Prince Ea—the stage name of American rapper, spoken word artist, and civil rights activist Richard Williams from St. Louis— has done it again. Just in time for Earth Day, he launched one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen about mitigating climate change -- in the first 48 hours, it had over 29 million views. This apology to future generations for the harm we have caused our planet has an incredibly profound and poignant message that we should all pay attention to.
The purpose of the video is to raise awareness about the alarming rates of deforestation and the reckless destruction of our environment for which we are ALL responsible. Most importantly, this video serves as a platform to inspire citizens of the world to take IMMEDIATE action to stop climate change. How? by protecting threatened forests through the Stand for Trees campaign.
Stand for Trees is an online initiative created by the amazing environmental NGO Code REDD. It offers a tangible way for the general public to take direct action to combat climate change through crowd-funding the protection of threatened forests. Learn more here.
THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!!! I don’t know about you, but I am tired of hearing about the imminent catastrophe that climate change is going to cause, without being given any solutions or tangible ways that I can personally make a difference. I’m tired of waiting for the gatekeepers who hold all of the power to fix this terrifying problem, but won’t because they are influenced by special interest groups to say and do nothing. I’m tired of relying on slow moving systems and bureaucracies that are risking our future by taking their sweet time to address the dangerous effects of climate change. What I really love about this video and this campaign is that it reminded me that WE THE PEOPLE have the power to make a difference. Something we really shouldn’t forget.
Wildlife and eco hero Mike Korchinsky is the genius behind the Stand for Trees campaign and Wildlife Works, an amazing company that protects threatened forests by making them more valuable alive than dead (see below for more information). Korchinsky articulates the power of this campaign perfectly: “The Stand for Trees campaign was designed to put the power to save forests in the hands of the people to whom the future matters most: young people.”
So, last month, Prince Ea traveled to Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to witness firsthand the horrors of tropical deforestation. He also visited some of the pioneering forest conservation projects that were developed by Wildlife Works. They demonstrate a successful and innovative way to stop deforestation by rewarding forest communities who conserve their forests. THIS IS BRILLIANT. The Wildlife Works projects that Prince Ea visited represent two of twelve forest conservation projects participating in the new Stand for Trees campaign.
I had the honor of interviewing Prince Ea earlier this week to get his perspective on this incredible video and the powerful message he is sending to the world:
What was your inspiration to do a video on Climate Change and the role of forests?
Prince Ea: When Wildlife Works reached out to me, and told me what was going on, I did research and dove into the literature. What I found was some very shocking information that truly inspired me to want to inform the masses about this subject. You know, there are very detrimental processes that are reaching a tipping point and people need to be made aware, so that was the initial inspiration. I just felt like I wanted to be a voice.
As you were researching information about the looming catastrophic effects of climate change, what facts stood out and shocked you the most?
Prince Ea: Number one, I didn’t know that deforestation contributed more to CO2 emissions than ALL of the transportation sectors combined. That’s startling. Another salient point was, the destruction of the trees in and of itself. 40 football fields every 60 seconds. That’s shocking to anybody.
What do you want people to know most about climate change and the role of forests and what do you hope people will do with this information?
Prince Ea: I want people to know that we are affecting the climate, and yes the climate has been warmer at periods of times, yes there’s been more carbon in the atmosphere, but since the Industrial Revolution we have been pumping so much so fast that we can’t really control what’s going to happen. THIS is the issue. I want people to know and learn about environmental responsibility, I want people to change their relationship to the environment. Like I put in the song, to realize we’re not apart from nature, we are a part of nature. And to really just change our hearts. That’s what I want people to do with the information.
What do you hope to achieve with this video?
Prince Ea: I want people to become aware, simply put. It was a piece to spread awareness and to get people involved. To actively take steps to stop the destruction of the forests. So that we can actually bring mainstream attention to the issue.
