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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.