Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Michael Stipe And More Want You To Fight Climate Change

by Erika W. Smith

Last night, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Cat Power, Flea, Michael Stipe and more took to the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York to call for everyone to help fight climate change. The event was put on by Pathway to Paris, a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness of establishing a legally binding global climate agreement — the Paris Agreement. Pathway To Paris was founded in September 2014 by Patti Smith’s daughter, composer and instrumentalist Jesse Paris Smith, and cellist and composer Rebecca Foon.

“Climate change is our unifying global concern,” said Jesse Paris Smith. “It breaks down and defines the geographical borders and walls we have created. It unifies us all and urges us to realize our collective voice. Music is our universal language. The power of music brings us together, showing how truly interconnected we all are. The Earth is our home, and our home is in danger. The signs are loud and clear. There is no longer time for borders and walls. Our hope is that by the end of this night, you will all be climate leaders.”

Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon opened the night with a performance of their own, and leant their instruments to other vocalists throughout the night. Along with an eclectic array of musical performances — including hip hop artist Talib Kweli (backed by Flea, with Joan Baez dancing), Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal (accompanied by a group of Himalayan Elders), and avant-garde composer Tanya Tagaq — various environmentalists including Bill McKibben and Dr. Vandana Shiva spoke throughout the night. Speakers called for New York to divest from fossil fuels and announced the launch of the new initiative 1,000 Cities, which invites cities to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040. At one point, artist Olafur Eliasson led a participatory art piece by instructing audience members to move “Little Suns” — small, plastic sun-shaped lights powered by solar energy — in certain ways. The “Little Suns” are being sent to Puerto Rico, to help those who have been left without electricity after Hurricane Maria.

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To close, artists reunited for a group singalong of “After The Gold Rush” by Neil Young, led by Patti Smith who, at one point, changed the lyrics from “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s” to “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century.” She transitioned to her own song, “People Have The Power” — a fitting way to close out a night of activism.


Photos by Kevin Kane for UNDP, used with permission

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