I had the opportunity to interview the legendary producer, musician, and climate-campaigner a few months back. Brian EnoAt his famous London studio. “Are we treating the climate as a crisis? No, we aren’t really,” he said. “And I think it’s partly because it’s so difficult to countenance the complexity and blackness of the whole situation.”
That comment summarised how many people feel about the current climate crisis and ecological emergency. It was overwhelming, hopeless and confused. And, honestly, that’s totally understandable. We’ve reached a point in our Earth’s history that scientists are calling “Code Red for Humanity,” yet some people are only just finding out about the climate crisis. Even those who are well-versed are surprised at how little has been done.
Eno stated, “The issue may seem complicated, but the reality is actually quite straightforward.” Since decades, the planet has been being heated by our industrial revolution. Experts first warned in the 1960s that the consequences for our natural environments — and us as humans — could be catastrophic. The problem is fossil fuels (oil and coal, as well as gas) and how these fuel our world. When they are burned, they emit carbon into our atmosphere, which heats our planet. That’s why almost everything we do — from the air conditioner keeping us comfortable at night to the clothes we order online — has a carbon footprint. Our natural surroundings, from forests to oceans, absorb some of this carbon, but we’re reducing their capacity by cutting them down or polluting their ecosystems at an alarming rate.
Global temperatures are rising. While a few degrees may not seem like much, every 0.1 degree increase destabilizes the situation further. The consequences are dramatic, deadly and far-reaching: from increased extreme weather events such as flooding, wildfires and hurricanes to people having to leave their homes and their countries because they’ve simply become uninhabitable hot. The worsening situation could lead to major disputes and even wars if there is no global collaboration.
How did we get here? How did we get to this point? There were too many warnings that were ignored by successive global leaders and too many years of inaction by powerful businesses. Self-interest and profit have come before the planet, and we’re dealing with the fallout. That’s why the Summit UN COP26 in Glasgow, U.K. is considered such a big deal — the last-chance saloon for our elected officials to stop talking and start taking action. Not tomorrow, but now.
The bad news is the climate crisis isn’t coming — it’s here. The last time governments met at an Paris COP conference2015 They were all in agreementTo limit warming to 1.5 degrees. We’ve already hit 1.2. If they’d acted on warnings in the 1990sAnd The early 2000sIt could have been stable, but it was possible for things to change. Instead, it’s panic-button time. In the time we have, what’s needed is nothing short of a revolution: the biggest change to the way the world works in the history of civilization.
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The good news? We know what we can do. The most important thing is to stop using fossil fuels and leave them in the ground. The power that runs our societies — from cars to homes, businesses to cities — needs to come from clean, renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro. This transition is occurring, but it’s not happening fast enough. There aren’t decades, years or even months to waste. Governments have the power to enforce this process, this shift to more “sustainable” models.
Where does music fit in all this? Sometimes it’s easier to understand the climate challenge via the threat it poses to the things you love — like music. For example, we’ve already seen many festivals hit by extreme weather. This is something that no one wants to see. Right now, the industry — from streaming to touring — has a significant carbon footprint. Think about the boxes of Vinyl (made from plastic, derived from oil) driven to record stores across the country or the vast number of air miles taken by your favorite artist’s world tour.
Music, like every other industry has to change and move to a more sustainable way of doing business. Encouragingly, it’s happening. From Billie EilishTo Architects, more and more artists are taking action on this front, but it’s not just those in front of the mic.
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That’s why I started the climate/music podcast Sounds Like a PlanYou can find out more about all these solutions by clicking here There are so many ideas out there: “vinyl” records made from recycled ocean plastic; band merchandise made from reused materials and eco-friendly NFTsThese tweets require a fraction of energy than sending a tweet. Artists and festivals ban single-use plastic, carbon labeling for food, and arena-sized stage sets made of materials like bamboo. The largest scale ColdplayAre you taking a Dance floor with kinetic energy on their 2022 world tour — the crowd dancing at the concert is quite literally powering it with clean energy. This kind of innovation can’t just be cute; in the next couple of years, it needs to be commonplace.
There is hope, there’s ideas, and most importantly, there’s a desire to create a new world. A better, more equitable and more prosperous world. And the biggest way you can make a difference is the same way your favorite artist does — use your platform. It might not be millions. TikTok followers; it doesn’t matter. Begin with your family and friends. And sure, obtainable changes in your own life are positive — yep, get rid of those plastic straws, eat less meat, take public transport to your next show — but, most impactful of all, send a message to your leaders, from school principals to your president: We want this change. This is what we need.
As Eno so profoundly put it during our podcast: “We should be talking about the ‘climate opportunity.’ All you revolutionaries who want to make a new world — here’s your chance.”
This op-ed was published in issue 400, which is available Here.