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An “Earth Day Score” for resilience, a 22-song playlist by US Water Alliance Artist-in-Residence Benny Starr

Arts & Culture, Environment

Benny Starr

Benny Starr

Benny Starr, US Water Alliance Artist-in-Residence and Grist 50 Fixer, offers An Earth Day Score playlist to help us reflect on the longstanding connection between arts, music and environmental protection. This 22-song collection of soul, jazz and hip-hop was created to celebrate Earth Day and encourage us to find the wellbeing of people, the sustainability of communities, the equitable use of resources, and the presence of justice in all we do as critical indicators of our environment’s health. We hope you enjoy the playlist and a personal Earth Day reflection from Benny Starr below.  

This Earth Day follows an incredibly challenging year. A year marked by continued racial violence and injustice amid an unprecedented global pandemic that has underscored broader, deeper systemic inequities. The realities of this period have led me to find solace in art, as well as a more expansive function of the artistic process itself. This has also underscored the importance of my work as the Artist-in-Residence at the US Water Alliance to help create spaces for art, artists, and the artistic process in the water sector.

With The Kresge Foundation’s support, the US Water Alliance’s Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator is helping establish arts-water partnerships in Arkansas, Madison, Tucson and Philadelphia. We believe that bringing water utilities and artists together will accelerate action on climate change in the water sector, boost long-term strategies and investments in between extreme events, and help utilities and vulnerable communities address climate trauma to find common ground solutions.

But art is just one of the many entry points for healing and supporting communities as we work to advance environmental solutions. We must continue to meet and exceed the challenge of a more just and equitable environmental field and water sector. We must pursue a future where those ideals permeate our artistic expressions, nourishing food, community gatherings and so much more.

I challenge and encourage us all to think about how we can expand the definition of environmental protection to nurture ourselves, and others, as we attempt to care for the planet. Likewise, people’s experiences, their access to clean water and air, and parks and green spaces, must continue to be a critical indicator of our achievement of environmental protection.

This year’s Earth Day theme “Restoring the Earth” is an opportunity to explore natural processes, innovative thinking and emerging green solutions. It is also an opportunity to restore ourselves, the way we work together, and our intertwined future.

On Earth Day and every day of the year, I invite you to join me in centering wellness, justice and sustainable communities in the work we all do. And I offer this playlist, An Earth Day Score, to help us reflect on the longstanding connection between arts, music and environmental protection. For example, Marvin Gaye’s song “Save The Children” is ostensibly about the environment and our relationship with it. Meanwhile, the subject matter is a deep commentary on the 1970s socio-economic conditions, the proliferation of Vietnam, and the overall lack of justice and opportunity for Black and poor communities.

I encourage us all to find the well-being of people, the equitable use of our resources, and the presence of justice as critical indicators of our environment’s health and to use art to understand our relationship with the Earth and one another. I leave you with this question: How can you care for yourself, others and the planet?

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