San Francisco, California, USA
On September 14, 2018, Pathway to Paris held an event in San Francisco to cap off the Global Climate Action Summit, where leaders, organizations, and activists from around the world met to take ambition to the next level, discussing innovative solutions for combating global climate change. This event, in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme and 350.org, brought together musicians, activists, film makers, and actors from around the world to share in a collective voice of urgency and hope, with a shared vision of transitioning our world away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.
The event opened with a stirring short film by Steven Sebring, an artistic piece in black and white, highlighting the effect of global warming on our children and the apocalyptic world we are moving towards leaving them. It closed on a hopeful note, with a moving voice over of a young child (Steven’s son Seneca) calling us to action. As the movie screen lifted, the piano and cello of Pathway to Paris founders Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon began, the signature opening sound of these annual events, which also served as a soundtrack for Steven’s film.
They were joined by 7 year old Rhiannon Hewitt, a local resident of San Francisco with a passion for planet Earth. As the music continued, she read her poem, ‘7 Imagined Memories,’ a dedication to 7 animals which have gone extinct in her lifetime. She closed the final line of her poem and stepped offstage as Patti Smith took her place at the microphone, sharing her own poem, ‘New Jerusalem.’ Jesse and Rebecca then took to the microphones with welcoming words and urgent calls to action. It was an intentional choice to begin the night with the collaborative voices of three generations of women, from 7 to 70.
Following the event, Rhiannon’s poem was illustrated and published, with all proceeds going to Pathway to Paris.
During the event there were several moments of action, a constant reminder of the reason the audience was gathered together. Each musician shared words of their entry point to the climate movement, films were shown throughout the night, petitions were signed. At one pivotal moment, Bill Mckibben (along with May Boeve and Jamie Henn of 350.org), lead the audience in a live letter writing campaign, urging Governor Gavin Newsom to halt all permits for oil and gas drilling, fossil fuel infrastructure, or petrochemical projects, both onshore and offshore, in the California landscape. These postcards were sent directly to the governor’s office, a message heard loud and clear that we must continue. Below is the slide shown on screen to the audience, prompting them with talking points for their handwritten letters. The petition can be signed here.
Other powerful moments of unifying action included a Little Sun sunrise lead by Icelandic/Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, with live music from Jesse and Rebecca, along with Tibetan musician and Pathway to Paris board member Tenzin Choegyal. The 3000 solar lamps danced in the air, illuminating the theatre, moving as one collective being. These lamps were collected following the concert, where they were split between Upaya Zen Center and Everest Awakening, and all were delivered to high altitude, remote, rural areas of Nepal where there is little access to city resources. The path of the lamps from SF to Nepal can be followed here
A beautiful and important surprise from this event was something special orchestrated by Tenzin Choegyal. He contacted the office of the Dalai Lama, and in return received a letter written and signed by His Holiness. The letter is a beautiful global call to action for our planet, and a wish for success for the Pathway to Paris California events. During the the evening, an image of the letter was projected on the movie screen as Jesse read the words, accompanied by Rebecca on cello and Tenzin with his dranyen, a 3 stringed Tibetan instrument. Following the reading of the letter, the lights came up in the theatre, and Tenzin asked the audience to stand, joining their hands above their head in the symbol of Everest, ‘roof of the world,’ making a pledge, to protect this roof and not let it leak. They were then were joined onstage by 20 Tibetan children who live in San Francisco, and all together sang ‘Heartstrings’, a song by Tenzin. Below is the letter sent by HHDL.
Throughout the night, Pathway to Paris highlighted their 1000 Cities Initiative, having the audience sign the global petition which now has nearly 120k signatures, inviting all cities of the world to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040. All proceeds from the event were donated to 350.org, Pathway to Paris, and the UNDP.
The evening featured performances and talks from Patti Smith, Bill McKibben, Bob Weir, Flea, Tenzin Choegyal, Olafur Eliasson, Pennie Opal Plant, Zero Hour, Rhiannon Hewitt, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Eric Burdon, Suluit, Imany, Steven Sebring, Rebecca Foon and Jesse Paris Smith.