It is still below the radar of popular music in the mainstream media, but musicians are beginning to act, react and take action on climate change issues. Concerning the oil and gas industry’s method of ‘fracking’, for instance, over 500 songs – mostly protest songs – have been composed and published as music videos.
When Ethiopia and Sudan were hit by draught in the 1980ies, concerned pop musicians in US and UK united and recorded the song ‘We Are The World’ and raised millions of dollars to save people from starving to death.
Since the Vietnam war and the beginning of a rock and pop music youth movement in the 1960ies, musicians have been seen campaigning for a more fair world, and musicians are often seen taking part in fundraising-events whenever there is a natural disaster in a poor country, or a school shooting in the US.
But since it became known in the 2000s that humanity is confronted with a much bigger and more devastating crisis — global warming and climate change caused by carbon emissions — musicians, however, have so far been strangely silent and almost completely absent from the stage of climate safety advocacy.
So far much too few of the world’s music celebrities have taken up the challenge to write a new ‘We Are The Earth’ song to unite the pop stars of this decade to stand up against the air pollution which is destroying our climate and a huge risk for our children’ safety in the future.
Not only the most famous and popular artists, but also the industry behind them and the arts sector as a whole has showed surprisingly little interest in what climate scientists are telling us is going to happen to this planet soon unless we take action on climate change. For every year we keep procrastinating, the action needed gets even more urgent and demanding.
A tiny minority of artists, however, have found it relevant to engage themselves in the Greatest Drama of All Time, the ‘climatecopcalypse’ which is building up fast in the horizon because of our inaction. Two recent examples:
» Read more on www.fortheloveof.org.uk
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Baba Brinkman: Erosion
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World conference theme: ‘Sustaining music’
Take for instance the 5th IMC World Forum on Music which rolled off on 21-24 November 2013 where over 1,000 music professionals from all over the world flew to Australia to “discuss, plan, perform and experience the future of music on this planet” under the conference theme ‘Sustaining music, engaging communities’.
They said “Sustaining music” – but there wasn’t a single word about the threats of climate change mentioned – it was business as usual with talks about developments within the industry, “The future of our wonderful music” – “The thrilling developments” – “Music’s enriching qualities” – “Creation of new works, engaging in traditions, ensuring that traditions can continue and that cultural diversity flourishes” – “Challenges within cultural policies” – “How new music will continue to flourish, and to engage communities”.
This “the most comprehensive and unconventional event about the future of music that Australia has ever hosted” did not bother to use a single word or thoughts about the environmental issues which are threatening the future of not only our music, but the entire arts sector and human livelihood. Everything we have dear. Everything we have lived for, loved and fought for.
Most musicians and music professionals appear to be living in a soft climate science denial bubble.
I would question what good it will do to find ways to “sustain music”, when in the meanwhile our activities wreck that planet we were supposed to be sustaining it on.
Disconnected from reality
Climate change is a result air pollution. Air pollution is a result of human greed. In other words, climate change is caused by human greed. The story is as simple as that. How come artists are not concerned about communicating about this? In their songs, artists often call for creating a better world, and for us to try to be better human beings, less egoistic, more altruistic. So what is happening here? – does climate change represent a call for behavioural change which is simply to uncomfortable and inconvenient for artists who have millions of dollars on their bank accounts?
With the powerful communication tool famous artists hold – with that intimate connection they have to their large numbers of fans – also comes a huge responsibility.
Scientists have failed communicating their messages to the broader public and the politicians, and politicians along with the media are too entangled with the fossil fuel industry to be interested in showing true leadership and responsibility when it comes to tackling a slow-moving monster such as climate change. Democratically elected politicians are simply not able to deal with a border-crossing intergenerational issue of this magnitude and time-span, as long as their voters don’t seem to care about it either. So everyone continues to live as if there is no tomorrow. The artists are the missing link in that tragic play. They have the ability to communicate when the media declines to do it.
Where is the cultural pathos?
“Where is the cultural pathos of climate change? Even novelists have been late to the game, and have largely neglected the crisis until rather recently. The ’90s and much of the ’00s passed without a lot of climate-centric fiction. The lack of cultural support for the climate is further evidence that the public simply hasn’t adequately absorbed the climate crisis yet: we’re not afraid. The reasons for this are myriad, too.”
