As I’ve mentioned previously, I follow Al Gore on twitter (this is the web service where people can send short text-length messages across the web to anyone who wishes to subscribe). Their short messages (tweets) come into my gmail, so I was working away late last week when I noticed a message come in from Al. Al doesn’t tweet that regularly at all, so when he does its usually about something important. He was briefly thanking all those who helped get the first US climate bill through Congress end of last week!! I followed his link to find that he and many others had won a tightly contested battle. It is by no means a perfect piece of proposed legislation; a lot of concessions were made, evident as the document runs to 1200 pages and it still has to get through the Senate. However, its the first time that any legislation on this topic has ever made it this far and is been claimed as a historic turning point in the US.
So that was positive, I was thinking and good timing for the lead up to the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen this Dec when the world will be watching and hoping that all goverments will come together to formulate a new global policy to replace Kyoto. So many people are working tirelessly in this area in response to the almost total consensus (>99%) of peer reviewed scientists that human activities are responsible for the planet’s rapid global warming, although its still an issue much misunderstood in the popular media.
Also late last week,I started hearing reports that Michael Jackson had died. The global phenonemon that was Michael Jackson, his music and electric dance performances that touched so many of us over the decades, the tragic latter years of a man surrounded by disturbing controversy, meant he was always was part of our global consciousness. Yet with the media circus that surrounds this artist’s death I was reminded of his music and I looked and listened again. I looked for his ‘earthsong’ video on youtube – it was his biggest ever hit in the UK from his album, History, part 1, released in 1995, beating both U2 and a Beatle re-release to the No. 1 Xmas song of that year (strange or is it, it was largely ignored in the US?). I dimly remembered seeing the visuals of the video at the time. Described as a blues/ gospel work, operatic in scale and cost, it was so ambitious then and now staggering to see it now in the context of growing awareness of climate chaos. Have a look at the video and then Jackson performing it live below. Even though it seems over the top, it seems so ahead of its time now.
I’m always thinking how hard it is as an artist to make works about issues that can connect without preaching – I think Michael came a long way in acheiving it in earthsong. I was also looking recently at the new Oxfam ‘Blue in the Face‘ video campaign for the Copenhagen climate summit in December. It’s great they are organising such a campaign but I couldn’t help comparing how like a mobile-phone advert it was compared to the emotion displayed in Jackson’s ‘Earthsong’(and isn’t it’s good to also see Jarvis Cocker come around to campaigning on this issue; remember he famously interrupted Earthsong when Jackson performed it live in the UK)
Earthsong live in Munich 1996: The HIStory World Tour began on September 7, 1996, and finished on October 15, 1997. Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities to over 4.5 million fans.
Was just about to post the above when I was saw a short piece in last weekend’s Sunday Times. I was startled to see that Jackson had revealed in the last few weeks before his death, admist a busy schedule of rehearsals for a comeback UK tour (which his brother tragically has since revealed he wasn’t well enough to do), that he was writing and composing new songs. He had excitedly rang his long time friend Deepak Chopra, bestselling author of numerous spiritual books, that he was writing material as good a ‘Billy Jean’ and sent him this new demo tracks, under a lot security! So poignantly, his new songs were again addressing climate change… Deepak quotes some of the lines that Michael wrote…
‘the trees are our lungs,
the rivers our circulation,
the earth is our body’.
He also wished to work with Chopra on a new green hymn for the world.
The reclusive, chronically ill and tragic figure that was Michael Jackson in recent years was often referred to as ‘whacko Jacko’ in the popular media, who called him weird. Apparently Jackson often said to Deepak, ‘Why do they call me weird?’ Isn’t the world weird where we have climate chaos, global warming, extinction of species, war, terrosim, where there is genocide in places like Sudan, isn’t that weird?’
I wonder what will become of of his new ‘earthsong’ track that he sent to Deepak. There was no-one quite like Michael to connect with so much of our youth, and the youthful part in all of us. As I’ve been reading recently in Global Warming for Dummies, our youth can ‘add a real sense of urgency to climate talks by stressing that the future -climate change, which may seem abstract to policymakers, industry and the public – is very real for them…Youth bring to the table optimism and high energy… and a sense of moral obligation in their elders…and they see climate change with a sense of simplicity…without employing numbing jargon or invoking complex political issues’
… Deepak, the world probably needs Michael’s new ‘earthsong’ for this December!