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Rocking for Climate Change and Ocean Sustainability

Daniel Kingsbury

It's pouring rain outside and we are cruising along the winding highways of Northwestern Ontario. When I glance back from the passenger seat, I see my band mates passed out in various formations around the RV, our home on wheels for the indefinite future. We're exhausted. After presenting The Jellyfish Project three times in a row in Dryden, Ont., we're hustling to make it to Sioux Lookout before night settles in. When we arrive, we will immediately locate some WiFi in a café, fire up our computers and begin the evening portion of the day: photo and video editing, blogging, booking, accounting, social media management, data entry, and responding to a seemingly endless stream of emails. When the work is done, we'll head home to the RV, cook some dinner and call it a night.

Tomorrow will begin the same way as today. We'll wake up, immediately load and assemble almost 2000 pounds of equipment into a gymnasium or auditorium, squeeze in a 5-minute breakfast and then start the show. It's hard work, and the road is long ahead, but we are honoured to make our unique contribution to this great tradition. As we say during our presentation "music has always gone hand in hand with the revolutions and movements of the past, and it's our job to continue that tradition and spread awareness of the most essential revolution of our time: the transition to a fully sustainable existence of human beings on Planet Earth." This is a sobering reality and it's something we spend hours pondering during our long drives in the RV.

We are living in a truly pivotal time in history. Human civilization is faced with a simple choice: evolve and transition smoothly into a sustainable way of being, or face certain catastrophe as the effects of climate change and the myriad of associated environmental realities worsen and inevitably envelop every corner of the globe. Some might call me an alarmist for such statements, but when current biological indicators and the unilateral confirmation of this crisis by the world's foremost scientists are taken into account, any informed (and uncorrupted) individual will agree. Unfortunately, this choice isn't so simple. We are still heavily entrenched in an archaic system that is controlling mainstream media and keeping the general public in the dark about the defining issues of our time. This system is effectively preserving the bottom lines of the world's most powerful corporations at the expense of our planet and future generations. We can't let this happen.

This fall are taking The Jellyfish Project from Vancouver to Halifax and bringing our important environmental messages to over 35,000 Canadian students. We provide a high energy rock concert followed by a dynamic presentation on ocean sustainability, climate change, and environmental stewardship. We also invite students to join the environmental movement and engage in activism with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC), one of our partner organizations. In this age of misinformation and media distortion, we believe quality education to be the cornerstone of change. When a person has the good fortune of achieving a thorough understanding of the depth and breadth of the problem, it's nearly impossible not to care and be motivated to become part of the solution. As Einstein said, "those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act." And they are acting. Due to the rising popularity of social media and web video (which we can now access from our smart phones) critical information is spreading like never before. This unprecedented access to information is changing the very fabric of our culture and is proving to be a massive force for global action and change, significantly increasing the reach and impact of many new movements. It's a very exciting and a very important time to be alive.

Our days on tour are long and can be gruelling, but we are fuelled by the mutual satisfaction that we are engaged in extremely important work and that our message is being heard. Personally, I feel excited and energized and have just come off of what I would describe as one of the best summers of my life. It was my first summer at home on the Sunshine Coast since my band mates and I started Mindil Beach Markets in Victoria almost five years ago. I spent the weekdays on my laptop at the local café working on the growth and expansion of The Jellyfish Project and the weekends with the band, performing at a number of concert venues and music festivals around British Columbia. We've had a lot to celebrate, a tremendous amount of fun and a lot more to look forward to.

It was a transformative season of profound realizations and epiphanies, the most significant of which being the decision to invite other bands to join The Jellyfish Project, exponentially increasing the reach and impact of our program. We believe that many bands are aware of these issues and care deeply about the state of our environment, but don't know how to be a part of the solution in an impactful way. The Jellyfish Project provides an answer to this need and will give bands a number of realistic opportunities to meaningfully engage in the environmental movement. Although our organization has achieved tremendous recognition and success in its short life, we have not yet scratched the surface of its potential power.

The universal language of music is something that reaches almost all people regardless of age, sex, race or religion. Adored by endless millions worldwide, music has the power to save lives and change the world. It has been and will continue to be the voice of generations. The inspirational power that musicians have over their legions of loyal fans is unmatched in any other field of entertainment; many groups have achieved god-like status in the eyes of their followers and have an incredible ability to be a major influence in their lives. It is the belief of The Jellyfish Project that the mobilization of the music industry to promote environmental awareness and activism could be the catalyst to the tipping point for the most essential revolution of our time: the transition to environmental sustainability.

