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I Ain’t Trying to Live on Mars

marsWhat does hip-hop legend J-Live have in common with the billionaire ultra-conservative Koch brother?

Not much. Expect perhaps that they both work hard and are here to stay.

J-Live’s “Give It Up” is basically a hip-hop anthem for the climate action movement. It runs through the core concepts of climate change, warns that if we don’t wish to live on Mars then something serious has to change.

You can listen to it here, and I highly suggest that you do. Through powerful lyrics, flow, and production, the longstanding indie MC boils down everything you need to know about global warming into 5 minutes of eye-opening entertainment. It’s art meets science at its highest.

Ok, so where do the Koch brothers fit in? They are wealth meets politics at its lowest. While J-Live deploys the power of hip-hop to inspire people to protect mother nature, David and Charles Koch are busy deploying the power of their incredible wealth to fund attacks on any environmental regulations that might threaten their oil regime. In a recent New Yorker article, investigative journalist Jane Myer exposes the downright nasty funding strategy of a family that gives philanthropy a bad name. A real bad name.

As Myer substantiates, these guys are basically all the evil characters from Captain Planet rolled into one fierce brotherhood. They believe that any government regulation which does not protect their multi-billion dollar empire simply should not exist. And they’ve figured out how to launch a regressive social movement to support this belief, in part by supporting the battle of bad ideas through think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. Turns out that these brothers are the financial force America’s most arch-conservative uprising, known to most as the Tea Party. This is a movement made mostly of people who share the Koch brother skin tone but not their bank rolls.

So what might we learn from all this? What can J-Live teach environmentalists about taking on a pro-pollution force like the Koch brothers? And what can the Koch brothers teach J-Live and others about fighting the battle of ideas? I see three key lessons for earth-loving scientists, science-loving activists, and everyone else whose not trying to be displaced from Planet Earth.

Lesson 1: If we want foot soldiers for a climate action movement, we need to build a real and lasting alliance between environmental scientists and cultural producers. While hundreds of millions of private investment would also go a long ways to mobilize people to do more than but eco-friendly shopping bags, we can start by taking core climate change messages and making them wildly accessible.

Lesson 2: Hip-hop albums are an awesome starting place, but playing to win demands that we support the type of institutions that can shift public opinion over time. Americans are more doubtful of global warming than they have been in years, although the science proving the urgency of our moment has never been so robust.  Spawning and supporting think tanks that can change the mind frame of the American public over time may sound extreme. But unfortunately it is the way businesses gets done in this country, and we need to do everything in our power to make sure that future generations will know the reality of the environmental challenges they face.

Lesson 3: Earth is where the party’s at, so let’s step the party up. What other planet is host to as many life forms and ideologies as our own? The answer is none,  at least not in this galaxy.  The third planet from the sun can host life like no other planet we’ve ever imagined, so we need to do everything we can to bring more life to our efforts to protect the earth. Whether its hip-hop, think tanks, or both, the key is to engage more and more folks in ways that they can start to own the solutions. The more we can do this, the more likely it is that earth will want to keep hanging out with us and our friends.


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