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Musicians and Activists Unite at 'Pathway to Paris'

Climate

Musicians, artists and activists lended their unique voices to the issue of climate change at the Pathway To Paris concerts at The Masonic in San Francisco and the ACE Theatre in Los Angeles over the weekend, a closing act of the Global Climate Action Summit in California.

This year's concerts, a collaboration with 350.org and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), featured legendary punk rocker Patti Smith, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, skateboarding icon Tony Hawk, hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, artists Olafur Eliasson and Steven Sebring, 350.org founder Bill McKibben and many other high-profile guests and environmental activists.


"Happy in my heart I had the opportunity to play for for Pathways To Paris this weekend. I love trees, water, air, bluebirds with those little crowns on their heads," Flea tweeted Monday.

Founded by Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon, the first Pathway to Paris concerts took place in New York following the People's Climate March in 2014 and in Paris, France following the adoption of the landmark Paris climate agreement in 2015. Last year's concert in New York's renowned Carnegie Hall launched the 1000 Cities campaign that aims to get at least 1,000 cities around the world to commit to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

This year's event focused on "the potential for cities to push for, achieve and go beyond the climate targets highlighted in the Paris agreement," according to a press release.

"Cities play a critical role in transforming our world out of the era of fossil fuels and into a renewable world," Foon said in the press release. "This is our time to make this shift and transform our cities to become sustainable, resilient cities for us all and future generations. This is our chance as our window of time is narrowing."

The organizers also called on the international community to ramp up climate action, which reflected the theme of the Global Climate Action Summit to take "Take Ambition to the Next Level."

"In the world of music, the best way to improve is through collaboration. This is the same with the critical issue of climate change," Smith said in the release. "We must join together to make this the most ambitious collaboration of our century. We will not be able to implement crucial and challenging solutions to climate change, plastic pollution, and all urgent environmental problems as long as we stand divided. Inseparable from the issue of climate change is the need for world peace, global communication, and an international collaboration unmatched by any event in human history."

Ice cream maker and Pathway to Paris partner Ben & Jerry's live-streamed the San Francisco concert. Watch here:

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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