The Journey of The Jellyfish Project

Daniel Kingsbury

It's a beautiful day in Saskatoon. After an appearance on Global TV this morning, I'm spending the afternoon on a sunny patio reflecting on what has been a long and action-packed tour. It's been months since my band mates and I quit our jobs, left our homes, moved into an RV and became full time musicians/environmentalists. For over 100 days we've been crisscrossing Canada promoting our second LP, It Might Take Long and our environmental initiative, 'The Jellyfish Project'. By night we perform in the bars and nightclubs of our country's thriving music scene, and by day we go to school, not as students, but as teachers. We combine live music with a dynamic slideshow presentation on the largest issue humanity has ever faced. It's the single most important lesson our students will ever learn at school: the current state of our planet and the dire need for an immediate transition to environmental sustainability.

You've been hearing about it a lot lately. Get used to it, because it's not going away. Human civilization is colliding with the biosphere at an alarming rate and we are running out of time to turn things around. Last month, for the first time in recorded history, the global concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere (the primary driver of climate change) reached 400 parts per million (ppm). This is a significant milestone and hopefully a catalyst for rapid action to cull carbon emissions. But as long as our addiction to fossil fuels remains, we will continue to pump 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the sky each day. This further agitates an already hostile global climate system that is acidifying our oceans, melting the polar ice cap, shattering records for droughts, fires, floods, and producing super storms like Hurricane Sandy.

As's Bill Mckibbon described in his landmark Rolling Stone article last summer, it's all pretty simple. Human consumption of fossil fuels has resulted in a global average temperature increase of 1 degree C higher than pre-industrial levels. Even the most conservative governments and biggest polluters on earth have agreed that in order to avoid complete disaster, we must not surpass 2 degrees of warming. This allows us to emit 565 giga-tons (565 BILLION tons) more CO2 into the atmosphere, which would take about 15 years at current emission rates. The problem is that corporations have 2,795 giga-tons worth of CO2 emissions still in the ground, five times the safe amount, and they plan on extracting and burning it all. It's pretty scary.

Fortunately, a movement to end this destruction is expanding exponentially. Organizations from across the globe have come together to confront this crisis head on and have orchestrated a movement utilizing all facets of activism. The Jellyfish Project is proud to contribute a piece to this global movement.

Since the launch of The Jellyfish Project in early 2013 we have presented to dozens of schools and reached over 13,000 Canadian students. I can say without hesitation that our presentations have been a major success on all fronts and we have received tremendous feedback from students, parents, teachers, and principals. Our plan is working; the rock show at the beginning of the presentation captivates the students and puts them into a receptive state of mind. When we launch into our slideshow, they are curious as to what we have to say and listen attentively. A consistent piece of feedback that we've received from students is that unlike other environmental presentations, The Jellyfish Project hasn't left them feeling hopeless and depressed. It's left them feeling hopeful and optimistic, but also with a sense of urgency.

We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, and excited about what is to come. We are spending the summer playing music festivals, and in September we'll begin a 3-month nationwide tour, performing in dozens of nightclubs and presenting in up to 45 schools and 30,000 students. We've received a tremendous amount of media attention, a regular stream of requests for school bookings, and presented our project at the Environmental Education and Communication (EECOM) annual conference at The University of Victoria where we were featured as a 'success story.'

We are in a unique position right now with The Jellyfish Project.  The environmental conversation is growing rapidly. This trend will continue and intensify.  We are in a position to be 'leaders' and make a significant contribution to the movement.  We have found a unique way to contribute. It's an amazing opportunity, and also a responsibility, I think. 

There are two universal principles that we prescribe to. The first is that motivation follows action, and the second is that whatever you focus on expands. We've found these principles to be true. With every presentation we do, every documentary we watch, or article we read, we grow more passionate about our work and more motivated to continue. Of course, there are days when it all seems too overwhelming, too difficult, too hopeless. The statistics are shocking. But we are continually inspired and motivated by the thriving global movement towards environmental sustainability, and by the hopeful and enthusiastic faces of our students.

It's important to note that we are not trying to reinvent the wheel or compete with anyone. We are not going to create our own petitions or organize our own rallies. There are many organizations that already do an excellent job of that. It is our job to refer young people to these organizations, to play a middle man of sorts, and recruit youth to become activists. Aside from giving the students a thorough education and understanding of the problem, it's imperative that we give them the knowledge and tools to become actively engaged in the solution. That is the fundamental goal of the Jellyfish Project - to assist the revolution in the most effective way possible.

