Pop star artist/producer Pharrell Williams took to the podium of the UN General Assembly Friday to address 1,200 middle-schoolers about the importance of climate change as part of this year’s International Day of Happiness.
Williams, best known for the megahit song, “Happy,” lectured about the need to protect the planet and “take climate action” at the third iteration of the UN Foundation-sponsored event.
“Protecting our planet is fundamental to the pursuit of human happiness,” Williams told his young audience, according to CBS. “We only have one home and there’s climate change… If you don’t [take] care of your home, you don’t have a life, and we have to transition from climate change to climate action.”
After Williams spoke, “Happy” was piped through the speakers of the chamber while many of the singer’s young fans rushed the stage to take pictures, according to the Daily Mail. UN security guards surrounded Williams as an official at the microphone urged everyone to step back.
Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of famed ocean explorer Jacque Cousteau, reportedly told the Assembly that melting Arctic ice showed the dangers of climate change were worse than previously estimated.
“One of the scary things about climate change is that all of our predictions have been too conservative,” Cousteau said.
Shortly before his speech at the UN, Williams was on hand to light up the Empire State Building yellow in honor of the “Happy” day. The day also saw the release of the “World’s Happiest Playlist,” with musicians picking out “happy” tracks from other artists for inclusion on the free compilation. Participating artists included Ed Sheeran, Britney Spears, Charlize Theron, and Yo Yo Ma, among many others.
“On this day we are using the universal language of music to show solidarity with the millions of people around the world suffering from poverty, human rights abuses, humanitarian crises and the effects of environmental degradation and climate climate change,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in introducing the playlist. Ban picked Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” for the collection.
Interestingly, John Legend selected Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” for the compilation; Williams and fellow artist Robin Thicke were recently ordered to pay more than $7 million to the Gaye estate for copying elements of that song for their 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines.”
Williams has been working with Al Gore on the next iteration of the global Live Earth concerts. The organization hoped to use the day Friday to gather signatures on its Live Earth petition ahead of a December climate conference in Paris.
Williams appeared to be well-received by his young audience at the UN. Marquis Jamont went to hear the speech with his mother.
“Without Pharrell, our planet would not survive,” Jamont told CBS.