Brian Merchant – in an article in
» Motherboard – 10 October 2013:
How Disaster-Hungry Pop Culture Ignored the Biggest Disaster of All
“We’re torching the planet, and hardly anyone is telling stories about it. Hollywood’s not making movies about it, pop stars aren’t writing songs about it. Few authors or artists have addressed it head on.”
Opinion-piece by Brian Merchant
Where are the influencers?
“Celebrities have the power to shape their time. Sadly, in this era they’re failing us.”
~ Basil Saab in Daily Climate on 26 September 2014
“Celebrities have stayed largely silent on climate change and other important issues of our era. It’s time for them to get more vocal – and involved.” Opinion-piece by Basil Saab
The Australian singer Missy Higgins steps in
Artists beginning to engage
Not all musicians are as disconnected from reality as the IMC members, luckily. Far from. Thom Yorke, lead singer in Radiohead, for instance, was quoted as saying:
“We’re at a time when we are being presented with undeniable changes in the global climate and fundamental issues that affect every single one of us, and it’s the time we’re listening to the most hokey shite on the radio and watching vacuous bullshit celebrities being vacuous bullshit celebrities and desperately trying to forget about everything. Which is fine, you know, but personally speaking, I can’t do that.”
Australian singer Missy Higgins was interviewed by The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse in December 2016. She stands out as one of the few Australian singers who are making a difference both with her songwriting and with what she publishes in writing. Listen to the interview:
» Download the audio file
This was what Missy Higgins wrote on 5 October 2016 on her Facebook page:
“For some time I’ve been intermittently crippled with anxiety about the notion of bringing kids into a world that seems more volatile and more uncertain than ever. Are there any other parents out there that have this anxiety that I have about the unknown, potentially catastrophic future that may be in store for our kids? I honestly don’t know what to do with these feelings. It makes me want to cry on a regular basis when I read about the irreversible things we’ve done to the Earth and what it will almost certainly mean for the near future. Scientists are saying we are pretty much at the point of no return now. I was told at a humanitarian event last night that my child’s generation will probably not reach retirement age. It took everything I had to squash that thought down for the duration of the evening so that I didn’t run home in tears. But according to the smartest people IN THE WORLD, we are hurtling towards terrifyingly unknown territory as far as environmental disaster goes, that any day now we will reach a tipping point like we could never imagine in our worst nightmares. This is dark and horribly uncomfortable stuff (not to mention sickeningly guilt-inducing as far as parenthood goes) to think about, I know. But it’s actually fucking happening. So surely it’s important not to shy away from it if we are to truly try to do something about it? If it’s not too late?
I can’t be the only person out there losing sleep over this. Please speak up if you are too!”
The 1,000 comments and replies quite clearly illustrate that Missy Higgins is not alone out there with her feelings of anxiety and questions about the future. Close to 5,000 people responded to Higgins’ Facebook post during the first day. 700 shared it.
On Tuesday 22 November 2016, Missy Higgins wrote a ‘cultural revelation’ in The Guardian. The headline went like this: Missy Higgins: how an obsession with apocalyptic climate fiction changed my life
Higgins’ piece ended with these lines:
“There my son was, glowing in all his angelic innocence, playing with the product of this sick, disposable dream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to collapse down to my knees, hold him and tell him I was sorry. That I didn’t know what the future held and I was scared. So scared. But instead, I watched him in all his wonder, in his blissful little bubble and I stayed there. If only for a sweet, sweet moment, I stayed there and I forgot.”
“We are doomed to a future that will be unprecedented in human history”
The climate crisis is beginning to show its true face around the planet, and people are scared. The scientists, who know what is coming, even more so. How will we be able to explain to our children that the mess they have been left to clean up is because of a greedy minority who did everything in their power to resist change, who created doubt, who infiltrated politics and who bought off technological advances and shelved them just to keep making a profit on their dirty fossils – while we looked the other way, pretended it wasn’t happening and did nothing?