Some of our other goals are to be a part of WE DAY, present to 100,000 students, take part in environmental conferences world wide, tour the USA, Australia, and Europe, and eventually recruit and train other bands to do exactly the same thing - exponentially expanding the impact of our program. We realize these goals are large, but it's going to take large action from us and thousands of others to confront this crisis.

Kids Rocking the Environment, One Jellyfish at a Time

Daniel Kingsbury

My name is Daniel Kingsbury. I'm a 26-year-old musician and I'm part of a generation that has inherited a profoundly serious problem -- the global environment is tapped out and on the verge of collapse. Our oceans are heavily polluted and overfished, climate change is happening faster and more aggressively than most scientists anticipated, and we seem to be in the stranglehold of multi-national corporations and special interest groups, hell bent on maintaining the status quo.

The problem is that the status quo is completely unsustainable. Our over-consuming, infinite growth-oriented society makes no sense on a planet with finite resources and will surely leave my generation and future with severe challenges. Food scarcity, water shortages, and an increasingly hostile global climate system are an impending reality if we continue on our current path. The good news is that there are plausible solutions. We just need to assert the collective will to act right now.

Just three years ago I was like many other people my age -- I had respect for the environment but had no idea of the dire straits our planet was in and just how much was at stake. My time was divided between working a day job to pay bills and pursuing my passion for music on my days off. This was the formative period of 'Mindil Beach Markets', a rock band I started with some of my best childhood friends. When selecting our band logo, we stumbled across a jellyfish, and aside from being a majestic and visually stunning image, we learned that the jellyfish is a powerful symbol for the fragility and declining health of our world's oceans.

Jellyfish are an indicator species; changes in their populations represent greater changes in the ecosystem. Around the world today, jellyfish are thriving in record numbers due to a global increase in ocean temperature and acidity (conditions in which jellyfish thrive) and the relentless overfishing of their predators.

Through our research, we discovered that since 1950, the ocean has lost 90 per cent of its apex predators and 40 per cent of its plankton, leaving the food chain on the verge of collapse. We learned about the damage of oil spills, industrial fish farming, and the ominous forecast of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.

We found that gargantuan masses of plastic sludge exist all over the world where currents converge, the largest being The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. Needless to say, we were shocked and saddened, and chose the jellyfish as our logo with the intention of becoming a part of the solution.

Growing up on the serene Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, with the mountains and beaches as our backyards, my band mates and I shared a deep appreciation for the natural world. As our fan base grew, so did a desire to spread a message and make a positive contribution to the environment.

We believe that as performers, we are privileged to appear on stage and play music in front of people. With that privilege, comes a responsibility to speak to the issues that are important to us and to carry on the great tradition of using music as a tool for social, political, and environmental change. Music has always gone hand in hand with the revolutions and movements of the past, and it's our job to continue this tradition and spread the word about the most necessary revolution of our time -- the transition to a fully sustainable existence of humans on earth.

In 2012 we created 'The Jellyfish Project,' an educational initiative focused on generating awareness among youth about the declining health of our world's oceans and our environment at large. Through the power of music and live performance, students are engaged into the environmental conversation and are given information on how to become active participants in the sustainability movement.

Available free of charge to all Canadian middle and high schools, a typical Jellyfish Project presentation begins with a high energy show by our band, Mindil Beach Markets. The performance grabs the students' attention, earns their respect, and serves as a perfect segue into our important environmental messages. Delivered through a polished and captivating slideshow, including images, animations, and videos, we present a stunning portrayal of the environmental crisis our planet is currently facing. Students are educated on topics such as overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change.

As environmental stewards, it is our job to educate the 'U-Turn' generation -- the generation that must turn things around. The task is sometimes overwhelming and it's easy to feel powerless. It is challenging to impart the urgent message that scientists confirm without paralyzing our young audiences with fear. We balance this challenge with a strong emphasis on tangible solutions in our presentations, giving the kids the knowledge of responsible consumerism, renewable energy, green career options, and the power of the internet for global action and change. The internet, humanity's nervous system, is now accessible by almost everyone, and thanks to web video, web journalism and social media, critical information and messages are spreading like wild fire.

The Jellyfish Project has been gaining attention and momentum. We have secured a spot on The Suzuki Report, have partnered with The Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program, have completed training with Al Gore's Climate Reality Project, and will continue to present to thousands of students across Canada in between Mindil Beach Markets' regular touring schedule. We are on a cross Canada tour starting March 1st and you can see our tour dates and school visits

It's a fascinating time to be alive. As rapidly as our environment is being destroyed, a movement to end this destruction is building even faster. Millions of people are now waking up to environmental realities and helping re-create a planet where future generations can thrive.