I can still remember the first Radiohead song that burrowed its way into my brain: “Creep,” their début single, released in 1992. Good times! The world was changing. The Berlin Wall had just been toppled. The Rio Earth Summit, with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, brought hope. And I, all wide-eyed and impressed by that brave new world, was just starting my fourth year of high school.
Flash-forward to 20 years later: Radiohead invites Greenpeace to be part of their European tour, just as I’m joining Greenpeace to work on the Climate & Energy and Arctic campaigns. These days, the life-size polar bear puppet that has quickly become one of the symbols of our Save the Arctic campaign—and who we’ve affectionately dubbed “Paula Bear”—can be seen at Radiohead’s shows in major European cities. Paula is the “warm-up act” for each gig, lumbering about the stage like an orphan with nowhere to go: her home, the Arctic ice, has vanished. You really need to this superb video, “A Homeless Polar Bear in London,” featuring Paula and the Radiohead classic “Everything in Its Right Place.” It’s quite disturbing to see this magnificent mammal out of her element, her disorientation made all the more acute by Thom Yorke’s singular vocals… The band’s leader, incidentally, has spoken out on the topic, saying: “We have to stop the oil giants pushing into the Arctic. An oil spill in the Arctic would devastate this region of breath-taking beauty, while burning that oil will only add to the biggest problem we all face, climate change.”
Funny that one of the British group’s best-known albums is titled Amnesiac, yet that polar bear silently striding around the stage is telling us we need to remember, and act. Paula’s reminding everyone that with each passing second, things are getting worse in the Arctic, and the oil companies are poised to profit from the melting ice. People say that the elephant symbolizes memory; well, I think this beautiful bear does, too.
Radiohead are enthusiastically supporting our campaign to Save the Arctic. I’m proud to see the members of this band, one of my first great musical loves, standing with us in this vital environmental struggle.
Today, Radiohead and I are fighting for the same cause.