By Nick Nuttall, former Director of Communications Global Climate Action Summit, UN Climate Change and UN Environment
Nearly 12 months ago in the German city of Bonn, Fiji became the first small island state to assume the Presidency of the international climate process until December 2018.
To mark this unique and special moment the Bonn-based art-meets-experts initiative Save the World commissioned the Berlin-based musician Bernadette La Hengst to write the opening song for the conference known as COP23.
The song, called I’m an Island, is a multi-faceted song framed against the risks of climate change to not just islands but everyone. On one level it can be heard as a love song between two people, but the lyrics also play with the ideas that every person, every nation and indeed the earth itself is a vulnerable island that together we need to urgently hold onto and cherish in order to save humanity and our only home.
The song was performed by Ms La Hengst with members of the Bonn Theatre’s Children and Youth Choir and the city’s famous Beethoven Orchestra in front of delegates from around the globe while children from local schools dressed as marine creatures paraded through the plenary with banners calling for climate action.
The song was also made into a video by the German children’s photographer and film-maker Achim Lippoth and shot on the streets of Bonn Bad Godesberg with some 500 children leaving a legacy of activism among the youth who took part.
The song spearheaded an animated online and TV climate campaign by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and generating over two million views on youtube in Germany and beyond.
This is not the first or the last collaboration between Save the World and Ms La Hengst. In 2014 she wrote a song for the inaugural festival entitled Save the World (with this melody) in which I had the privilege to perform.
The audience was encouraged to sing along and an image of the Earth on the screen behind flourished or withered depending on how well this peoples choir performed.
In 2015 the Save the World Festival and Ms La Hengst worked with children from the Gottfried Kinkel Primary School in Bonn who are part of a Climate Ambassadors programme in the city producing a song called Climate Astronauts.
It went on to win a special recognition prize as part of a song for Paris competition organized by the International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches; UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Save the World have teamed up with Bernadette La Hengst for their latest project involving youth from Bonn and Katowice where the next UN climate conference called COP24 will be held in December and where Fiji will hand over the Presidency to Poland. So watch this space!