10 Musicians Taking on the Climate Crisis
Be it Nina Simone and James Brown for civil rights, Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye for the environment, or Jackson Browne and Buffalo Springfield for nuclear disarmament, musicians have long helped push social movements into the limelight.
Today, when it comes to the climate movement, that reality is no different.
Across generations and genres, musicians worldwide increasingly recognize the threat of climate change and are expressing themselves as they know best: through their music.
Though this list is far from exhaustive, these are some of Climate Reality's top musicians discussing climate today!
Few artists are making music on the climate crisis as vivid and bold as rapper Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez — a lifelong environmental activist and a trained Climate Reality Leader.
Take his song "Broken," for example.
In just one track, he grapples with (at least) three important truths.
First, the fact that the climate crisis is already taking a devastating toll across the planet:
"While the walls fall and the world burns
Seas rise and the clock turns.
The earth fighting back with hurricanes
And the earthquakes and the pouring rain."
Second, that the climate crisis is an unprecedented intergenerational justice issue:
"How will you look your child in the eyes and tell them
Their future wasn't worth fighting for, could've done more but didn't listen
Didn't wake up, didn't speak up, didn't fight back when there was still time."
And third, that if we can change as individuals and as a society, there is still hope to avoid the worst of the climate crisis:
"The apathy is so poisonous and it's killing us…
Gotta recognize that the change we want in the world has to start inside us…
Fight for what we love, start healing the world's hate.
Build beauty from the ashes after the world breaks.
2. Paul McCartney
In 2018, the legendary Paul McCartney released the album Egypt Station, and with it "Despite Repeated Warnings," a powerful piece that expresses his frustration towards climate inaction.
As McCartney explained to the Sun, this song challenges "[T]his idea of: 'It's all gonna be fine, don't worry.' Oh yeah, sure, there are icebergs melting but it doesn't matter because they're not melting in London, so no need to worry."
What's more, as he goes on to describe, "[T]he person in the song will be symbolic of politicians who argue that climate change is a hoax."
With lines like "Below decks the engineer cries / The captain's gonna leave us when the temperatures rise / The needle's going up, the engine's gonna blow / And we're gonna be left down below" McCartney gives voice to the danger of putting off climate action any longer.
3. Childish Gambino
In 2018, actor, hip-hop artist, and all around it-should-be-illegal-to-be-this-talented Donald Glover A.K.A. Childish Gambino released "Feels like Summer." Though lyrics like "You can feel it in the streets/ On a day like this, the heat/ It feel like summer" initially make this feel like a mellow summer tune, a closer look reveals a much different reality:
"Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water, it's about to go down"
Of course, the song is actually a sobering wake-up call on the climate crisis. Rising heat and vanishing water aren't all that worry Gambino, though.
"Air that kills the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing, waking up to no sound"
As he acknowledges, climate change is already taking a devastating toll on the natural world. Additionally, he repeatedly expresses his lament for our inability to change with the lines:
"Oh, I know you know my pain
I'm hoping that this world will change
But it just seems the same"
We're with you – this is a full-on climate crisis.
4. Jaden Smith
Jaden Smith is another rapper who's been taking on the climate crisis through his music, often teaming up with others to do it.
Take "Boombox Warfare," an activist's anthem Smith made with Xiuhtezcatl (see above).
With lines like, "If I fly as a butterfly in my dream, or a bumblebee / As we going extinct, will we still live on in eternity," Jaden makes us consider the impact of the climate crisis on the natural world and, specifically, on increasingly threatened wildlife.
Be it through his music or through separate activism, there's no doubt Smith shows what it means to #LeadOnClimate.
5. Billie Eilish
Teen superstar and Grammy Award-sweeping phenomenon Billie Eilish is another prominent voice calling on the world to wake up.
Though her activist spirit might show in many ways, there's no question one of the clearest is through her music. Take her song "All the Good Girls Go to Hell."
Really, just a few lines into the song make it clear that this eerie chart-topper is about our warming world and the climate-fueled wildfires in her home state.
"Hills burn in California.
My turn to ignore ya.
Don't say I didn't warn ya."
And just in case the lyrics left any doubt, the video features a winged, petroleum-covered Eilish burning.
6. Neil Young
Throughout his multi-decade career, Neil Young has never been one to shy away from environmental activism. Regardless, it's still exciting to see the legendary guitarist take on climate so directly today.
Just last October he released Colorado, an album lamenting the climate crisis and issuing an aggressive call for action.
