By Rebecca Bulnes
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Buy a ticket to the Projekt Revolution concert, and your purchase will contribute to eliminating an estimated 167 tons of carbon emissions this year — which should make you feel pretty damn good about yourself. In fact give yourself a pat on the back for hitting up a tour that donates one dollar of every ticket sold to do-good, tree-hugging charities like Music for Relief, Habitat for Humanity, and American Forests.
Luckily there are artists like Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, the band that masterminded and headlines Friday's concert, which also features My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, H.I.M., and seven other acts. Bennington and his bandmates, despite conservative outcry against musicians and filmmakers who speak their political minds, have gotten off their asses to save the world in their own little — or not-so-little — way.
The band initially created Music for Relief, in particular, in response to the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004. The goal: to get a whole slew of musicians and industry types to pool their resources for natural-disaster relief efforts — a goal that hit home after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.
Since then, the organization has raised more than two million dollars. Its current efforts are focused on rebuilding the U.S. Gulf Coast and, expanding its original mission, preventing future natural disasters by reducing greenhouse gases. "Now with the question arising: 'Does global warming have an effect on the increase of a lot of these natural disasters?' I think it's important to raise awareness," Bennington explains. He points to how the wider effects of global warming have demonstrated the capability to accelerate and 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."
Bennington says his greatest enemy is the state of ignorance encouraged by a White House that chooses to put big business — allegedly in the name of supporting the average American — before the environment. President Clinton did so when he first rejected the Kyoto Protocol, calling for reduced emissions standards, and Bush Jr. later reaffirmed his disinterest in joining the rest of the world (except Australia) in it. In fact Bush's own scientists have, more than once, argued that global warming is man-made. His reply? Nothing.
"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 using less energy.
"There is really not a downside," he adds. "But if there is a connection and we keep going down the path we're going, [we'll have] these horrible natural disasters that could be prevented by making some easy changes. I think that's not an option I'm willing to gamble on."
When Matt Rubano, Taking Back Sunday's bassist, 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.... 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 TBS guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino's dedication to the cause, never knew 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," he says, "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, either, for any aspect of the concert's production to not be "green." Even though they haven't quite achieved that, Bennington says, "Everything we do, we're trying to focus on polluting as little as possible" — in other words, reducing the much-ballyhooed "carbon footprint."
That sounds, in terms of how our government has conducted itself, entirely un-American. Thankfully there are plenty of un-American folks like Bennington, Rubano, and the rest of the Projekt Revolution tour to remind us we're supposed to aspire to serve something greater than corporate greed.
"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."