Everyone loves megamalls – they’re air conditioned, contain pretty much everything under the sun, and they’re (crucially) not under the sun. Everyone except Sting that is. He hates them. Hates them so much that he doesn’t want to play a concert in one. I mean, he’s not Tiffany or Debby Gibson, is he? Anyone remember them? No?
Anyway, the former Police frontman had the venue of his Manila, Philippines gig changed from the SM Mall of Asia Arena to another venue because SM uprooted 182 trees in order to expand their mall in Baguio. Lesson? Don’t uproot trees and then book an environmental activist slash mega rock star or you are gonna get stung!
From the Guardian:
For months, a group called Project: Save 182 has been fighting the planned redevelopment of the SM City Baguio mall, planned to include the removal of dozens of trees from Luneta Hill. Environmentalists’ protests have included public plantings at other sites, offering “symbolic support for the trees intended to be cut, earth-balled and harmed” by the conglomerate SM Prime Holdings – founded by the Philippines’ richest man, Henry Sy.
After a bit of a harsh reaction including accusations of disinformation against Project: Save 182, SM wrote in a press release that they would relocate the trees instead of cutting them – as if that was the plan all along (maybe it was). Too late, SM! Sting will play his December 9 gig in at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Some local journalists have weighed in on the issue. Bong Austero points out in the Manila Standard how SM has done cultural as well as environmental damage (though he also praises the group and encourages it to adopt green business practices):
I think the issue is not really just the 182 trees at SM Baguio, it’s the fact that in the minds of many people, SM has killed the many things that used to define our cities. For instance, SM Baguio virtually killed the small cafes and quaint stores around Session Road. Because there is now a SM Mall in practically all the key cities in the country – and these malls have become the de facto center of the social scene in these cities – there are hardly any defining differences among them.
Another Manila Standard journalist makes valid points about environmentalists using hyperbole on the SM issue and how that might ultimately hurt their cause.
Of course the issue is more complicated than a relatively small amount of trees being cut down for a megamall expansion. Sting, me and you need trees for every breath we take.