PROJECT EARTH is our response to the enormous crisis currently facing our planet. Through chamber music and poetry, we strive to illuminate the impact of human behavior on the environment, addressing issues of climate change, pollution, habitat degradation, and biodiversity loss. Equally important, we give center stage to the immense beauty and wonder found in nature. We recognize the power of our collective imagination and the need to inspire a shared sense of value and responsibility if we are to create meaningful change around these complex issues.
PROJECT EARTH is a multi-year endeavor, encompassing three distinct chapters - the Blue, Green, and White Chapters. We premiered the first half of the BLUE CHAPTER in 2019, featuring “Bird Island Suite,” by Canadian composer and jazz pianist Florian Hoefner and Griffin Prize-winning poet Don McKay. This work explores the sensitive ecosystems found on bird islands around the world and the impact of human activity on these endangered sites. A second piece, “Our Material Selves,” by the same creative duo is now in progress to complete the BLUE CHAPTER. This work addresses our lives as material beings, juxtaposing our hunger for some form of immortality with the substances we manufacture that approximate this dubious condition – for example, plastics.
Our planet Earth is at a tipping point. Never before in human history has our global home faced this rate of deterioration and species loss. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reported that 1,000,000 species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled since 1980, plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, and 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes are dumped into the world’s waters annually. A full 75% of ecosystems on land and 66% of marine ecosystems have been “severely altered” by human behavior. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide” (Sir Robert Watson, IPBES Chair).
Many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals address the dire situation in which we currently find our planet. Goals 3, 6-7, 9, 11-12, and especially 13-15 all have targets directly related to the protection of our environment. One target for Goal 15 (“Life on Land”) is to “take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.” But the IPBES report makes it clear that we are not meeting these targets. “Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 80% (35 out of 44) of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals…” If we fail to meet these targets, Indigenous peoples and those in the poorest communities worldwide will experience the greatest impact.
The problems are complex and the size of the threat we face is not matched by a similarly sized investment in solutions. While people are capable of coming together in great numbers in support of a common cause, the crisis facing our planet has struggled to gain proper attention. The sheer magnitude of the problem and protracted timeline for both threats and solutions make the situation challenging to grasp.
This has been a call to action for us as artists. The role of storytelling and illuminating “place” has never been more important. For people to come on board with the creative solutions necessary to save our planet, we must connect through our imagination, shared emotional experience, and the direct impact of this crisis on the things we cherish. Numbers are not enough. And a complete doomsday picture will not be effective either. Hope is necessary for humans to take action. And there is hope. The IPBES makes it clear that “nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably,” but a “fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors” is necessary, “including paradigms, goals, and values.”
The Earth is THE project of our times. With PROJECT EARTH, we strive to inspire the shared values needed for transformational change. Through music and poetry, we are able to zoom in on tangible high-impact stories, while simultaneously illuminating the beauty we are at risk of losing if nothing changes.