01 December 2009

5 Days to Copenhagen - Compassion Tune-Up: Hard Rain

Mere days now before the Copenhagen climate talks ... friends everywhere are asking if we're going. Nope, we're going to stay home and keep working to get the science out there. 

One neat thing that's going to happen at the talks is the release of “Hard Rain: Our Headlong Collision with Nature” by Mark Edwards and Bob Dylan. It's a DVD based on Dylan's song and Edwards' photographic display. Below the video is a moving description of the DVD project, from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

In this video, the Mystic Revealers give Bob Dylan's prophetic classic a reggae beat. (See lyrics below.)

The film, released in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), combines a rare live recording of Bob Dylan performing “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” with the photographs from Hard Rain and an extended illustrated commentary, in a moving and unforgettable exploration of the state of our planet and its people at this critical time.

The global issues highlighted in Hard Rain are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that define the 21st century. While each problem is understood to some degree by decision-makers, they are typically addressed as separate issues. Hard Rain puts the pieces together and shows that the world has little chance to solve any one of them until we understand how they all connect by cause and effect.

The DVD is accompanied by a specially commissioned essay by Lloyd Timberlake. The “Urgency of Now” cuts through the muddled thinking and failed policies that have delayed a radically new worldwide approach to climate change, poverty, the wasteful use of resources, population expansion, habitat destruction and species loss. The essay title was inspired by a response to Hard Rain from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"If Hard Rain is a photographic elegy", said Mr. Brown, "it is also an impassioned cry for change. Forceful, dramatic and disturbing, it is driven by what Martin Luther King called 'the fierce urgency of now' - and I believe the call for a truly global response to climate change is an idea whose time has finally come."

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The dark and evocative lyrics of ‘A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall’ echo the kind of impacts the world faces if climate change continues unchecked. But Bob Dylan had another song. One that reflects a strong and positive Copenhagen outcome that puts the world on a low-carbon path – ‘The Times They Are A-Changin'."

Lloyd Timberlake's essay focuses on a key dilemma facing the climate negotiators. "Right now", he writes, "we have two huge challenges to life on earth. One is living and consuming within planetary means. The other is helping billions of people toward safe, fulfilled and dignified lives, meaning that many people need to consume more, not less, to have a reasonable standard of living. These would seem to be contradictory goals. Yet we must manage both, and we cannot manage one without managing the other. Poor countries will not accept a climate change treaty that prevents them from developing."

[Note from me: In the same way that many developing countries leapt right over television and telephone technologies straight to internet kiosks and cellphones, those same developing countries must leapfrog over fossil fuel development and go straight to development with renewable energy technologies. They can even pass Go and collect $200, which is a throwback to the game of Monopoly but also a reminder to developed countries of our financial commitment through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to help developing nations make this leap to the Golden Era, the solar age. This can happen and must happen.]

"We have to give governments a constituency to reinvent the modern world so that it's compatible with nature and human nature," says Mark Edwards. "Political change comes only when people form a movement so large and inclusive that governments have no choice but to listen — and act. The last verse of Dylan's song begins 'What'll you do now?' It's a question that cannot be left hanging when the Copenhagen talks come to a close."

The exhibit is part of a UNEP display, open free to the public for the duration of the UN Climate Talks, which will feature a Climate Maze that people can come and "negotiate" their way through.

The walls of the maze are made from cloth banners stamped and signed by thousands of citizens around the world in support of the UN-led Seal the Deal! campaign, which asks world leaders to conclude a fair and effective climate agreement in Copenhagen. Complementing the Hard Rain commentary, the maze also contains climate change facts from UNEP in order to raise awareness about climate change.

Check out the project at http://www.hardrainproject.com.

Contact Mark Edwards at MarkEdwards AT hardrainproject.com. Contact Bob Dylan at, well, your guess is as good as mine.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Bob Dylan, 1963

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin',
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?