As just one example, "Green is Blue" is a mournful ballad about how much time has gone by since we first learned that our planet was warming.
"We heard the warning calls.
We watched the weather change.
We saw the fires and floods.
We saw the people rise
We fought each other
While we lost our coveted prize."
As the song "Shut it Down" shows, however, he's not waiting around any longer and has hope for the future.
Lines like "When I look at the future / I see hope for you and me / Have to shut the whole system down" make one thing clear: Young believes that we can still act in time.
English rock band FOALS is quickly becoming one of the most notorious climate advocates in the music industry.
To see why, you don't have to look much further than Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, an album simultaneously full of electrifying anthems and bold environmental advocacy.
Just take the music video for the song "Like Lightning," where a furry protagonist wakes up society to its mindless destruction of the planet, capturing the band's climate concern and distaste for rampant consumerism.
8. Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is another high-profile artist that's making climate change a central theme in her music — and many critics are entirely here for it.
Pitchfork Music, for example, recently granted her song "The Greatest" — a ballad that yearns for a simpler past — the number-two spot in its list of the 100 best tracks of 2019.
As the Pitchfork review describes, "In Lana Del Rey's latest song 'The Greatest,' an entire generation is burned out. The world is getting hotter. Hope is a dwindling resource. We don't have much time left… Lana's songs have always sounded like lonely missives from the end of the world with a beachside view; the difference is now we're watching the clock tick down alongside her."
Much like Billie Eilish, Del Rey sings of California's growing fires. Towards the end of the song she wistfully sings "L.A.'s in flames, it's getting hot… 'Life on Mars' ain't just a song".
Del Rey knows what profound changes the climate crisis is bringing and wants us to know it too.
9. The Climate Music Project
Who says all climate change songs have to have lyrics?
Really, some of the most thought-provoking music addressing this crisis today is entirely instrumental.
To see how that's possible look no further than the Climate Music Project: a San Francisco group that takes real climate data to produce what could be considered the sound of climate change.
As the group's founder Stephan Crawford explained to the New York Times, "Music is really visceral… Listening to a composition is an active experience, not just a passive one. It can make climate change feel more personal and inspire people to take action."
Snippets of the Climate Music Project's work can be found at climatemusic.org/our-music/#climate.
10. Bon Iver
Bon Iver, a band whose very name is derived from the French for "good winter," is understandably distressed by our warming world.
In "Jelmore," from the 2019 album I,I singer Justin Vernon wrestles with the failures of world leaders to see the danger right outside our window, asking, "How long? / Will you disregard the heat?".
Join the Fight for Our Climate
If listening to these songs has you thinking, "What can I do?," we've got an answer. Learn how to become a Climate Reality Leader.
You'll learn just how the climate crisis is transforming our world and how together we can solve it. You'll also learn what you can do and develop the skills and know-how to mobilize your friends, family, neighbors, and more to act while we still have time.
As we say, give us three days. We'll give you the tools to change the world.
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Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, more than 1,300 Superfund sites pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. Based on a new study, residents living close to these sites could also have a shorter life expectancy.
Published in Nature Communications, the study, led by Hanadi S. Rifai, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers, found that living in nearby zip codes to Superfund sites resulted in a decreased life expectancy of more than two months, the University of Houston reported.
"We have ample evidence that contaminant releases from anthropogenic sources (e.g., petrochemicals or hazardous waste sites) could increase the mortality rate in fence-line communities," Rifai told the University of Houston. "Results showed a significant difference in life expectancy among census tracts with at least one Superfund site and their neighboring tracts with no sites."
The study pulled data from 65,000 census tracts – defined geographical regions – within the contiguous U.S., The Guardian reported. With this data, researchers found that for communities that are socioeconomically challenged, this life expectancy could decrease by up to a year.
"It was a bit surprising and concerning," Rifai told The Guardian. "We weren't sure [when we started] if the fact that you are socioeconomically challenged would make [the Superfund's effects] worse."
The research team, for example, found that the presence of a Superfund site in a census tract with a median income of less than $52,580 could reduce life expectancy by seven months, the University of Houston reported.
Many of these toxic sites were once used as manufacturing sites during the Second World War. Common toxic substances that are released from the sites into the air and surface water include lead, trichlorethylene, chromium, benzene and arsenic – all of which can lead to health impacts, such as neurological damage among children, The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog.
"The EPA has claimed substantial recent progress in Superfund site cleanups, but, contrary to EPA leadership's grandiose declarations, the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups is the largest it has been in the last 15 years," the Union wrote.
