Folk-rock mainstay Roger McGuinn, who co-founded the Byrds in 1964, has long
been not only writing music about the environment, he's also been an activist. Now in his fifth decade in the business, McGuinn has seen the seed of environmentally conscious music planted with Pete Seeger bloom into generations that followed.

You've been paying attention to this issue for a long time in your music and in you're actions. What do you see as the musicians' role in talking about the environment?
It's not so much as just for musicians, but for all the people who live here to take care of [the planet] because it's all we've got...We've realized we're all in this together; we've just realized that with the space program [in the 60s] and seeing it from a distance and then realizing that it is being destroyed. We should do everything we can to preserve it. It is our house.

Including using music to remind other people.
Well, [my wife] Camilla and I wrote "The Trees Are All Gone" back in 1990 and I got a fax. Phil Collins sent me a fax from England that he loved "The Trees Are All Gone" and offered to sing on anything I did in the future so it really did strike a note with some people.

This goes back a long way, and you've seen three generations following Pete Seeger tackle this issue.
Clearwater, sure. I'm friends with Pete and I love what he's doing. I showed him something that he really loved the last time I saw him. I had a solar panel and I was telling him about the barefoot college in India where they train for women to go out into the countryside and they become solar engineers lighting little villages with solar panels. He just loved that idea. And I wrote a blog, Solar Ice, that was covered on Fox News about a month ago. It's me talking about an ice machine that runs on solar panels. The reason we got into that is we have these power outages here in Florida when there's a hurricane or something like that. Rather than get a gasoline generator and mess around with gasoline and fumes and carbon monoxide, we decided to go green with it.

Who else has inspired you?
David Crosby has always been inspired by social issues, not so much the environment except for being anti-nuclear. That is a double-edged thing because it turns out that nuclear is better than oil and coal, ironically, but there's no safe way to get rid of the spent fuel. So it's a tough one. Solar is really great.

A lot of bands since have focused on being green; a lot of them are doing
that now.

I'm a folk singer and part of a folk singer's role is to go out and write songs about topical issues and the environment has long been one of my concerns. I've seen other bands, fifteen years ago, R.E.M. They've been on it a long time. A lot of the younger bands are there; the entire generation y is there now.

Do you see this subject as part of a larger political conversation in music? Is it a partisan issue?
It has to be non-partisan. Even George Bush admitted that there is such a thing as global warming a year or so ago. I think [everybody agrees] that there is such a thing and that we have to deal with it. I think we all need to be green states; we need to have a green planet. I'm pushing for that.

What do you hope comes of year after year of artists writing and talking about green issues?
There's a balance between commerce and art, and commerce has been heavy-handed in the last 15 years or so. I think art is becoming like a little plant coming through the crack in the sidewalk now; the green things are breaking through the cracks. I would love to see it get greener and fewer places paved over, [like the] Joni Mitchell song.

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