Here are two examples of the over 250 responses to Missy Higgins’ blogpost:
“It’s a shame it takes a personal investment in the future to make someone look hard at the present, but still kudos to MH for doing it and writing about it here. To all the other mums and dads (and grandparents) out there who haven’t made the connection, what the heck are you doing? The place where your precious offspring are going to try to live is cooking.”
JB1010 – commenting on the above article in The Guardian by Missy Higgins
“60 people control 50% of the world’s wealth. 8 out 12 of the world’s wealthiest companies are fossil fuel companies. When these people and these companies decide or are forced by Governments to do something effective related to their emissions and global warming then we are doomed to a future that will be unprecedented in human history since humans first stood upright on the savanah a couple of million years ago. It is only 50 years away. That is when we begin to run out of fossil fuels, that is when that the CO2 levels will be such that it will take at least a million years for them to return to the 200 to 300 ppm norm throughout human history. A geo/ecological change of this magnitude in such a small geological time frame as 200 years, when such changes normally take millions of years is not likely to have a good outcome. To think otherwise is sheer arrogance and averice.”
Mancan18 – commenting on the above article in The Guardian by Missy Higgins
» More information
Carole King is another successful musician and songwriter who has a huge audience and who stands out when she takes a clear stand – not in her songs, but simply by saying: “Demand clean power now”…
» More info on demandcleanpower.org/carole-king
Baba Brinkman: ‘What’s Beef? (Climate Change Version)’
Published on youtube.com on 12 August 2015 » More on: www.rapguidetoclimate.com
When you take a look around, in particular on youtube.com, you realise that under the radar there are actually quite a few musicians such as these who have written songs or taken a stand concerning climate change. And there are artists such as these.
Sold out ‘Frack Off’ concerts attract attention
“Two ‘Frack Off’ concerts at the end of November 2016 attracted huge attention (the first one sold out in two days), but not just from sympathisers to the cause. The gas industry has targeted Butler and is trying to paint him as a hypocrite,” reported The New Daily on 28 October 2016.
“Chief operating officer of Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration said that Butler’s CDs and vinyl records are made from plastics derived from crude oil and that his instruments all contain petroleum based components…”
» The New Daily – 28 October 2016:
Why the big gas companies are out to get John Butler
» Musicfeeds – 21 September 2016:
John Butler Trio To Host Huge Anti-Fracking Concert In Margaret River
Musicians: It’s time to get into the fight
What would it take, I wonder, to get the arts world to wake up and engage in the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced?
If great artists went into this issue and began leading the way, so much good could happen over night.
What would it take to make artists engage with climate scientists and possibly help these – currently very miserable and isolated – scientists with creating that broad mind-shift we need to see evolve very very fast now in order to get off our addiction to fossil fuels and stop the carbon emissions madness?
It’s great to see what Julie’s Bicycle has been able to push through in the arts sector in the United Kingsom. These are the kind of initiatives arts sectors all over the world can take inspiration from.
It is time to stand up for our children and grandchildren and get into the fight.
» I’ve collected a few ideas to artists and arts institutions about how to get active on
Climate Message from Warren Senders, teacher and performer of Indian classical music – Massachusetts, USA
No stable climate – no music. It’s as simple as that
It is time for musicians to speak out about climate change
“The Climate Message” is an advocacy project aimed at making it easier for musicians and performers to speak out on climate change in their public appearances.
“No stable climate – no music. It’s as simple as that. Thank you! And now, our next song is….”
A ‘Climate Service Announcement’ can help normalize discussion of climate while linking it to humanity’s most vibrant and diverse artform.
» Sign up to participate at www.theclimatemessage.com
Musicians call Shell to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic
As Shell drills for oil in the Arctic, singer Charlotte Church joined the ‘Requiem for Arctic Ice’ on its 18th day outside Shell headquarter in London. The protest ran the whole of August 2015.
Charlotte sang ‘This Bitter Earth’ with the Ligeti Quartet on strings and Kelly Lovelady as a conductor.
‘This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight’ was written by Clyde Otis and Max Richter.
» Join in and see other performances at www.grnpc.org/Ig2pj
“Time is running out. Shell is in the Arctic hunting for oil right now! For as long as it stays there, we will protest against its risky oil drilling plans. WE are the movement that will save the Arctic.”