Delayed cleanup could become increasingly dangerous as climate change welcomes more natural hazards, like wildfires and flooding. According to a Government Accountability Office report, for example, climate change could threaten at least 60 percent of Superfund sites in the U.S., AP News reported.
During the summer of 2018, a major wildfire took over the Iron Mountain Superfund site near Redding, CA, ruining wastewater treatment infrastructure that is responsible for capturing 168 million gallons of acid mine drainage every month, NBC News reported.
"There was this feeling of 'My God. We ought to have better tracking of wildfires at Superfund locations,'" Stephen Hoffman, a former senior environmental scientist at the EPA, told NBC News. "Before that, there wasn't a lot of thought about climate change and fire. That has changed."
In the study, researchers also looked at the impacts of floodings on Superfund sites, which could send toxins flowing into communities and waterways.
"When you add in flooding, there will be ancillary or secondary impacts that can potentially be exacerbated by a changing future climate," Rifai told the University of Houston. "The long-term effect of the flooding and repetitive exposure has an effect that can transcend generations."
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A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.
By Douglas Broom
- If online deliveries continue with fossil-fuel trucks, emissions will increase by a third.
- So cities in the Netherlands will allow only emission-free delivery vehicles after 2025.
- The government is giving delivery firms cash help to buy or lease electric vehicles.
- The bans will save 1 megaton of CO2 every year by 2030.
Cities in the Netherlands want to make their air cleaner by banning fossil fuel delivery vehicles from urban areas from 2025.
"Now that we are spending more time at home, we are noticing the large number of delivery vans and lorries driving through cities," said Netherlands environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven, announcing plans to ban all but zero-emission deliveries in 14 cities.
"The agreements we are setting down will ensure that it will be a matter of course that within a few years, supermarket shelves will be stocked, waste will be collected, and packages will arrive on time, yet without any exhaust fumes and CO2 emissions," she added.
She expects 30 cities to announce zero emission urban logistics by this summer. City councils must give four years' notice before imposing bans as part of government plans for emission-free road traffic by 2050. The city bans aim to save 1 megaton of CO2 each year by 2030.
Help to Change
To encourage transport organizations to go carbon-free, the government is offering grants of more than US$5,900 to help businesses buy or lease electric vehicles. There will be additional measures to help small businesses make the change.
The Netherlands claims it is the first country in the world to give its cities the freedom to implement zero-emission zones. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht already have "milieuzones" where some types of vehicles are banned.
Tilburg, one of the first wave of cities imposing the Dutch ban, will not allow fossil-fuelled vehicles on streets within its outer ring road and plans to roll out a network of city-wide electric vehicle charging stations before the ban comes into effect in 2025.
"Such initiatives are imperative to improve air quality. The transport of the future must be emission-free, sustainable, and clean," said Tilburg city alderman Oscar Dusschooten.
Europe Takes Action
Research by Renault shows that many other European cities are heading in the same direction as the Netherlands, starting with Low Emission Zones of which Germany's "Umweltzone" were pioneers. More than 100 communes in Italy have introduced "Zonas a traffico limitato."
Madrid's "zona de baja emisión" bans diesel vehicles built before 2006 and petrol vehicles from before 2000 from central areas of the city. Barcelona has similar restrictions and the law will require all towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants to follow suit.
Perhaps the most stringent restrictions apply in London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which charges trucks and large vehicles up to US$137 a day to enter the central area if they do not comply with Euro 6 emissions standards. From October, the ULEZ is being expanded.
Cities are responsible for around 75% of CO2 emissions from global final energy use, according to the green thinktank REN21 - and much of these come from transport. Globally, transport accounts for 24% of world CO2 emissions.
The Rise of Online Shopping
Part of the reason for traffic in urban areas is the increase in delivery vehicles, as online shopping continues to grow. Retailer ecommerce sales are expected to pass $5billion in 2022, according to eMarketer.
The World Economic Forum's report The Future of the Last-Mile Ecosystem, published in January 2020, estimates that e-commerce will increase the number of delivery vehicles on the roads of the world's 100 largest cities by 36% by 2030.
If all those vehicles burn fossil fuels, the report says emissions will increase by 32%. But switching to all-electric delivery vehicles would cut emissions by 30% from current levels as well as reducing costs by 25%, the report says.