I heard that you visited the Wildlife Works REDD+ projects in Kenya and the DRC. Can you tell me about your journey, what it was like to see deforestation first hand and how forest communities are protecting their forests for the benefit of all of humanity and biodiversity?
Prince Ea: That’s a big question right there. What I did see was, innovation. For Wildlife Works to essentially make trees more valuable alive than dead, to provide that incentive is great. It’s an innovative measure, an innovative step that I’m glad we’re taking. And we need to take more steps in that direction. It’s a beautiful thing. My journey was incredible and I had a lot of great experiences. It was worldview altering, it was life changing. I made some friends, met a bunch of good people and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. The whole journey was beautiful and I can’t even express what it meant to me in words.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Prince Ea: I want people to not only see the video, but to take action. I want people who see the video to take that extra step. But to also take that step internally. That’s the real way that we’re ever going to change the world, is if we look inside. If every individual looks inside. That’s the only way that the world is going to really change and evolve. We can change laws, we can do this and do that on the outside, and those are great and necessary. But for me, I’m an artist, that wants to touch the root. And in the song I talk about how the root is the people. And the root of the person is a human heart. I want to touch people’s hearts with my words, and let things take their course after that.
I can’t thank you enough, Prince Ea, for all of the incredible work that you do and for taking the time to share this journey with all of the global citizens out there. We need more voices like yours in the world. Protecting our environment is such a critically important task and I honestly believe that it is the single most important cause of our generation. As Prince Ea states in the video,
“it is up to us to take care of this planet, it is our only home. To betray nature is to betray us. To save nature is to save us. Because whatever you’re fighting for, racism or poverty. Feminism, gay rights or any type of equality. It won’t matter in the least. Because if we don’t all work together to save the environment, we will be equally extinct.”
A wise man once said: “when the rivers have all dried up and the trees are all cut down, man will then realize… that he will not be able to eat money.”
About Prince Ea
Activist, spoken word artist and viral sensation with millions of fans, Prince Ea’s thought-provoking pieces deliver important social messages with wit, passion, and hard-hitting punch lines to inspire positive change.
In late 2009, Prince Ea, upset at the present state of the music industry, decided to form a movement named “Make ‘SMART’ Cool,” where SMART is short for Sophisticating Minds And Revolutionizing Thought. The movement attempts to promote intelligence to everyone, everywhere and integrate it with hip-hop without discrimination or preference.
Along with Prince Ea’s internet success, he has also been featured in both national and local publications including Huffington Post, CBS, FOX, Yahoo Music, VIBE Magazine and DISCOVER Magazine. His spoken word pieces have been featured nationwide in various publications and talk shows including the Queen Latifah Show and the Blaze with Glenn Beck. His alias, Prince Ea, is derived from Sumerian mythology, “The Prince of the Earth.”
About Wildlife Works
Wildlife Works protects threatened forests, including the wildlife that inhabits them by providing forest communities with a transformative sustainable development path. Since 1997, the company has worked with communities in developing countries to help them manage their transition away from forest destruction towards sustainable economic development utilizing job creation as a core conservation strategy. In 2010, Wildlife Works delivered the world’s first REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) VERs (Verified Emission Reductions) from its pioneering REDD+ project in Kenya.
REDD+ places a value on standing forests as a key element in mitigating climate change and sells that value to progressive corporate leaders who are committed to reducing the carbon footprint of their organizations on a voluntary basis. Wildlife Works protects 1.24 million acres of forest in Kenya and the DRC mitigating approximately 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually.
About Stand for Trees
Stand for Trees is a first of its kind consumer campaign that uses the power of social media and crowd-funding to enable everyone to take real and effective action to reduce deforestation and curb climate change. Through an innovative mobile web solution, individuals can now purchase ‘Stand For Trees Certificates’ – high quality, REDD+ verified carbon credits – to help communities protect endangered forests and wildlife by supporting sustainable livelihoods. The campaign was founded by Code REDD.