Greenpeace – Save the Arctic
Musicians campaign in Australia:
‘Amplify Divestment’ focuses the cultural power of musicians on the fastest growing effort to tackle global warming – fossil fuel divestment. Amplify Divestment brings together musicians who have pledged to take their money out of banks and superannuation funds that are funding the expansion of the fossil fuel industry when the science tells us we have to stop. These musicians are joining a movement with huge momentum, a movement of universities, churches, investment funds and thousands of people saying “it is wrong to wreck the climate and we want no part of that.” And as musicians, they are amplifying that message, singing it for the world to hear.
Amplify Divestment is helping musicians with the practical process of divesting and with communicating it to their fans. Learn more about the project and the issues here and join us!
» Read more: www.amplifydivestment.org
» Open Democracy – 10 March 2015:
How music can shift the conversation on climate change
Artists from Egypt to Rwanda are working together to protect the Nile River Basin. Article by Valerie Schloredt
Climate Guardian Angel Harriet Ripley sings for her generation’s future with a rewrite of ‘Skinny Love’, pleading for action at the UN COP21 Paris climate talks in December 2015.
Published on youtube.com on 13 November 2015.
The Climate Guardians acclimatise (rewrite) the blues anthem ‘Summertime’. Sung by Harriet Ripley. Filmed by Sean Bedlam.
Published on youtube.com on 4 November 2015.
“Let’s dance the greenhouse blues…”
“A Rock’n’Roll song for Planet Earth! Features members of RiffDance and Tim Dutton – see www.bigbluerock.net for more info.”
Published on youtube.com on 4 June 2015
“Climate change is predicted to intrude into almost every area of life – from where we live, to what we eat and whom we war with. Now music can be added to the list.
That’s the unusual idea put forward by British researchers Tuesday, who say the weather has powerfully but discreetly influenced the soundtrack to our lives”
» AFP – 14 April 2015:
Music: Will climate change give us the blues?
The Climate Message Video Festival
The Climate Message Video Festival – an online initiative bringing together musicians from all over the world to increase awareness of climate change – aims to have an even 1,000 videos by Earth Day, 22 April 2014.
If you are a performer in any idiom, you can join the Climate Message Video Festival – an online initiative bringing together musicians from all over the world to increase awareness of climate change: www.theclimatemessage.com.
Warren Senders, who is the festival’s initiator, wrote:
“Whether we reach that number or not, the Video Festival will keep on keepin’ on. The goal is to have sounds and voices from all over the world saying in as many different languages and styles as possible that the time to get serious about climate change is now.”
To make a Climate Message video, here’s how:
Use a smartphone or webcam (or a friend’s) and record about a minute’s worth of your music and talking. Then email it to email@example.com, along with your name, contact information, and any details you want included.
Warren Senders will then upload it to the YouTube channel, and feature it on The Climate Message website. Eventually all the videos will be linked to an interactive world map.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
► Climate Message from Warren Senders, teacher and performer of Indian classical music in Medford, Massachusetts, USA.
“As a musician, as a human being, and as a citizen of Planet Earth, I can say that we all need to be committed to the fight against global climate change, so that our songs can go on to generations in the future.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
► Climate Message from Jarrett Cherner – pianist from Brooklyn, New York, USA.
“It seems our Earth has got a fever…”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
► Climate Message from Banning Eyre, radio broadcaster, writer and musician in Connecticut, USA.
» Read more about the Climate Message Video Festival
Music videos about climate change
Here and there, initiatives are cropping up which could be signaling that this is about to change. Below the radar of mainstream pop, increasing numbers of musicians are beginning to act, react and take action.
Here are some examples:
► Rap News 17: ‘The War on Terra – Canada vs Australia’
Take a five-minute break from the climate change news stream and enjoy some ‘rap news’ instead – with genuine dark climate change humour.
“Join Robert Foster as he sets out to discover where Civilisation™ is making the fastest progress towards annihilation. In this edition of the Civilisation Report, Robert learns about Australia and Canada – two oft-neglected pioneers of peace, progress and prosperity – in conversation with our antipodean colonial correspondent Ken Oathcarn and his Canuck counterpart, Fagin Heighbard.”
