Article by Jessica Kirby –
Community-funding music video project in Williams Lake asks individuals to take action against climate change.
Mother Earth stands on a frozen lake holding an hourglass. Her expression is stern, but her eyes are kind. “Hey, hey you … what the hell are you doing? … Times running out … this house is burning …” The lyrics from “The Mother’s Plea” beg us to pay attention and take action for the planet in this community-funded music video project created in Williams Lake.
The video features singer-songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt, several children from the Williams Lake area, and Shannon’s neighbour Susan Lovejoy as Mother Earth. Its creation was a collective effort between Shannon, the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS), and a youth-led club from Williams Lake called Third Planet Crusade. Third Planet Crusade is co-run by Ella Kruss (13) and Julia Zirnhelt (13), both of whom appear in the video.
Shannon wrote “A Mother’s Plea” in the fall of 2019 after the federal election when she felt the urge to speak up because of the way climate action is so often part of campaigning platforms but tends to fall silent once the votes are cast.
“I came up with the melody and the song came from the perspective of Mother Earth needing our help and being a mother myself,” Shannon said. “I feel that songs come through me, rather than thinking of them as my own. This song was gifted to me so I could share it with others.”
Creating a music video to accompany the song was always part of Shannon’s vision, and when she was able to access community grants from the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society, the Community Arts Council of Williams Lake, and in-kind donations from community sponsors, suddenly her vision became a reality.
“Julia Zirnhelt is my niece, and I have joined her climate strikes, so I thought it might be a good fit to do the video with them,” Shannon said. “I think it really worked to include the generations.”
As a community outreach project, the video serves as an invitation to encourage additional community-based support for the important work of climate change mitigation and adaptation. As a youth-involved project, the endeavor was to strengthen youth’s understanding of the connection between arts and culture and communicating ones’ passions and beliefs.
“It was important to include children in the video because they are taking on the problems created by the generations that came before them,” Shannon said. “I really believe the change will come from them. They will provide leadership, and we can follow them.”
Ella says youth are an essential part of climate justice because they are the future and the next generation to inhabit the earth. “If we don’t act now, we won’t have a future,” Julia adds.
“We can bring a different perspective to the world, a perspective of climate action and justice,” Ella says. “Our future is being destroyed by climate change, and it is important we talk about that and let people now just how drastic climate change is.”
Ella and Julia recently held a panel discussion with local teachers to discuss ways to better present climate change education to youth. On the panel, Ella and Julia discussed their experiences as youth in the climate movement and explained to teachers how they struggled learning climate change. “Our hope was that our experience will help them expand their outlook on education and climate change,” Ella said. “We also talked about how they can support youth in the climate movement and what the bigger picture of climate justice looks like.”
“The teachers were really into it and I felt heard,” Julia said. “The main point that I was trying to get across was that teachers need to be brave and take a stance so they can talk to their principals or whoever is above them about getting better resources for teaching about climate change.”
Third Planet Crusade has important plans brewing for the rest of 2021, beginning with more climate strikes, the first of which is planned for June. The group is also planning a climate sit-in June 18 in front of the school board office to demand better climate education in the school district.
Looking to the future, Ella and Julia have important messages for their community:
“It doesn’t have to be a battle between the climate activists and the resource industry workers,” Julia stresses. “If we start moving away from those kinds of jobs, there will be other jobs to replace them, like work at solar or wind farms.”
“Let your voice be heard,” Ella said. “Come out to actions and talk to people about climate change. It is something we need to be discussing every day, something that is pressing. I still have hope that this issue can be fixed but not without people all on the same page.”
Locally, the resources for change are readily available. Shannon recommends contacting an organization like the CCCS or the Potato House to find out how to connect and engage. “Either of those places could probably give you a list of 20 things you can do today,” Shannon said. “People see this as insurmountable so they choose to do nothing, but there are so many little things we can do—buy food with less packaging, eat local, take up gardening, ride a bike once a week, educate your kids.”
Shannon intends to apply for another grant next year and is considering another video project, again working with Third Planet Crusade and CCCS, but this time expanding the project to include environmental education at Big Lake School and song writing projects with children. “Keep it simple, and lead by example,” Shannon said. “That is the best way to evoke change.”
Check out the video at: youtube.com/watch?v=P5XtkMIthm0
Learn more about Third Planet Crusade at facebook.com/thirdplanet.crusade
Discover Shannon Zirnhelt’s music at: shannonodonovan.bandcamp.com/