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Rock Politics

Buy a ticket to the Projekt Revolution concert and your purchase could help eliminate an estimated 167 tons of carbon emissions this year. That should make you feel pretty good about yourself.

In fact, give yourself a pat on the back for hitting up a tour that donates $1 of every ticket sold to do-good, tree-hugging charities like Music for Relief, Habitat for Humanity, and American Forests. Lucky for us all, there are artists out there like Chester Bennington of Linkin Park who, despite conservative outcry against musicians and filmmakers who think they have a right to speak their political minds, get off their asses and organize things as ambitious as, say, Music for Relief or a massive tour like Projekt Revolution to, you know, save the world in their own little — or not so little — way.

Music for Relief, in particular, was created by the members of Linkin Park in response to the Southeast Asian tsunami with the goal of pooling resources to make a direct impact in assisting relief efforts for natural disasters, a goal that hit home with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Since then, the organization has raised more than $2 million, with its current efforts focused on rebuilding the Gulf Coast and, thanks to an expansion of their mission, preventing natural disasters by reducing greenhouse gases. That means that Bennington and Linkin Park are probably not very popular around the White House, despite how much fun it is to imagine George Dubya head-banging in the oval office to "What I've Done."

"We started an organization called Music for Relief after some pretty horrible natural disasters occurred and we felt that we were in a position where we could actually do something," Bennington explains. "Now, with the question arising, 'Does global warming have an effect on the increase of a lot of these natural disasters?,' I think that it's important to raise awareness."

Bennington is talking about how the wider effects of global warming have demonstrated the capability to accelerate and even strengthen specific types of natural disasters — like, you know, hurricanes. "You don't have to wait for a tornado to rip somebody's city apart to contribute," he points out, which is kind of an idealistic way to look at things as an American, when you think about it. Our national policy has always been reactionary rather than preventive.

Bennington's greatest enemy is the state of ignorance perpetrated upon the American people by a White House that chooses to put Big Business — allegedly in the name of supporting the average American — before the environment, which President Clinton did when he first rejected the Kyoto Treaty calling for reduced emissions standards. Bush Jr. later reaffirmed his disinterest in joining the rest of the world in trying to save itself. In other words, we're dealing with politicians who, more often than not, have avoided regulatory action related to global warming for reasons completely inexplicable to the average American. Hell, Bush's own scientists have argued more than once that global warming is man-made, and his reply: Nothing. Capitol Hill knows they won't get elected on the environment, and so they are just as unconcerned.

"In my opinion, let's say the worst-case scenario is that there is no connection and it's just the way that the world is moving and we're not contributing to it — great," Bennington says. "But, at the same time, what's the worst thing that could happen [if we took action]? You know, we'd have cleaner air, less greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, people are using less energy.

"There is really not a downside," he adds. "But, if there is a connection and we keep going down the path that we're going and [having] these horrible natural disasters that could be prevented by making some easy changes . . . I think that's not an option that I'm willing to gamble on."

When Matt Rubano of Taking Back Sunday, one of the three headliners at this year's Projekt Revolution concerts, hears Bennington's assessment of the situation, he can't help but laugh. "That's my favorite quote for environmentalism ever right there," he says. "I think Chester is right, and I think it's kind of frustrating to see in the media some of the political and press spin on it where it almost seems like people are against the environment or against bettering the environment whereas, like Chester pointed out, if the worst-case scenario is, we get cleaner air and there isn't this correlation between natural disasters and a man-made input to it, we're still doing something that's incredibly positive and necessary."

Rubano, who attributes his newfound activism to Tacking Back Sunday co-member Fred Mascherino's dedication to the cause, never realized the power he could wield thanks to his success. "[The] one thing that we are sort of coming into over the last year or two is realizing [that] with just basic charitable and volunteer efforts as a rock band, by simply playing shows like we're doing, by just being your band, you can have a tremendously positive effect on whatever issue you decide to apply your strength or your focus to."

Bennington, the rest of Linkin Park, and Projekt Revolution's organizers decided there was no excuse for any aspect of the concerts not being green, either. Even though they haven't quite achieved that, he says, "We're going to have booths out there that give information on how people can lower their greenhouse emissions, from very simple ways to maybe more complicated ways. We're actually looking into converting our buses into buses that are green and they run on environmentally conscious fuels.

"[For] all of our records, any paper product is printed on this new material that is actually, like, super-recycled," he continues. "It's even our inks are environmentally friendly. Everything we do, we're trying to focus on polluting as little as possible."

Thankfully, there are plenty of folks like Bennington, Rubano, and the rest of the Projekt Revolution tour to remind us that we're supposed to aspire to serve something greater than corporate greed. Maybe that's why the Revolution "projekt" is spelled with a Russian or, more probably, a Soviet "k" — in acknowledgement of the failed political movement's most laudable trait: We are all equal, and equally capable of contributing.

"I think we can make a difference," Bennington concludes. "If at the end of the day all we did was plant a bunch of trees, that's cool with me."

Phoenix New Times - July 25, 2007



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