► Employees of the company SolarEdge: ‘Scream & Shout’
Music is being used to communicate solutions as well as problems. Here is a popular ‘happy holidays clip’ from the staff of the solar company SolarEdge. Published on Vimeo on 16 December 2013. It was removed from youtube.com, probably for copyright reasons.
► Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono: ‘Don’t Frack My Mother’
Published in 2012, uploaded on youtube.com on 11 March 2013. Since then viewed 1,150 times per day in average.
Of the 502 song-videos about shale gas extraction and so-called ‘fracking’ listed here, only two songs have had an average of over 1,000 views per day: The one above by Sean Lennon & Yoko Ono, and one by the American rock band The Rolling Stones:
► Gaiaisi: ‘Change The Earth’
Music video to raise awareness on climate change, created by Toronto-based singer, rapper, filmmaker and activist Gaiaisi. The video for the song was published on YouTube.com on 8 October 2013 and received over 43,000 views during its first month. Read more
Canberra, Australia, on 1 December 2013
► Leo Sayer and The Aussies Against Fracking Allstars: ‘No Fracking Way’
Published on youtube.com on 16 December 2013.
» More information
► Seize the Day: ‘Frakka Hakka’
Filmed in Balcombe at the controversial Cuadrilla fracking site in West Sussex, Seize the Day’s ‘Frakka Hakka’ song is performed by the band and protestors at the Balcombe Community Defenders Camp.
Published on youtube.com on 12 January 2014.
► David Holmes: ‘The Fracking Song’
Published on youtube.com on on 12 May 2011.
► Dr. Seus’ The Lorax: ‘How bad can I be?’
Explaining the mindset of the oil, gas and coal industry, the song ‘How bad can I be?’ in the animated movie ‘Dr. Seus’ The Lorax’ provided an unfiltered message of corporate greed at the expense of all.
The film was, for the exact same reason, frequently critised by reviewers when it came out in 2012 from the producers at Illumination Entertainment in Hollywood.
» Official website: theloraxmovie.com
» Wiki page: wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lorax_(film)
» The movie’s plot: A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
► Sandel: ‘The Shadows’
At the time 21-year-old singer-songwriter Sandel wrote ‘The Shadows’ as her response to “the greatest environmental threat of our age”.
Published on youtube.com on 21 September 2009.
► Daniel Crawford is using his cello to communicate the latest climate science through music: He has converted global temperature records into a series of musical notes. Read more.
► Rete Seeger: ‘This Land is Your Land’
Pete Seeger performs ‘This Land is Your Land’ with Farm Aid board artists John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Neil Young live at the Farm Aid concert in Saratoga Springs, New York, on 21 September 2013.
At 02:30 he sings a new verse he has written to call for a frack free New York.
Published on youtube.com on 21 September 2013.
► Pete Seeger: ‘If It Can’t Be Reduced’
“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”
A quote by Mark Gagliardi which musician Pete Seeger (1919–2014) turned into the song ‘If It Can’t Be Reduced’. He explains about it here
► Jules Cazedessus has written a ‘siren song’ about rising oceans which aims to “awaken humans to their beautiful but warming planet, before it’s too late.” Read more.
► Explainer Music with musicians Andrew Bean and David Holmes made this ‘Climate Change, Remixed’: Make your own explainer with our interactive, remixable video in March 2013.
► Hungry Beast: ‘I’m A Climate Scientist’
Published on youtube.com on 10 May 2011 – with a number of Australian climate scientists lip syncing and performing.
► Allegedly “the world’s first green documentary musical”, ‘Sustainability the Musical’, was first presented at the 2011 Hamilton Fringe Festival in Canada, and it has since been performed at 350.org events, Hamilton’s Open Streets festivals, Earth Day Hamilton, and a variety of other venues. See more on Facebook
► Luke Vasella: ‘The Word is Out’
Protest song from 2012 by Australian singer and musician Luke Vasella, published on youtube.com on 27 September 2012. Luke Vasella has published a row of anti-fracking, anti CSG (Coal Seam Gas) songs, and this song is No. 6 in that series.
► Trailer for the music movie ‘Rock the Gate!’ with original music by Luke Vassella, who also appears in the film. Published on youtube.com on 12 June 2012.
