Rock in Rio: power chords against climate change

Don’t be a part of any energy [r]evoultion you can’t dance to

Feature story - 29 May, 2008
Anyone who has ever thrown on a pair of headphones when pondering a problem knows that music can induce inspiration. Our politicians aren't very inspired at the moment, so we're asking the musicians and crowd at the Rock in Rio festival in Lisbon to compose a small symphony of musical encouragement to help them to crack the climate protection conundrum. Want to join in?

Rock in Rio: Music for an energy [r]evolution.

Psychologists Oliver Sacks and Daniel Levitin suggest that music canhave a profound effect on our brains - actually, physically changing the way wethink. Music opens up channels to some of the most primitive parts of our grey matter, it taps into the subconscious, and it stimulates a unique form of non-linguistic, non-visual pattern recognition thatcan draw our thoughts down unconventional paths, and lead to breakthrough insights.

So when the organisers of one of Europe's biggest music festivals, Rock in Rio, asked us if we'd like a platform at their Lisbon gig from which to promote our work tosave the climate, we didn't hesitate. Music encourages new thinking. Our leaders are short on ideas. Let's put these facts together, and inspire our leaders to think better… with music.

Rock in Rio (don't ask why it's in Lisbonand not in Brazil) will be hosting acts like Lenny Kravitz, Amy Winehouse, Rod Stewart,Joss Stone, Alanis Morissette,


Park, Metallica, The Offspring, Bon Jovi, and Finnish cello metalband Apocalyptica.

  Surely there's some inspiration for world leaders of any musical persuasion in that mix. Wesuspect George Bush is probably a closet Metallica fan, and that "iPod One"contains such hits as “Kill them all,” and, as a gift from his pal Dick Cheney,“Master of Puppets.”

8 bar blues in the key of G

The next G8 summit in Toyako, Japan, from 7 to 9 July 2008, is a critical opportunity for world leaders to change the planet's course - to take the motif of fate knocking on our door from civilization's first movement and turn it into a harmonic sweep of human triumph in the 5th.

We're asking musicians and fans at Rock in Rio to join in the chorus calling for an energy [r]evoltion by demanding a symphony of action in five movements:

  • A global treaty that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2050;
  • Renewable Energy supplying more than half the world's power by 2050;
  • Laws that dramatically improve global energy efficiency, from light bulbs to automobiles;
  • Powering the world with as little coal as possible and no nuclear power;
  • An end to climate-endangering deforestation.

Logic isn't working

The logic behind the need for an energy [r]evolution is impeccable. But when it comes to the G8 leadership, it doesn't seem to have been loud enough to be heard or to lead to action.  So it's time to crank up the volume. To ELEVEN.

Music has been a powerful motivator for Greenpeace over the years.  Our first voyage was funded by a concert - a benefit that Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs threw in Vancouver, bringing along surprise guest James Taylor.  A rock compilation album, Breakthrough, with artists Talking Heads, Belinda Carlisle, REM, Pretenders, Eurhythmics, Grateful Dead, Thompson Twins, Bryan Adams, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, Dire Straits and Sting launched our first office in the Soviet Union. Green Day and Michelle Shocked have been helping promote our efforts to convert the guitar industry to sustainably-sourced wood.

U2 has taken action with us against the Sellafield nuclear complex,Gianna Nanini has been arrested with us protesting nuclear weapons testing, Bryan Adams has gone seat to seat in a stadium in Tokyo with other Greenpeace volunteers leafletting against whaling at one of his concerts, andcountless others have dedicated royalties and time to singing out our message.

At Rock in Rio,we’ve decided to enlist the help of a musical revolutionary, Ludwig vanBeethoven, in trying to reach the G8 leaders with our message.

From 1804 to 1808, Beethovenwrote the score for one of the most stormy, elaborate and magnificentcompositions ever to startle and inspire the world: the 5th Symphony. (That’sthe one that goes dit-dit-dit-DAH.) Two centuries later, it is still having animpact.  Research suggests that the pattern of notes in the 5th actually helps our brains work better and promotes creative thinking.During Rock in Rio in Lisbon,we are hoping this inspiring piece of music will inspire world leaders to takeaction against climate change at the next G8 summit.

Never Mind the Bollocks

You can join the band.  If you’re a musician, or you know how to playan instrument, or you know a musician, or even if all you can do is hum orwhistle, you can help deliver the message. Join the artists who will beperforming the 5th by clicking here.

We’re going to inspire world leaders to deliver solutions,  to make history, to save the world – even ifit means playing the 5th Symphony on xylophones, ukuleles,radiators, drain pipes, tubas, slit gongs, kazoos, bubble organs, mbiras,circular harps, didgeridoos, daxophones, skatars, e-sitars, gravikords, airguitars, sarussaphones, theremins and tsabounas.  Grab an instrument, grab a friend, record thefirst 2 minutes and 40 seconds of the 5th and upload it to YouTubehere.  We’ll edit the best together intoa single piece (you could be sharing a virtual stage with a real rock star) and figure out some way to get it heard by the G8 leaders. 

Allegro di molto

Climate change is the greatest threat ourplanet faces today, and it has primarily been caused by the G8 countries: Canada, France,Germany, Japan, Italy,Russia, the UK and the US. Today, G8 countries still emitmore than 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, despite having only 13% ofthe global population. It is the responsibility of the G8 to lead the orchestraand conduct a symphony for change by making clear binding commitments to fightclimate change, protect the environment, and save lives.
Millions of people around the world will bewatching them. With their music and words, artists at Rock in Rioand other events will make their own efforts to inspire world leaders to tackleclimate change. 

You can help. Tell thegovernments at the G8 summit to lead the Energy Revolution. Tell them that youwant them to provide a global treaty that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by morethan half by 2050, and deliver other solutions that will save us from catastrophicglobal warming. 

Take action

Sign the petition to the G8, then put a beat behind it: cut your own version of the first 2 minutes and 40 seconds of Beethoven's 5th symphony.


We're grateful to the many musicians who have donated to Greenpeace over the years. Because we don't accept government or corporate donations, we depend on individual gifts. Be a rock star. Donate to Greenpeace.