This Activist Uses Spoken Word Performances to Educate People on Climate Change

Eco-conscious spoken word activist Prince Ea tells VICE Impact about using his platform to educate people about climate change through art.

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Sep 25 2017, 8:00pm

Image via YouTube

Climate science is often accused of being dry, which is why it can be a little disorienting the first time you hear someone rap about it. Prince Ea, a recording artist and YouTube celebrity, has drawn tens of thousands of fans to his short films and spoken word performances that advocate for, among other things, the environment.

Prince Ea speaks in platitudes, and he doesn't always pause to provide evidence for one claim before slipping into another. But his charisma as a performer has made him one of the more vibrant -- and successful -- examples of educating people about climate change through art. He still lives in St. Louis, the city where he was born, working on different social impact projects when he's not traveling to host events like Creating Equilibrium.

VICE Impact caught him between performances at the Creating Equilibrium conference to talk about art as an educational tool, using his platform to advocate for the planet, and whether all activism is useful activism.

VICE Impact: It's unfortunate that we need to consider ways to make climate change sexier, but here we are. Your art has struck a chord with a lot of people -- what would you say to people seeing it for the first time?

Prince Ea: In the video I said a good farmer, when they see a plant that's unhealthy, they don't look at the leaves; they go to the root. What's the root of the issue? If you have a sink that's overflowing with water, you gotta go to the pipes instead of always just putting towels on the floor. I think ultimately the root of a lot of these issues is the individual.

For me, my art has always been from the heart, to the heart, to try instill in people a sense of our inherent connection with other organisms, with each other. So with that, I'm not limited to just environmental causes. I love specifically targeting that, but I plan on [working on projects related to] religion, bullying...I dunno why people like me, I say the same thing in every video.

Lots of people never learn how to respond to social or environmental crises beyond donating in the heat of the moment; volunteer burnout is also a huge problem. Some people might dismiss phrases like 'finding your passion' as cheesy, but does it still kind of apply to activism?

Sometimes there's right action and there's wrong action. When you're running on a treadmill, you're moving but you're not going anywhere. I think until we each look inside of ourselves, the more action that we do in the world is going to come from here [gesturing to chest] trying to figure it out, what can I do. Sometimes you think you can technologic-ize [sic] your way out of these issues. I want people to be still, and not always go out and try to do something but let that action come spontaneous [sic]. I think anger can be a great energy, but also anger can restrict us, restrict the full totality of what we can accomplish.

Find your gift, your way to share and be authentic to that, whether you wanna look into helping biodiversity, you wanna look at deforestation. There's so many different organizations out there locally in your community.

Any in particular that readers and fans should check out?

In the environmental space, I've had a few years' relationship with an organization called Stand for Trees. So they work in the area of deforestation. When we talk about planting trees, technology to plant trees, few of us talk about keeping the trees alive that we have. So Stand for Trees, [globally] they do just that -- they provide incentives for communities to keep the trees.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.