Here this song was used for a video promoting a protest march on horseback in Australia, posted on youtube.com in September 2013.
► Natalie Merchant, Mark Ruffalo, and more: ‘Songs Against Drilling’
With a blend of interviews and concert footage, filmmaker Alex Gibney covers an anti-hydraulic fracturing rally and accompanying benefit concert featuring Natalie Merchant and Mark Ruffalo. Published on youtube.com on 6 July 2012.
► Two Thirds Goat: ‘Stream of Conscience’
Published on youtube.com on 22 November 2011.
► Rhythms, Rhyme, Results (feat. Tommy Boots & Jené): ‘Take AIM at Climate Change’
Published on youtube.com on 25 January 2009.
► Formidable Vegetable Sound System: ‘End of Oil’
► Formidable Vegetable Sound System: ‘Oil’
Published on youtube.com on 24 February 2014
► Kirsten Hasberg: ‘Energy Democracy’
► Katie Herzig: ‘Make a Noise’
Published on youtube.com on 25 September 2011.
► ‘Sing for the Climate’ was a big singing manifestation that first took place on 22 and 23 September 2012 in Belgium. More than 80,000 people in more than 180 Belgian cities and communities sang the song ‘Do it Now’, urging politicians to take more ambitious climate measures both on local, national and international level.
The organisers wrote: “The video is a synthesis of recordings that were made in all locations. The success of ‘Sing for the Climate’ proves that a mass mobilisation around climate change is still possible even after the COP15 in Copenhagen.”
Published on youtube.com on 29 November 2012.
Belgium appeals to local groups and organisations worldwide to organise their own version of ‘Sing for the Climate’. More information, tools and support for local action can be found on singfortheclimate.com
► De Clip: ‘Sing for the Climate: Do it Now’
Published on youtube.com on 20 August 2012.
► Lehann: ‘Save The Planet’
Published on youtube.com on 1 July 2013.
► Melissa Etheridge: ‘I Need to Wake Up’
Published on youtube.com on 7 July 2009.
► Various Philippine artists: ‘Stand Up’
Published on youtube.com on 8 December 2009.
47 of the top rock artists in the Philippines came together in 2009 to make the message known. The song was composed by Boogie Romero.
► Judy Leonard: ‘The Green Revolution’.
► Aitan Grossman: ‘100 Generations’ song
An international global-warming music project, which Californian sixth-grader Aitan Grossman created for children all over the world to sing to raise awareness about the climate change.
Additional notes and information
Gaiaisi’s ‘Change the Earth’
Five prominent environmental groups have joined together with Canadian musician Gaiaisi to release a music video and raise awareness on one of the most critical issues facing the human race — climate change.
With extreme weather events becoming the new normal, global temperatures reaching record highs and a continued streak of climate science denial, the music video is an effort to break through public apathy and pessimism to galvanize action on climate change.
The video is a dramatic global tour showing everything from the devastation caused by wildfires and deforestation, to the huge footprint of industrial agriculture and impacts of our fossil-fueled economy. The video captures the struggles of activists from all continents fighting for action on the climate crisis and highlights solutions, including sustainable transportation, permaculture and renewable energy.
The song, ‘Change the Earth’, is the result of a collaboration between Gaiaisi, 350.org, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and World Wildlife Fund.
» Source: EcoWatch – 7 November 2013:
New Music Video Raises Awareness on Climate Change
Toronto artist sounds musical alarm over global climate emergency
» Facebook page for the project:
» Gaiaisi’s Facebook page:
» Crowdfunding campaign to help raise funds to purchase the BBC file footage used in the music video ‘Change The Earth’:
A Song of Our Warming Planet
Listen to 130 years of global temperature data converted to music. University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford has composed a cello piece he calls ‘A Song of Our Warming Planet’ where he uses global temperature data collected since 1880 and charting it to music.
“Climate scientists have a standard tool box to communicate their data,” Crawford explains. “What we’re trying to do is add another tool to that tool box, another way to communicate these ideas to the people who might get more out of this than out of maps, graphs and numbers.”
Daniel Crawford based his composition on surface temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The temperature data were mapped over a range of three octaves, with the coldest year on record (–0.47 °C in 1909) set to the lowest note on the cello (open C). Each ascending halftone is equal to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming.
