – the people who wrote the report, the researchers, were people from the UN, and this is where a lot of this information comes from, where they’ve studied, say, the effects of methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and it’s reckoned that the best thing that anyone could do would be to eat less meat and therefore give the children of the future a better chance. The interesting thing is that lots of people are adopting this. So you have a lot of schools in the UK that have Meat Free Mondays. In Baltimore in the US the school system there encourages a meat free day and that involves 80,000 American kids. You have the town of Ghent in Belgium, which has a meat free day, and very interestingly to me, Sao Paolo in Brazil, which I think has a population of something like 11 million and of course Brazil is a huge meat exporter. But even they see the wisdom, because, the point is, if you don’t do something (like with all the global warming issues) then there won’t be anywhere to
farm and there won’t be anywhere to travel to come 2050, because we will have made such a mess of it. So we believe that the easiest option, something that is very do-able for people, is to just think about giving up meat for one day a week. The people who have done it that I know have found it very easy and they actually find it quite interesting and fun to do.

After the interview and without a moment to re-read over his speech or make final preparations, Paul is immediately hurried out into the Parliament plenary chamber, which youd immediately recognise from TV!

Vice President McMillan introduces Paul to the lectern by saying, Paul McCartney was the sole author of one of the most popular songs in history, Yesterday, but he is here today to discuss tomorrow your future and your children future. Paul approaches the lectern and begins. In scenes the parliament doesnt see everyday, many of those in attendance leave their seats to come nearer to Paul with cameras and phones in hand. The security team were clearly taken by surprise and it took a while to calm things down so Paul could speak. Although Paul has been entertaining huge audiences all his life, he isnt a public speaker and public speaking is a completely different skill, but he rose to the challenge as he delivered a powerful and heartfelt speech.

As part of his speech Paul also read out a statement in support of his campaign from US climate change activist Al Gore who said in it, Meatless Mondays is a responsible and welcome component to a strategy for reducing global pollution. During his speech Paul urged that, the parliament and national governments need to encourage, inform, help and guide people about the benefits of reducing their meat consumption. He outlined that change isnt always easy and that what now might seem odd could become commonplace in the future; Once, for instance, we didnt re-cycle we werent interested, but now it an accepted part of our lifestyles.

Paul speech was greeted with applause and, in places, he even managed to make some of the more serious members of the audience smile.

After the speech Edward McMillan-Scott, Dr Pachauri and Paul give a press conference to international media, taking questions on their presentation. Inevitably many of the questions are aimed at Paul and certain areas of the media are quick to try and trip Paul up with questions about how his current tour might have a negative impact on the environment. They havent invented microphones that work on candle power, responds Paul and points out that he does his bit where he can,I do everything I can. If I go for a car, I go for hybrid. I recycle.

At the press conference Dr Pachauri lauded Paul Meat Free Mondays initiative, saying it, makes the tasks of governments so much easier.

At 1pm the conference ends and it time for Paul to leave. As he gets up to exit the press conference he is given a standing ovation. Then the press all move forward to the area where Paul has been sat, desperate to try and get an autograph before he leaves. Paul signs some autographs before his team tell him he really has to go. After all, there is a show in Berlin to consider. He has to get back to his day job.

Paul McCartney writing

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