Joan Baez, Patti Smith, and Michael Stipe were some of the artists that took the stage for the Pathway to Paris benefit concert at Carnegie Hall Sunday night. Pathway to Paris, co-founded by Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon, raises awareness on climate change while donating proceeds to organizations such as 350.org, Pathway to Paris, and UNDP. Their new initiative encourages all cities to stop using fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy by the year 2040.
Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon took the stage first to welcome those in attendance and to highlight the importance of what it means to fight for the protection of the planet. Smith hoped for all in the room to become climate leaders before the end of the night. “Music is our universal language”, said Smith. The two then played musical pieces on the piano and cello.
Following Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon was Smith’s mother, Patti Smith, introduced by her daughter. Jesse Paris Smith became visibly emotional when introducing her mother, speaking of her many achievements. Patti Smith read poetry aloud and sang a few songs before handing the stage over to the following performer.
Throughout the night incredible performers, artists, activists, and leaders took to the stage to contribute what they could to the initiative. Author, environmentalist, and founder of 350.org, Bill Mckibben, took to the stage to speak about climate change and urge the audience to play their part in stopping it. We were asked to write letters to our local government urging them to switch to renewable energy. Michael Stipe, frontman for the band R.E.M., sang several songs in an amazing, and wildly entertaining, performance. Dr. Vandana Shiva, Nobel Prize winner, activist, and Navdanya founder gave a moving and deeply inspiring speech on protecting, valuing, and caring for our planet. “Instead of worrying about how to grow food on Mars,” Dr. Vandana said, “why don’t we start caring for the planet we have right here.” Tenzin Choegyal, accompanied by a group of Tibetan elders, performed a beautiful traditional Tibetan song.
Olafur Eliasson, a visionary artist, engaged the entire audience in his performance. We were all asked to reach under our seats where we found a box. In the box was what Eliasson calls a “little sun,” a small solar powered lamp in the shape of a sunflower. Little Sun is a global project started by the artist in 2012, in which Little Sun solar lamps are distributed for use in off-grid communities and spreads awareness about the need to expand access to sustainable energy to all. We were all asked to leave our Little Sun solar lamps under our seats so each and every one could be donated to Puerto Rico, which is still experiencing extreme power outages due to Hurricane Maria.
Legendary singer and activist Joan Baez took to the stage later in the evening. As she always does, Baez used her incomparable voice to captivate the audience and send home a strong message of hope, resilience, and change. Among several of the songs she performed were “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Imagine,” and a hauntingly beautiful song she found on the internet about the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. During her rendition of “Imagine,” the entire audience took out their Little Sun solar lamps and turned them on, swaying in tune with the poignant performance. Baez reminded us to never stop fighting for what is right, and to use our own voices to make a difference.
It was a beautiful night filled with artists and speakers who showed true passion for their cause. Inspiration and hope radiated throughout the room that evening, leaving every audience member feeling a little more empowered than they did when they walked in.
Full List of Performers and Speakers:
Jesse Paris Smith
Dr. Vandana Shiva