In Crawford’s composition, each note represents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2012. The pitch reflects the average temperature of the planet relative to the 1951–80 base line. Low notes represent relatively cool years, while high notes signify relatively warm ones.
During a run of cold years between the late 1800s and early 20th century, the cello is pushed towards the lower limit of its range. The piece moves into the mid-register to track the modest warming that occurred during the 1940s. As the sequence approaches the present, the cello reaches higher and higher notes, reflecting the string of warm years in the 1990s and 2000s.
The video ends with a stark message: Scientists predict the planet will warm by another 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. This additional warming would produce a series of notes beyond the range of human hearing.
‘A Song of Our Warming Planet,’ came about following a conversation Daniel Crawford had with geography professor Scott St. George during an internship. “Data visualizations are effective for some people, but they aren’t the best way to reach everyone. Instead of giving people something to look at, Dan’s performance gives them something they can feel,” said Scott St. George.
Daniel Crawford hopes other researchers and artists will use or adapt his composition to support science outreach, and has released the score and sound files under a Creative Commons license.
Ensia – 28 June 2013:
A song of our warming planet
“Inspiring change on a warming planet,” singer Jules Cazedessus wants “to turn the tides on climate change” with the music video ‘Sink or Swim? EnviroSiren’s SOS on rising seas’ about rising oceans. “A siren song to awaken humans to their beautiful but warming planet, before it’s too late.”
“Creativity and compassion are key”
Jules Cazedessus writes in her blog on www.EnviroSiren.org: “Humans are a species that is addicted to oil; Its industries are fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and black carbon. And if this dangerous addiction isn’t curtailed, it’s a species facing a humanitarian crisis like never before. Yet humans can conceive — in an instant — of the suffering of others thousands of miles away. It is a species that deeply feels, and dreams and loves. It is time for human beings to fall in love with Mother Earth. Now is the time to turn the tides, and it’s not too late.”
Psy, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Madonna… — when will we see a music video from you talking about climate change? The first ‘Planetary Emergency Concert’ broadcasted world-wide, 100 percent powered with solar and wind energy, sponsored by crowdfunding and the world’s united solar and wind industry is still anticipated.
In the meanwhile, it can only be appreciated that we have creative musicians such as those mentioned above who actually do take up the challenge to communicate about the climate change issues.
The Climate Service Announcement
Musician Warren Senders from Boston, USA, wrote:
“Music is a climate issue.
Musicians are guardians and custodians. Some of us present the idioms and repertoire of centuries past; some of us create new and original music â but all of us form an unbroken line of transmission and continuity dating back thousands of years before the beginning of recorded human history.
Music links humans in joy and sorrow, brings us together in synchrony for work and play, and is a source of profound communion in every human culture everywhere on the world.
Our musical expressions have grown up as part of our complex civilization, starting with the beginning of farming in the fertile crescent twelve thousand years ago, and evolving as part of thousands of different regional cultures all over the world. The variety and richness of humanity’s music is an integral part of human civilization, and one of our species’ greatest and most admirable accomplishments.
Thanks to twelve millennia of relatively consistent climatic conditions that have made our agriculture unbelievably productive and allowed our numbers to expand, human civilization has grown to cover the planet.
Ironically, the magnitude of our technology now imperils us. The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels like oil and coal have entered the upper atmosphere, where they concentrate the sun’s heat in a “greenhouse effect” that is now melting polar ice caps and triggering potentially catastrophic transformations — changes in climate that will often happen far too rapidly for life to adapt.
The number of climate-related disasters around the world is growing with each passing year. Droughts, wildfires, floods, devastating storms, and freak weather events are regular parts of the news everywhere on Earth.
Climate change is the first genuine planetary emergency humanity has ever faced. And we are musicians, not climate scientists or engineers. How can we make a meaningful contribution to the struggle against climate change?
Here’s what we can do.
We start by recognizing that our mass media have failed us; most reporting on the climate crisis is irresponsibly negligent and inadequate. But we have something else: our listeners.
