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November, 2008

November 21st, 2008

Music and a Mission

The following is a blog post from Ria Knapp - campaign coordinator at Climate Counts - about her experiences on the road with the Campus Consciousness Tour.

For the past few weeks I’ve taken a short hiatus from my normal work routine at Climate Counts. As part of the Campus Consciousness Tour, I hopped aboard a 40-foot, biodiesel-powered bus destined to university towns across the eastern half of the U.S. The mission: to engage students in a discourse about living consciously, fighting climate change and having an impact on their campus – all within the context of some really great music.

O.A.R. headlined the 13-date tour in an effort to rethink and reduce their band’s footprint. That’s why they tapped Reverb - a non-profit organization that works to make tours sustainable and use music as a platform to activate environmental awareness. Alongside the Reverb crew, Climate Counts, Oxfam America and corporate sponsor Silk held Town Hall Forums at the schools each day and formed an Eco Village next to the concert stage at night.

At each campus stop, our midday panel – also including O.A.R. bassist Benj – gave students a glimpse of what the band members and non-profits on board the tour do, why we do it, and more importantly – how they can get involved. Students responded with enthusiasm and initiative at the prospect of fighting global warming with their daily shopping choices and the knowledge that they can influence the way corporations respond to the global climate crisis.

In turn, hearing about the steps they’ve taken was equally exciting. The ingenuity and desire of students to be change-makers on their campus is incredibly renewing. Programs varied from school to school, but every college demonstrated a clear need to act, not just swiftly, but meaningfully.

A Wake Forest University club surveyed their student body on potential sustainability initiatives to connect with their peers, demonstrate a demand to their administration, and voice a campus-wide call to action. The University of Delaware streamlined a recycling program to make a measurable impact and provide a starting point for students to tangibly understand their individual footprint. At Bucknell University, among the campus greening buzz, students discussed putting $5-10 dollars of their tuition toward sustainable development. It’s a small amount that adds up fast in the context of the university’s 5,000 students. I loved hearing about this idea, in part because it hinges what Climate Counts is all about – that individual efforts can create a powerful force resulting in real progress. This allocation also adds a level of transparency to where the administration spends tuition money. Students at the forum said that knowing where their money goes a.) makes them feel good and b.) encourages them to keep changing their school.

In addition to facilitating climate action, the tour strived to lead by example. Here’s a snap shot of how a day on the bus begins: The bunks are space-conscious, described endearingly by the crew as “time capsules”, “coffins” or my personal favorite – “submarines without port holes”. The only indication of morning comes from the jarring halt you feel as the bus pulls into a new campus. The crew – roadies, techies, band members and non-profit staffers – roll off the buses. Recyclable cans and bottles, cereal boxes and cardboard miscellany from the day and night before are properly deposited. The breakfast room is stocked with compostable silverware and cups made of corn. And the bus is tanked up with a fresh supply of biodiesel from a local source. As a result of this morning routine, every subsequent step we take from there on out is backdropped by a sense of responsibility and mindfulness.

While the tasks and chores of living green on the road might detract from the glamorous image a rockstar lifestyle might evoke, the lessons learned and reiterated through this work keep even the most dedicated environmentalist aware of what it’s all about. Consciousness – once you start to pay attention to your impact – really opens your eyes to everything around you. And when others around you start doing this, you can see how movements are born.

Plus, watching O.A.R. regale crowds and shake stages up and down the Atlantic coast on a nightly basis wasn’t so bad either.


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