Jesse Paris Smith, daughter of legendary punk rocker Patti Smith, sat down with her family's lifelong friend Michael Stipe for a chat in Brownstone Cowboy's Magazine about her ongoing battle against climate change. Founding the nonprofit Pathway to Paris back in 2014, Smith has been at the frontlines of the climate battle, and a well-respected climate activist.
She shared how she began Pathway to Paris and revealed to Stipe that he had actually been the organization's first supporter. "So it's been seven years, and in those seven years, you were the first person to do anything," she told Stipe. "You're the first person on stage, the first word spoken in anything related to Pathway to Paris was from you. And I feel like that is such an amazing blessing that even if we go on for 30 years, you'll always be the very first person and I think that's super special."
Since they got off the ground in 2014, Pathway to Paris has hosted live events, festivals, compilation records, and more. The organization aims to amplify the message of the climate movement, help engage citizens, and work towards finding solutions, per their mission statement.
"With climate change, with this global issue that will be a part of our lives for the rest of my life, and probably yours as well, we each are able to recognize that it is within our capacity and our ability [to help]. I can do something to help, I can do something to educate myself, I can do something to help others to educate themselves, or to push them into different ways of thinking or debating or conversing or, or even, if need be, compromising our ideas in order to find a way forward."
Smith emphasizes that everyone has a role in climate action. From the biggest musicians and most well-respected activists to school teachers and everyone else. "You don't need to be good at everything and connected to everything," Smith said. "But if five people get together, and they each have different skills and different things to offer together, they can do amazing things. So yes, definitely, every single person. We all have our role in our own unique platform."
Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes, and Lady Gaga have also all been vocal about the need to respond to climate crises more seriously. And Smith admits that she believes climate change to be the number one political issue.
"The climate crisis is kind of like the overarching umbrella that includes all these different things like racial justice and gender inequality and indigenous rights and poverty," Smith said. "They're all interlinked, and they can't really be spoken to separately – they all need to be spoken to together. And as we make super ambitious climate action plans [we need] to include all of those things, and all of those things will get worse if the climate crisis gets worse."
Climate change has been linked to five million deaths every year, and one in three Americans have experienced one form of an extreme climate event. "But the climate crisis is on top of them in a way because it's about our shared home," Smith said of why her top priority is helping combat climate change. "If we don't have a shared home, then we can't really work on everything."
Stipe shared what he's been doing himself to help reduce his carbon footprint. He's stopped drinking from bottled water, he cooks all his own food, and he's even been transitioning into veganism. And while touring has become a big concern for artists who want to reduce their carbon footprint, that's no longer a worry for Stipe, who shared last month that he has no plans to reunite on the stage with his former band, R.E.M.