Rebecca Foon, cellist and climate consultant, Canada | Faces of Climate Change | DW | 14.12.2015
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Faces of Climate Change

Rebecca Foon, cellist and climate consultant, Canada

"Everyone on this planet should be terrified and trying to help figure out what we are going to do, because we have a small window to shift the trajectory of where we are going with climate change."

Whether addressing an audience of a small Parisian theater, or chatting over tea in an even smaller Parisian café, #link:http://:Rebecca Foon# speaks and moves with a grace reminiscent of a fine musical suite. Perhaps unsurprising given her cellist background. What is surprising though, is how, armed with her instrument and a clear vision of the need to recompose the climate change tragedy, she managed to create a movement that is growing in strength and voice.

#link: to Paris#, as it is called, officially began in September 2014 when Rebecca Foon joined the People's Climate March in New York. Her own concerns about the way we treat the environment, however, date back much further, and led to her becoming a climate consultant in Canada. However isolating the job can be.

"I think it's easy to feel alone when it comes to climate justice," she said. "So when more than 400,000 people took to the streets in New York, it showed me that a lot of people do care."

The sudden arrival of an opportunity to build momentum was too good to pass up, so she and Pathway to Paris co-founder Jesse Paris Smith seized the moment. Within just five days they had managed to organize a concert with contributions from the likes of REM's Michael Stipe, artist Thurston Moore and writer Bill McKibben.

"The fact that people said yes, was unbelievable, and we realized we had tapped into something." She describes that something as "a critical gap" in efforts towards building a movement and putting it on the map. "I felt that everyone knows about climate change, but that it is hard to understand what you, as a citizen, can do to make a contribution."

She describes Pathway to Paris as being as grassroots as it gets. "We are just two people who wanted to make a difference." And they have. The seed of their idea, planted back in the fall of last year, has since grown to partner with and become something of an institution in the evolving struggle for climate justice.

Its supporters includes the legendary #link: Smith#, who Bill McKibben introduced during a recent performance at the Trianon Theater in Paris as "the most disobedient woman on the planet", Radiohead singer, Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea, and writer Naomi Klein. Rebecca expresses her amazement that there have not been more such events given the power of music to "make people feel things viscerally, and call them to action."

By the same token, she believes there is much to be said for a format that unites musicians, writers and activists."You know, musicians can get up there and sing, but they can't write entire essays into their songs."

Some might beg to differ, but for Pathway to Paris, the sum of those who speak and those who sing is greater than its parts. It is a non-ego event in which people take part because they want to make a "positive contribution to the planet and use their talents for a common vision."

COP21 Rebecca Foon

Rebecca Foon believes collaboration has a power of its own

And to prove their point, over the past year they have participated in several events. The latest, in the early days of December, saw them seduce an excited crowd at a Montmartre theatre. There, as Rebecca swung her bow, Flea and Thom Yorke strummed their guitars and Vandana Shiva played percussion to Patti Smith's cries of "people have the power," there was no doubt that everyone in the room believed they do.

The hope now, for Rebecca and the other Pathway to Paris players, is that everyone present will take that power out into their wider circles, and do as Patti Smith's closing words ordered: "Use. Your. Voice."

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