Other solutions explored in the report include introducing goods trams to handle deliveries alongside their passenger-carrying counterparts and increased use of parcel lockers to reduce the number of doorstep deliveries.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
The bill, SB467, would have prohibited fracking and other controversial forms of oil extraction. It would also have banned oil and gas production within 2,500 feet of a home, school, hospital or other residential facility. The bill originally set the fracking ban for 2027, but amended it to 2035, The AP reported.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed," State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), one of the bill's two introducers, told the Los Angeles Times. "California really has not done what it needs to do in terms of addressing the oil problem. We have communities that are suffering right now, and the Legislature has repeatedly failed to act."
The bill was introduced after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign a fracking ban if it passed the legislature, though his administration has continued to issue permits in the meantime, Forbes reported. Newsom has also spoken in favor of a buffer zone between oil and gas extraction and places where people live and learn, according to the Los Angeles Times. The latter is a major environmental justice issue, as fossil fuel production is more likely to be located near Black and Latinx communities.
Urban lawmakers who want California to lead on the climate crisis supported the bill, while inland lawmakers in oil-rich areas concerned about jobs opposed it. The oil and gas industry and trade unions also opposed the bill.
This opposition meant the bill failed to get the five votes it needed to move beyond the Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee. Only four senators approved it, while Democrat Sen. Susan Eggman of Stockton joined two Republicans to oppose it, and two other Democrats abstained.
Eggman argued that the bill would have forced California to rely on oil extracted in other states.
"We're still going to use it, but we're going to use it from places that produce it less safely," Eggman told The AP. She also said that she supported the transition away from fossil fuels, but thought the bill jumped the gun. "I don't think we're quite there yet, and this bill assumes that we are," she added.
Historically, California has been a major U.S. oil producer. Its output peaked in 1986 at 1.1 million barrels a day, just below Texas and Alaska, according to Forbes. However, production has declined since then making it the seventh-most oil-producing state.
Still, California's fossil fuel industry is at odds with state attempts to position itself as a climate leader.
"There is a large stain on California's climate record, and that is oil," Wiener said Tuesday, according to The AP.
Wiener and Democrat co-introducer Sen. Monique Limón from Santa Barbara vowed to keep fighting.
"While we saw this effort defeated today, this issue isn't going away," they wrote in a joint statement. "We'll continue to fight for aggressive climate action, against harmful drilling, and for the health of our communities."
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By Brett Wilkins
As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.
The report, Changing Our Ways: Behavior Change and the Climate Crisis, found that nearly half the growth in absolute global emissions was caused by the world's richest 10%, with the most affluent 5% alone contributing 37%.
"In the year when the UK hosts COP26, and while the government continues to reward some of Britain's biggest polluters through tax credits, the commission report shows why this is precisely the wrong way to meet the UK's climate targets," the report's introduction states.
The authors of the report urge United Kingdom policymakers to focus on this so-called "polluter elite" in an effort to persuade wealthy people to adopt more sustainable behavior, while providing "affordable, available low-carbon alternatives to poorer households."
The report found that the "polluter elite" must make "dramatic" lifestyle changes in order to meet the UK's goal — based on the Paris climate agreement's preferential objective — of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels.
In addition to highlighting previous recommendations — including reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and switching to electric vehicles and solar power — the report recommends that policymakers take the following steps:
- Implement frequent flyer levies;
- Enact bans on selling and promoting SUVs and other high polluting vehicles;
- Reverse the UK's recent move to cut green grants for homes and electric cars; and
- Build just transitions by supporting electric public transport and community energy schemes.
"We have got to cut over-consumption and the best place to start is over-consumption among the polluting elites who contribute by far more than their share of carbon emissions," Peter Newell, a Sussex University professor and lead author of the report, told the BBC.
"These are people who fly most, drive the biggest cars most, and live in the biggest homes which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they're well insulated or not," said Newell. "They're also the sort of people who could really afford good insulation and solar panels if they wanted to."
Newell said that wealthy people "simply must fly less and drive less. Even if they own an electric SUV, that's still a drain on the energy system and all the emissions created making the vehicle in the first place."
"Rich people who fly a lot may think they can offset their emissions by tree-planting schemes or projects to capture carbon from the air," Newell added. "But these schemes are highly contentious and they're not proven over time."
The report concludes that "we are all on a journey and the final destination is as yet unclear. There are many contradictory road maps about where we might want to get to and how, based on different theories of value and premised on diverse values."
"Promisingly, we have brought about positive change before, and there are at least some positive signs that there is an appetite to do what is necessary to live differently but well on the planet we call home," it states.
The new report follows a September 2020 Oxfam International study that revealed the wealthiest 1% of the world's population is responsible for emitting more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50% of humanity combined.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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