We musicians can make a genuine impact on this critical battle, and all it needs is less than a minute. At every gig, every concert, every time we appear in front of an audience, we can take a few seconds to say:
“Before we go on, here’s a Climate Service Announcement. Please make an effort to educate yourself and everyone you know about climate change. The climate crisis endangers not only our agriculture and our infrastructure, but the integrity and sustainability of our civilization. And that means it threatens the music we love. No stable climate: no music. It’s as simple as that. Thank you…and now, our next song is….”
It should be no more controversial than saying, “this event was made possible by a grant from ___,” “support our troops,” “don’t forget to vote,” or “be sure to tip your servers generously” — and it’s a way we can remind people about the most pressing and important issue of our time every time they go out to hear some live music.
Are you prepared to make a Climate Service Announcement (C.S.A.) a regular part of your performances?
I am. How about you?
Daily Kos – 1 January 2014:
Changing The World, One Gig At A Time: Introducing The Climate Message
Related articles and information
Great fact-sheets for event organisers in the arts and culture sector
– for instance: about sustainable energy tips for traders at events, ten top tips for reducing fuel bills at festivals, using hybrid power or biofuels at outdoor events, and so on.
The Green Music Initiative in Germany
Inspiring smarter operations in the music sector. “Green Music Initiative showcases best practise with the objective to create industrywide demand for innovative and sustainable solutions – both from the climate and business point of view.”
» Home page: www.greenmusicinitiative.de
» Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GreenMusic.Initiative
» Centre for Climate Safety – 20 February 2014:
The role of arts and icons in times of crisis
Interview with Matt Wicking, musician from Melbourne, Australia, and a member of Green Music Australia
» Huffington Post – 4 October 2013:
Sarah Harmer Protests Line 9 Pipeline, Enbridge Tells Her To Put ‘Her Money Where Her Mouth Is’
Acclaimed Canadian songwriter Sarah Harmer and Environmental Defence organised a free concert at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto on 6 October 2013, ‘Rock the Line’, featuring performances by Harmer as well as Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie with the Sadies, Hayden, and Minotaurs. Article by Vish Khanna
“We need a hero who is cool, hip and passionate”
Sustainability and the concept of shared fate — that we’re all on this small planet together and our fates are woven together — could sure benefit from a good song (or two).
John Friedman wrote on 1 July 2013 in the Huffington Post:
“Actors and celebrities have taken up the cause to some extent, but far more revel in, and are recognized for their lavish lifestyles and excesses than those who choose to live demonstrably more reasonable and responsible lifestyles. While politicians have helped to bring attention to the issue of climate change, it has also had the result of turning it into a partisan issue.”
“Hollywood and television can play a role as well. I am not talking about documentaries — because they appeal to a segment of the audience. What we need is something that has broader and mass appeal. Shows like All in the Family were cultural touchstones because they reflected their times, but they also helped drive public opinion. Shows like ‘Star Trek’ imagined a future were all people of the Earth had come together.”
“Just as television show crossed over to movies, films can play a role in showing a more sustainable world as attainable. We have already seen many blockbusters focus on the potential extinction of the human race. While errant asteroids and hostile aliens make dramatic ‘villains,’ the ‘battle’ to build a sustainable future does not lend itself to dramatic confrontations and powerful explosions. The Day After Tomorrow dramatically combined the long-term impacts of climate change into a short-term event but the fact is the problems were are facing are not going to dramatically change the world overnight, nor are they going to be solved by the actions of Batman, Superman or even John McClaine.”
“Sustainability will only work if we leave the personal spaces we inherited a little more sustainable than we found them. Therefore we must build a sustainability-focused consumer revolution and to do that we need a hero who is cool, hip and passionate about the subject.”
Environmental Media Association
The Environmental Media Association is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to harnessing the power of the entertainment industry and the media to educate the global public on environmental issues.
» Home page: ema-online.org
» Culture|Futures – 30 November 2013:
Music offers a breakthrough for communicating on climate change
In several ways, music dominated discussions at ‘Development and Climate Days’ in Warsaw, Poland, reported Climate & Development Knowledge Network.
Environmental music on youtube.com
Playlist of over 50 environmental songs on youtube.com – compiled by Anuja Sawant.
More information about this topic:
→ What musicians can do
→ What artists and arts institution can do