I admit I am a news junkie. I read it and watch it every day. I do limit my intake to real news. Lately leading headlines focus on calls by the incoming president to renew the arms race placing fears of nuclear annihilation higher on the list of people’s concerns than it has been in decades. Dr. Strangelove is back and now he tweets. We know, again via tweet, that he doesn’t think much of the United Nations, the one place where, although imperfect, nations do talk to each other and good work can be accomplished. (Well, it is located on prime New York City real estate and it might make a nice hotel.) It’s America first and threats of trade wars loom large. The news is dominated by issues we haven’t seen in a long time creating fears and concerns that have an urgency that other matters of peril to the planet don’t in the public mind. We haven’t heard much about climate change lately and it doesn’t appear to be a very high priority for the new administration. Trump is likely to eliminate all climate change research conducted by NASA but we don’t hear much about that. Concerns over rising stockpiles do overshadow concerns over rising temperatures these days. That doesn’t mean those temperatures stop rising when we stop talking about it.
Enter the global private citizen. Those among us who will keep critical issues such as climate change on the world stage through creative means designed to inform and shine light on problems humanity must address if we are to have a future. I can’t think of a better example of such a global private citizen than Ricky Kej. As a composer and musician Ricky, a Grammy winner, uses his music as a powerful vehicle to express his message about climate change in his work, Shanti Samsara –World Music For Environmental Consciousness. Ricky launched his impressive project at the United Nations COP21 Paris Summit and performed at the United Nations General Assembly bringing his musical global call to action to world leaders and change makers.
To create Shanti Samsara Ricky brought people from all over the world together, some names you’ve heard and some you haven’t, to offer their talents and time to a cause that demands the highest of priorities. At a screening in Los Angeles I was privileged to be invited by Ricky to view the videos made for Shanti Samsara. Two really caught my attention. Kiribati is an endangered Pacific Island nation. Rising sea levels created by climate change will completely submerge Kiribati in our lifetime. Gone and it won’t take a nuclear weapon. All it will take is a denial of science, a denial of environmental issues and the lack of will to do anything about it. The second was Ricky’s video about the human-elephant conflict. Human encroachment on the Asian elephant habitat is endangering the Asian elephant population. The effects on the elephants is brutal and tragic. This one hits close to home for me. I got up close to Asian elephants when I worked in security at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. The staff caring for the elephants allowed me to interact with them. Asian elephants are smart in ways that you have to get close to them to believe. I played catch with them by rolling an apple back and forth on the floor. Rama, one of the males, actually painted and had gallery shows. They are aware and they communicate with each other and us. They have feelings. Watching that video was very difficult for me. It was the same as watching your friends being assaulted, tied up and thrown to the ground. I understood the fear and confusion in their eyes. It was the same as if it happened to us. It can’t continue.
Ricky Kej is that rare global private citizen who will use his remarkable talent to stand up and speak his mind about the environmental issues that speak to him as they should speak to all of us. We need him and those like him now more than ever. Please visit his website at www.shantisamsara.com