Pearl Jam – 20 Years of Environmental Activism (and my Soul Band)

Climbing on a mountain
Floating out on the sea
Far from lights of a city
The elements they speak to me…

Whispering that life
Existed long before greed…
Balancing the world
On its knee…
-1/2 Full, Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, lyrics)

The 20th anniversary Pearl Jam album comes out this month. I’ve been listening to Pearl Jam since 1992. In the band’s early days, it premiered at the New York City club, Wetlands Preserved, a music venue that featured performances by activist bands, many with an environmental agenda. Wetlands Preserved served as an environmental activism center from 1989 to 2001. It raised money for local wetland restoration and protection projects in New York. The club was known as a home to activist rock bands, including Pearl Jam, Ani DiFranco, Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler and Phish. http://www.wetlandspreserved.com/ Prior to that, so-called “eco-saloons” were unusual. Wetlands Preserved gave many activist bands their start and simultaneously raised awareness about environmental issues. A documentary about the club was released in 2007, directed by Dean Budnick: http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2008/03/wetlands_preser_1.html

Pearl Jam continued to stand up for environmental issues over the last 20 years, most recently, wetland restoration in the Gulf and the B.P. oil spill. They performed in a concert to raise money and awareness about the B.P. oil spill and wetlands restoration in the Gulf, along with about a hundred other activist bands. http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/130137-ozzy-pearl-jam-to-obama-stay-focused-on-gulf-restorationThey launched their Oceans campaign, and partnered with the Gulf Restoration Network, with the music video for their song, “Amongst the Waves”http://www.ascap.com/playback/2010/08/Green_Room/PearlJam.aspx The video can be seen here: http://pearljam.com/oceans/ Their campaign calls for fans to clean up beaches, eat fish that has been caught sustainably, to support the Gulf Restoration Network’s work in wetlands, and to rethink dependence on oil by using renewable sources.

Like many activist bands, Pearl Jam’s lyrics speak to social and environmental issues, politics and the human experience. For example their song, “Oceans,” on their album Ten, is a love song with the lyrics: “The sea will rise / please stand by the shore.” The five members of the band are each devoted to environmental causes, especially climate change, deforestation and renewable energy, but other issues, including wetlands. Their Carbon Strategy portfolio lists 9 organizations the band identified as doing innovative work in these areas and the band donated $100,000 to environmental groups in recent years.http://www.suite101.com/content/pearl-jam-environmental-issues-a76811 Pearl Jam’s environmental philanthropy is known internationally and they work closely with EarthCorps and Conservation International, two groups active in over 40 countries.http://www.suite101.com/
content/rock-stars-committed-to-environmentalist-cause-a185721
 The band also promotes “green touring,” which means they off-set their carbon footprint while on tour. They have been a role model to other bands on how to be a “carbon neutral” rock band.  Here one of the band members, Stone Gossard, discusses this role:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2W_G07Jv-w Gossard is on the board at the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, OR. http://www.wildsalmoncenter.org/index.php In 2003, the band worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect rainforests in Madagascar.http://www.conservation.org/discover/partnership/corporate/Pages/pearl_jam.aspxThe band also got the Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2007http://www.surfexpo.com/

Their most recent album, “Backspacer,” was named after the turtle they sponsored in the Great Turtle Race of 2009. The female leatherback won the race (she was called “Backspacer”). I had been waiting nearly 20 years for Pearl Jam to perform a mermaid song and I got my wish on this album with the song, “Force of Nature.” The lead singer, Eddie Vedder, is a soul surfer, and he often sings songs about the nature of the sea and our connection to it. For more information about Pearl Jam, visit the band’s website:http://pearljam.com/

There are many other activist bands that carry an environmental message in their music. For a blog on environmental songs, go to:
http://songs-for-ee.blogspot.com/2009/08/environmental-songsa-newscollection.html.  A high school student from southern Maine started the Emission Commission and launched a blog and top-ten list of environmental songs in 2009, including the bands Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and R.E.M.http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/emission-commission-environmental-songs.html

A documentary about Pearl Jam will be featured on PBS’s program, American Masters, debuting on October 21, 2011. For the story behind this documentary, go to:http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/flannel-surfing-pearl-jam-documentary-by-cameron-crowe-gets-pbs-debut/?src=tptw

For the eco-rock video for Pearl Jam’s “Amongst the Waves,” go to:http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/pearl-jam-amongst-the-waves

I waited almost 20 years for PJ to come out with a mermaid song… and they came through with “Force of Nature.”

Hurricane has the trade winds blowin’
A gale force shakin’ the windows in the storm
Shipwreck on the rock that he calls home
With one light on…

Somewhere there’s a siren singin’
A song only he hears
All the strength that you might think
Would disappear, resolving

One man stands alone, awaitin’
For her to come home
Eyes upon the horizon
In dark before the darkness meets the dawn

-Force of Nature, Pearl Jam

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