The Resistance is Raising its Voice… Literally
by Sybil Bullock
People around the world are taking bold, creative action to break free from single-use plastics. Meet a few Greenpeace volunteers in the U.S. who connected online to create a parody song targeting the unrecyclable Red Solo Cup! If you’re inspired to raise your voice - literally - against plastic pollution, we’ve got some good news for you. Our Plastics Karaoke Challenge is here!
Jeff Southwick was one of the first Greenpeace volunteers to collect plastic waste in his community and record the brands behind the mess as part of our ongoing Plastic Cleanup and Brand Audit initiative with Plastic Polluters. After several rounds of finding Red Solo Cups and learning that they are not recyclable in his town of Stillwater, OK, Jeff hunkered down to a bit of research and found some surprising inspiration: Toby Keith’s Red Solo Cup song.
Jeff wrote to me about how annoyed he was with this song, “because it appears to encourage behaviors that lead to the use and abuse of single-use plastic.” Rather than let his frustration fester, he came up with a constructive course of action: turn the lyrics upside down.
“I said it would be neat if there was a parody of the Red Solo cup song that would not only address the problems raised by the Toby Keith video, but might also be such a fun and catchy replacement tune that we might have crews of folks walking down our rivers and beaches with a guitar and sacks just singing along while picking up plastic litter.”
Part of the problem with disposable plastics is the pop culture that celebrates it – which is what Jeff noticed in the Red Solo Cup song, with crude, derogatory lyrics like this: “And you, sir, do not have a pair of testicles if you prefer drinking from glass.” Ugh. Problematic and sexist language for SO many reasons.
In the hopes of finding a creative collaborator to craft some lyrics, we posted on Greenwire, Greenpeace’s social network site for volunteers. Within a few days, another volunteer named Granville Angell had responded with several stanzas! Now retired from his career in counseling and flying helicopter ambulances in Vietnam, Granville is an active kayaker and a published author based in Vale, NC. Jeff and Granville communicated online to consolidate creative lyrics, but they still needed a musician. When no one responded to our request on Greenwire, I decided to call my best backup: my little brother Cyprien, who happens to be one of my all-time favorite folk musicians.
It took several rounds of virtual conference calls with Jeff in Oklahoma, Granville in North Carolina, and Cyprien in Louisiana – but we did it!
“I wish we could have all been physically together as a team to write the song,” Cyprien said, “but I still had a lot of fun messing around with the melody line and chords, and getting to meet some wonderful people. All art is political – music is no exception. In my opinion, the best art challenges the status quo, and stands up for the marginalized, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. Sadly, that person today seems to be Mother Earth…but we, the artists, will fight for her!”
Longtime ocean-lover Jack Johnson sings that “single-use plastic is not so fantastic,” too!
There are so many ways to take action on plastic pollution. For centuries, music and art have been instrumental – pun intended – in raising awareness for social justice. If you want to hear our recording of this crowd-sourced Plastics Parody Song, click here and sing along!
Feeling inspired to take action on plastic pollution the way these creative cats did? Well, I have good news thanks to yet another awesome Greenwire volunteer: Jason ‘Science Sigh’ Zeikowitz, aka the Flavor Flav of Climate Change! Jason’s website, EarthArtFor.org, aims to use music and art to bond, celebrate science, and live sustainably.
This Weird Al Yankovic of climate activism got started at the 2017 March for Science. “Writing parody songs used to be a form of therapy after the election,” Jason says. “As I started sharing the songs, I realized people felt concerned and isolated in their own cities. My strategy is to use art to communicate with people.”
Join the fun! Here are four plastic-themed parody songs that Jason wrote, set to the tune of famous songs you probably already know. Activism comes in many shapes and sizes, and we need all the people power we can get to shift mindsets and build real solutions. If you love to sing, grab a friend and let’s hear you raise your voice against plastic pollution!
- Circle of Trash [Circle of Life]
- Can’t Trash That [Can’t Touch This]
- Choose Reuse [Shape of You]
- Bag on the Run [Band on the Run]
No matter your musical ability, we’d love to see your performance! Please share your best karaoke video singing along to your favorite parody song listed above, and email it to [email protected]! We’ll get in touch for a chance to share your performance on our social media channels. Let’s lift our voices together to demand solutions for single-use plastic pollution!