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Bringing eco practices into the music industry

Updated Monday, 14th December 2009

Musician and ambassador for Greenpeace New Zealand, Kirsten Morrell takes time out at COP15 to talk about the relationship between the environmental industry and artistic expression.

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Kirsten Morrell: Okay. My name’s Kirsten Morrell. I’m a musician and an ambassador for Greenpeace New Zealand.

Interviewer: The first question is about your sort of personal history and how you’ve ended up working or thinking about environmental issues? Where have you come from and how have you ended up here?

Kirsten: Well this year I donated a song off my up and coming album to the Greenpeace New Zealand Sign On campaign, and I suppose through that I have ended up here at COP15, but also to represent the very small New Zealand contingency, I might be the only one apart from our Prime Minister who’s here.

Interviewer: In your sort of personal past is there anything that you think has led you to be interested in environmental issues, something from your childhood or is there any reason why you are particularly interested in environmental issues?

Kirsten: Yes, a couple of things. One in the short-term past I’ve recently played at a benefit concert for Tonga for a tsunami that hit there, so environmentally, you know, it got us all thinking. Another point is that in New Zealand we have a burn time of seven minutes. So someone like me with fair skin I have to stay out of the sun for a large majority of the summer, which can be rather a hassle, but that’s reality.

Interviewer: So what are you working on at the moment? What are you trying to do here in Copenhagen and also more generally in your life at the moment?

Kirsten: Well I’m here primarily as an artist just to observe and educate myself as to what’s going on here, specifically at Culture Futures. I was invited over by Juhi Shareef who is an environmental specialist who greens up various parts of the industry. I’ve met people like that here in COP15 who do that as a living, and I’m really interested in sort of my future as a musician becoming a part of that and becoming much more carbon friendly, yeah, and reducing my carbon footprint. I mean I do that on a day-to-day basis I think as much as I can. I recycle, I walk to work, I cycle, I have a bicycle, and I make compost and I grow vegetables.

Interviewer: What about the future then, where do you see yourself and the environmental movement going in the next one year, the next five years, the next ten years

Kirsten: Well, it’s tricky, in the next ten years I think for New Zealand it’s going to be, it’s very important for every country but particularly for New Zealand what goes on here in Copenhagen because we have a very conditional, our Prime Minister has a very conditional target for reducing carbon dioxide in New Zealand. And I think scientists are saying, Greenpeace scientists are saying it has to be 40% by 2020, and we’re doing something, he is aiming for something like 15, 20%, which is well below what’s needed. So personally I’m hoping that this changes his mind, meeting people, meeting ministers from the countries and discussing the environmental disasters that could occur might change his mind on New Zealand’s targets.

Within the music industry, hopefully we can follow the UK model or things that are happening here in the UK, there’s lot of festivals and a lot of eco practices that are trickling in to the industry, and I’d like to support that and, yeah, be a part of it.

Interviewer: A question then about, I mean here we are at Culture Futures, obviously a cultural event, what role do you think that arts and culture play in the environmental movement and environmental change

Kirsten: In a way I’m lucky. I was asked to come here and through my music in New Zealand Greenpeace asked me to get involved with them, and I was able to help facilitate their Sign On campaign this year. I think musicians and artists can do that, but there’s only going to be a handful of artists. But I think everyone has the opportunity or has the choice to practise their art in a more sustainable way. Having said that I’m a freedom of speech advocate so there is, this is an interesting workshop that we’re attending here today because I under no circumstances would want artists to be controlled. I wouldn’t want their voices to, I mean it’s really important that the greening up of an industry doesn’t then affect how the art, the expressions of art.

Interviewer: A final question then, deceptively simple perhaps, how do you see yourself on a scale between optimism and pessimism, where would you put yourself?

Kirsten: When I’m making music, I’m a cock-eyed optimist. When presented with the world’s sort of environmental challenges and the timescale of which we’ve got to do it, slightly pessimistic.





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