Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Crosby, Stills and Nash welcomed Jason Mraz, Jonathan Wilson and an amazing array of talent to the cause Sunday at an all-star Musicians United for Safe Energy (M.U.S.E.) concert to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear power and the readiness of renewable energy to replace it.
The crowd loved it and the players loved the crowd. M.U.S.E. is now talking about taking the show on the road.
“Many of us who were activists 30 years ago thought we had driven a stake through the heart of the nuclear industry,” Jackson Browne had said at the previous day’s press conference. “Plus the fact that it’s a really basket-case industry and cannot really survive on its own, unlike the alternative clean and safe types of energy.” This time, Browne added, “We want to popularize the idea that you have in your own hands the ability to make a change that makes a difference.”
“We realize that the event in Fukushima is an incredible focus point and an opportunity, unfortunately, to regenerate the energy that we had 30 years ago,” Graham Nash said. “And get younger bands involved.”
“Last year, for the first time, renewables generated more gigawatts than nuclear. It was a milestone,” John Hall, who wrote “The Power of Song,” said. “Without the notice of many people, solar, wind, geothermal and all the other renewables together passed nuclear.”
“Take all your atomic poison power away,” which is the chorus to Hall’s anti-nuclear anthem, brought an early ovation from an audience that may have come for the music but responded deeply to the message.
In Fukushima, “They’ve been trying to cool the reactors with water, thousands and thousands of tons of water,” Nash had said to the press. “And they say that they’re storing it. Where do you store thousands of tons of irradiated water? We know it’s going into the ocean. They have found whales 400 kilometers from Fukushima with irradiated flesh.”
Some people came for the stars. Some came for an afternoon in the sun. Some came to rock. Others came in response to Fukushima and to take a stand against nuclear power or to advocate for renewables and efficiency. There were a lot of vintage No Nukes t-shirts and there were a lot of admirably-worn tank tops. There was plenty of middle-age spread and a surprising abundance of wide-eyed, rock 'n' roll loving innocence.
They danced and clapped and listened raptly to the music and, between sets, they studied the booths of the eco-energy village set up in the amphitheater’s wings. They learned about solar energy at SunPower and BrightSource booths and about wind power from WindTronics. And they were signed up at booths manned by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, CalPirg, and many more dedicated activist groups.
“The big change today is that we can address a lot of the issues,” Alan Salzman, CEO of event sponsor VantagePoint Capital Partners said. “Thirty years ago, you couldn’t make an electric car that was practical. But companies like Tesla have demonstrated it’s now doable. And right now in the Mojave Desert, BrightSource Energy is building gigawatt quantities of clean, safe, reliable energy using mirror farms and solar capability.” Because, Salzman said smiling, “We already have safe nuclear power and it’s conveniently located 93 million miles away.” The concert was in Silicon Valley, he said, “Where the future is present today” and concluded, “We need to find the political and social will to get on with it.”
Renewable energy is so well established now, Graham Nash added, that “If you only care about making money, you will put your money in it.”
Bonnie Raitt’s performance brought audience members to their feet. She played a caustic piece called “Hell to Pay” that she said expressed her rage over Fukushima. “The way it looks from here, you won’t have to wait for hell to pay,” she sang, and then said, “You know who that’s for.” They did.
Browne sang “After the Deluge,” his dirge that refers to the direst consequences of climate change, and then rocked them some more. They were soothed by Sweet Honey in the Rock, enchanted by Jason Mraz, taunted by Tom Morello and roused by the Doobie Brothers before Crosby, Stills and Nash came on to bring the house down.
“We’re up against people with a whole lot of money,” David Crosby told the audience. “They got it from you.”
“You’ve got to look at it through the eyes of your children and grandchildren,” Graham Nash added.
All the rockers came on stage for the night’s grand finale. It brought the concert-goers to their feet.
But will the current generation respond to this No Nukes movement like their parents did in the 1980s?
Joining the concert “was an easy ‘yes’ for me,” relative newcomer Mraz said. “For my own selfish reason: I love going outside.”
“Songs carry the most fundamental human concerns,” Jackson Browne said. “There are a lot of ways music can be used to represent this issue.” Young people, he said, “want to know, ‘How does it affect me?' And the next thing is, ‘What can I do about it?’ And they don’t have all day long to listen to a lot of doom.” But the music of young rockers Mraz and Jonathan Wilson, he said, “carry questions that stay with people.”
“Nothing sticks around like a song,” Jonathan Wilson added.