B.C. rapper highlights perils of climate change

With his new show, The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, Baba Brinkman hopes to paint a scientific picture of just how bad things could get and how it's all being brought about by things we do.

Baba Brinkman's new show confronts the human factors behind increasing global temperatures

B.C. rapper Baba Brinkman hopes his show will encourage people to examine their carbon-emitting lifestyles. (Baba Brinkman/YouTube)

For Baba Brinkman, the most challenging part of addressing climate change is getting people to change damaging behaviour in their day-to-day life — including his own.

"We profess concern about it but we still fly and we still drive and we still do all the things that we would do if it wasn't happening," he said.

"But it's a conundrum, because I'm not giving up my flight to Vancouver to come perform a show about climate change, either."

With his new show, The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, Brinkman hopes to paint a scientific picture of just how bad things could get and how it's all being brought about by things we do.

"[It's] one of the most urgent existential issues facing our species," he said.

The album on which the show is based can be found on Brinkman's website, featuring annotations of all research cited — and a guest verse from the one and only Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Can consumers make a difference?

In the show, Brinkman argues that consumer choices like taking shorter showers or buying more efficient light bulbs are not going to solve the problem. Instead, he advocates for structural change in energy policy as the only way to bring about significant change.

But Brinkman had an epiphany of his own on that front when he recently installed solar panels on his house.

"It turns out the best predictor of whether you get solar panels on your house is not your politics, it's whether your neighbours have solar panels," Brinkman said.

"So it's really like an epidemiological effect. It's like a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thing."

The finding made Brinkman question his dismissal of consumer-level choices as a significant factor in lowering emissions.

"I was like, OK, maybe the solar panels won't actually influence my carbon footprint at all or it'll be negligible, but if my neighbours start saying, oh, look, he got them, so I'll get them — that can have an impact."

A longtime activist

Environmental activism is nothing new for Brinkman. Born in Riondel in the Kootenays, he spent his high school summers planting trees in B.C. and Alberta. His father, Dirk Brinkman, was once the owner of the largest tree-planting company in Canada.

He's also no stranger to politics — his mother, Joyce Murray, has a long political career and currently sits as the Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra.

Those two worlds collided for Brinkman when he attended the COP21 climate talks in Paris in 2015.

Armed with a full delegate badge, Brinkman attended the negotiations between governmental representatives around the world, writing raps on the fly and performing them at the ends of sessions.

"It was like a perfect example of 'don't watch legislation or sausages get made,' because it's not an exciting process to watch, as they hash out commas in the agreement," Brinkman said.

"But then at the end you get this 'the whole world came together' moment, which actually has a real powerful emotion behind it."

Brinkman will be performing The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos tonight and tomorrow — Oct. 12 and 13 — at the Revue Stage as part of the 2016-2017 Theatre Wire subscription series.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.