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News May 9, 2022

Environmental Music Prize Searches for Green Theme Song

Environmental Music Prize Searches for Green Theme Song

Voting has begun for the inaugural $20,000 Environmental Music Prize, a quest to find a theme song to inspire action on climate and conservation.

In its first year, it drew 200 entries, now whittled down to 24 finalists.

“I am absolutely thrilled at the response,” prize founder Edwina Floch said.

“We were hoping people would reflect on what is a huge topic, and the result was a great range of emotions and thoughts.”

A long time environmentalist activist, Floch said that only 5% of Australians are fully engaged in the environmental discussion with the majority of people “not that engaged.”

Research from organisers found less than 1% of those on the 2019 triple j Hottest 100 were about climate change or protecting Mother Earth.

The Environmental Music Prize aspires to change that.

The 24 finalists range from veteran Paul Kelly to 16-year-old Sage Roadknight and 15-year-old Rory Phillips; from bands such as Lime Cordiale, Holy Holy and In Hearts Wake, to Sikh rapper L-Fresh The Lion and First Nations creatives Briggs, King Stingray, Emily Wurramarra and The Boy Of Many Colors; to Pacific & Indian Oceans artist collaboration Small Island Big Song.

Jack River wrote “We Are The Youth” to “express the anger and frustration of my generation” in the face of government inaction on climate, First Nations peoples’ rights and integrity.

“I also wrote it to celebrate the people who are standing up to our government’s lack of action – and all of those people are quite young, and mostly women.”

The video, made with First Nations digital storyteller Marlikka Perdrisat, features Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, teen climate activist Anjali Sharma, Chanel Contos (who launched the school sexual assault petition), and the leaders of the Black Deaths In Custody movement.

Jack River

Photo of Jack River by Dane Singleton

Reverend Bones, aka singer-songwriter and climate activist Michael John Bones, returned home to Canberra on New Year’s Day 2020 “to find my home blanketed in thick smoke.”

Throughout the day, friends and relatives related their horror stories.

“I’d had friends tell me they woke up vomiting in panic as their rooms filled with smoke,” Bones said. “My housemate drove to her brother’s farm to fight the blaze, and returned traumatised by the ember storm that could have taken the property and their lives.”

Sitting masked at the piano in his cottage, his entry “Sky Was Blue (The Bushfire Song)” spilled out in its entirety.

Frustrated by continual inaction on climate change, Bones sat on a meditation vigil in front of Parliament House for an hour every day in January.

The Environmental Music Prize was inspired by a number of existing initiatives.

One was how the triple j Hottest 100 drew three million votes from around the world, and the loud public and media discussion of the songs.

There were the XPrize, which offerd US$100 million each year to encourage technological development to benefit humanity, and the Earthshot Prize founded by Prince William and David Attenborough that each year gives five environmental groups £1 million (AU$1.73 million) to continue their environmental work.

Floch says about XPrize, “The return on investment is massive.

“Each of those organisations invests time, money and human resources in thinking about the problem, and the total investment is much more than the actual prize money involved.

“Often it leads to catalytic change.”

Working at the Documentary Foundation made her realise how documentaries have strategies and partnerships as a pathway to action.

With the Environmental Music Prize, Floch worked with groups like Green Music Australia, Greenpeace, Wilderness Society, Ocean Impact Organisation and the Climate Coalition as well as APRA AMCOS, Universal Music Australia, Unified Music Group and NEXUS Australia to design it and select the finalists.

Due to massive interest from overseas, the Prize will next year go global, with Floch hoping more partners will provide support and contribute to the prize money.

Voting is now open to the public until Sunday, May 15.

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