Smoggy roads can be enough to make anyone scream, but they have also inspired Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik to offer to write a song and perform it on stage in front of 1,000 people.
Speaking in a Youtube video released on 25 February, Potočnik said that if 1,000 people stopped using their cars for at least one week, he would compose and sing a ditty in front of the same number of people.
The idea is part of the Earth Hour initiative for 2013, which aims to persuade people to turn their lights off on 23 March for an hour in order to save energy, and raise awareness about the need for environmental protection.
“I know, it doesn’t sound like much,” the Slovenian commissioner says in the video, “but if enough of us take those small steps, it makes a giant leap forward. A very important first step is to think of the impact our daily choices have on the environment and on our daily quality of life.”
Potočnik has a son who raps and has recorded two hip hop CD’s in Slovenia, but the commissioner has never written or performed music on stage before. Nonetheless, other EU cabinet members reportedly say that he has been known to sing at private Commission gatherings.
If a public performance happens “it will be something with an environmental theme,” said Potočnik spokesman Joe Hennon. “But at the end of the day it’s not about the commissioner singing, it’s about using less energy, producing less pollution and generally helping draw attention to Earth Hour.”
Hennon, who is himself a successful musician with the Celtic folk act Shantalla, said that his band could perform the backing music for Potočnik.
Some may question the trade-off involved in sacrificing daily mobility arrangements for the chance to hear Potočnik sing in public. But “we hope that the curiosity factor will persuade people,” Hennon said.
In the Youtube video, Potočnik says that non-motorists can also be counted among the thousand pledges necessary to make him get up and let rip, so long as they persuade a friend to leave his or her car at home. “I will if you will,” he promises.
The commissioner hopes to get the message out via his 12,000 twitter followers and 3,000 Facebook friends. Within hours of the announcement, it had received 45 retweets.
However, asked whether other commissioners would be joining Potočnik in his rendition, Hennon replied: “We haven’t asked but we very much doubt it!”
Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office, told EurActiv: “By lending his support to the WWF’s Earth Hour initiative, Commissioner Potočnik joined the millions of people around the world who are already showing their concern for the environment. In the coming weeks, we are expecting other key EU leaders to join and publicly demonstrate their support. Earth Hour has always been more than a ‘lights off for an hour’ campaign - We are now seeing some extraordinary environmental outcomes on the way to achieving a long-term vision for a sustainable planet. In 2013, Earth Hour changes from an annual event towards a continuous movement driving real actions for change."
- 23 March: Lights to be switched off in 152 countries for an hour to mark Earth Hour