**Update as of January 6, 2014: The last foreign Arctic 30 member has now left Russia although Russian authorities have yet to release the ship, the Arctic Sunrise.
We’re all incredibly relieved that the Russian government has granted amnesty to the Arctic 30, but our relief is tempered with continued mixed feelings. After all, the Arctic 30 spent two months in jail for crimes they didn’t commit, and the absurd charges of piracy and hooliganism should never have been brought in the first place. The Arctic 30 engaged in peaceful protest to save a fragile global treasure under assault by oil companies and carbon pollution, and they were thrown in jail for it by government authorities when they should have been applauded.
For the past three months, we’ve all been incredibly anxious wondering what would happen next in this insane saga. As always, one thing that has helped has been the music our supporters and friends have shared with us. So in the spirit of solidarity, I put together this Arctic 30 playlist with songs that run the gamut from relief and joy to frustration and anger, all the feelings we’re left with today, and that we’ve been through over the course of this drama.
We can’t wait until we can put these songs on blast around the world for our friends and colleagues, who hopefully will soon be home for good. Until then ….
1) Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) recorded this song with our Greenpeace USA team for Peter Willcox just as the 30 were granted bail before Thanksgiving. It’s incredible to watch the notoriously cagey Bonnie Billy sing directly to the camera in this video, and all of us on the pier in Annapolis had a hard time keeping our emotions in check when he got to the last verse, revised specifically for Peter:
2) Gus Unger-Hamilton, keyboardist for Mercury-Prize-winning band alt-J had this to say about the group’s work to help save the Arctic: “At The Glastonbury Festival, earlier this year, we bumped into the wonderful people from the Save The Arctic campaign. After hearing all about the aim of the campaign, we decided, right there and then, to give Greenpeace our backing for such a worthy cause. We signed the petition and gave Greenpeace one of our songs, ‘Dissolve Me’, to use as a soundtrack in their short film, IceClimb, about an all female team of ice climbers that climbed to the top of Europe’s tallest skyscraper, The Shard building in Central London.”
3) In early December, amazing South African singer Auriol Hays wrote a song for the #Arctic30 and their families. On her blog she posted this message to the Arctic 30:
“You might not always feel brave. In fact you may experience moments of utter panic (as I do whenever I have to cook or ride a quad bike). It’s human. But to thousands out there you are more than brave. More than courageous and stronger than you imagined you could be. And whenever I sing this song – I too am right there, at your side,..with your friend, family..and thousands of other people who have your back. And all we wish and pray for is your safe return.”
4) In November, Sir Paul McCartney wrote a very Sir Paul letter to Vladimir Putin asking for the release of the Arctic 30, in which he quoted from the Beatles’ classic “Back in the U.S.S.R.
“Forty-five years ago I wrote a song about Russia for the White Album, back when it wasn’t fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country. That song had one of my favourite Beatles lines in it: “Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee it’s good to be back home.” Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?”
Thanks, Paul! I like this demo of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” nearly as much as the final polished version, and it has a sort of “stuck in a Russian prison” vibe to it:
5) Pop superstar for the ages Madonna also chimed in, posting on her Facebook page: “These 30 people are in prison in Russia for staging a peaceful protest in the Arctic. Let your voice be heard. Let’s bring these people home.” Thanks, Madge! This song is from way back in the Bedtime Stories era, and I think the Arctic 30 have just the same type of awesome willpower and slinky confidence:
6) Damon Albarn of Blur also gave the Arctic 30 a shout out in a concert in Chile right before launching into their breakthrough song “Boys & Girls.” While I love that song (and the stadium stable/Pavement homage “Song 2”), this shout out made me think about this video from Gorillaz (Albarn’s, uh, cartoon band?) that features some great renewable energy alternatives (and De La Soul):
7) Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, helped put together a solidarity event with Origin Magazine in New York this fall, and he’s been a steadfast supporter of the Arctic 30. In 2007, he went to Antarctica (on the other side of the world from the Russian Arctic!), and the trip inspired him to make this incredible “Terra Nova” multimedia event.
8) On November 15, Greenpeace, the Urgency Network, and Portugal.The.Man put on a show in San Francisco for the Save the Arctic campaign and to support the Arctic 30.
We were joined by Captain Joel Stewart from the Rainbow Warrior who spoke about Greenpeace’s history and the situation in Russia facing our activists. Next, Lara and Pavel Litvinov, sister and father of Dimi Litvinov, one of the Arctic 30, had a chance to speak. Then, Portugal.The Man played a great set. It was awesome.
9) Thom Yorke of Radiohead has been an Arctic Defender since forever, lending Radiohead’s music to this incredible video and even taking us on tour with them this summer. This particularly harrowing journey for the Arctic 30 can only really end with “Karma Police,” so here you go:
If you want to help support the cause the Arctic 30 went to
jail for, please sign up to help Save the Arctic here.