Last year I wrote a Climate Rocks post, with lots of songs about climate change. It’s time for part 2, with a whole load more songs!

1) G. T., “How Dare You”

Last year’s post ended with The 1975, and a song that put a Geta Thunberg speech to music, as a sort of spoken poem. But The 1975 are not the only ones to set Greta Thunberg’s words to music. Here’s a wonderful(!) one by John Meredith (aka G.T.) – the drummer for the band Suaka. He morphs Greta’s “How Dare You” speech into a Swedish Death Metal song…

Yeah, I know, but hear me out. It works. It’s worth a listen! For more on this song, see this article in Rolling Stone.

2) Delusion Squared, “In My Time of Dying”

Greta Thunberg isn’t the only youth climate activist to have her words set to music. Back in 1992, Severn Suzuki gave a speech to the Rio Earth summit when she was 12 years old. The song is “In My Time of Dying” by Delusion Squared (who also featured in the last Climate Rocks post) sets this speech to music.

It’s a song about denial: “They were truly frightening / The things we were denying / In my time of dying”

Severn’s speech made headlines around the world, particularly for the phrase “If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.” It was hailed as the speech that silenced the world. 

“Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying, “Everything’s going to be all right; it’s not the end of the world, and we’re doing the best we can.” But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities?”

3) Childish Gambino, “Feels Like Summer”

Next up is a subtle one. It’s Childish Gambino, with an innocuous sounding song called “Feels Like Summer”. At first, it sounds like one of those upbeat Earth Wind & Fire songs celebrating happy things. And the video really plays this up. But listen carefully to the lyrics, and watch for small clues in the video that something is wrong…

The lyrics to “Feels Like Summer” start out harmless enough:
“You can feel it in the streets /
On a day like this, the heat /
It feel like summer”

And then it shifts gears without skipping a beat:
“Seven billion souls that move around the sun /
Rolling faster, faster, not a chance to slow down”

Till we get to:
“Every day gets hotter than the one before /
Running out of water, it’s about to go down /
Go down”
Still in the same upbeat tone. 

Brutal. The video really picks up this juxtaposition. It depicts Donald Glover walking through his neighbourhood, but every character is a celebrity: they’re all famous rappers or Black figures. So the video distracts you from the lyrics: we’re all so focussed on celebrity gossip, we’re ignoring the little signs of environmental collapse all around us.

BTW if you want a full breakdown of who all the characters in the video are, Wikipedia has you covered:

Most of the cultural references went straight over my head, but I did laugh at the one of Kanye West in a MAGA hat crying his eyes out while being comforted by Michelle Obama…

4) Anohni, “4 Degrees”

Next up is Anohni, with “4 Degrees”. I wasn’t sure about this one when I first heard it: 
“I wanna burn the sky, I wanna burn the breeze / I wanna see the animals die in the trees /
Oh, let’s go, let’s go, it’s only four degrees”.

The song was written just before the Paris Agreement in 2015, when climate projections were suggesting the world would warm by 4 degrees by the end of the century. The song seems to be saying: bring it on…

Really, it’s a piece of reverse psychology. In interviews about the song, Anohni describes her deep concern about climate change, and her struggle to come to terms with her own carbon footprint. The song is about being accountable: it expresses the implications of how we behave, rather than our intent.

It’s a pretty powerful song.

5) Paul McCartney, “Despite Repeated Warnings”

Next up is a song from Paul McCartney, written in 2018, called “Despite Repeated Warnings”, inspired by a newspaper article about climate change containing that phrase.

In interviews, McCartney confirmed he was thinking of Trump: 
“The captain’s crazy /
But he doesn’t let them know it /
He’ll take us with him /
If we don’t do something /
Soon to slow it”

6) Bad Religion, “Kyoto Now!”

It’s time for some punk: Bad Religion’s song “Kyoto Now!”, released in 2002. 

The Kyoto protocol, of course, was the first ever international agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Signed in Dec ’97, it didn’t enter into force until enough countries had ratified it to cover 55% of all global CO2 emissions. That took until 2005. 

Maybe an unusual topic for a punk song, but it captures the anger people felt at the time. A lot of the anger was directed at the US. While Clinton signed the Kyoto agreement in 1997, he never sent it to the US Senate for ratification, because the senate had already passed a resolution (95-0) saying the US should not sign any agreement unless developing countries were also required to reduce emissions. After his election, George W Bush made it clear he would never agree to it. So the US never ratified it.

Not to be outdone, Canada – under Conservative prime minister Steven Harper – eventually withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in 2011. Although at that point, given Canada’s emissions had actually risen by 17% since 1990 rather than falling, the decision to withdraw was largely irrelevant. Being a huge petro-state, Canada wasn’t going to act on it anyway.

All these political maneuverings are captured well in the song:
“The media parading /
Disjointed politics /
Founded on petrochemical plunder /
And we’re its hostages”

And because this is punk, the song even acknowledges its own futility:
“You might not think it matters now /
But what if you were wrong? /
You might not think there’s any wisdom /
In a fucked up punk rock song”

7) Gojira, “Gobal Warming”

Let’s continue to explore different music genres. This one might be termed progressive death metal (it certainly has the growling in it). The song is “Global Warming”, by the French band Gojira, written for their environmentally themed concept album “From Mars to Sirius”, in 2005. Fast and furious, once again, a song that channels anger at the state of the planet. Worth a listen, even if you never listen to Death Metal.

The title is obvious, the lyrics perhaps less so. The singer is channelling the view of the planet itself:
“And when I see the smoke around /
I feel like I’m not from humankind down there /
I feel like glaciers are my eyes /
And mountains are my head, my heart is ocean”

But rather than descending into misanthropy, the song bends towards hope:

“I had this dream, our planet surviving”, and ending on the repeated line:
“We will see our children growing”.

8) Steel Pulse, “Global Warning”

Continuing our tour of music genres, this one is a reggae song from Steel Pulse, called “Global Warning”. It’s from their 2004 album African Holocaust, which tackles a range of themes around racial oppression, African Nationalism and Rastafarianism. This song focusses on the link between colonialism and environmental destruction, and the need to stand up for change. 

Interestingly, the song isn’t specifically about climate change (note the spelling of the title), and it name-checks wildlife extinction, acid rain, pollution in the water, and deforestation. It elegantly connects the clearing of forests with the need for political resistance: 
“Stand up and be counted / Don’t ever let them chop us down, hey.” 

And it couches the whole message in Rastafarianism:
“Destroying earth was not Jah’s plan / 
It’s the work of man”

Of relevance: this article on the symbolism of “Babylon” in reggae. Babylon is taken as a symbol both of the decadent culture of colonial oppressors and a target for pan-African consciousness, as in the term “Beating down Babylon”. And a biting critique of western democracy as a sham (a “de mockroicy”), in which politicians are scam artists, pretending to be representatives of the people, while really just enriching themselves.

9) Pitbull, “Global Warming”

Still continuing our genre tour, this one is a rap song called “Global Warming” by Pitbull, from his 2012 album, also called Global Warming. It’s a very short song (1:24), and acts as an introduction to the album. So even if you don’t normally dig rap, take a listen…

The song starts with a very clear message:
“Category 6’s are stormin’ /
Take this as a, take this as a warning /
Welcome to, welcome to global warming”

And then he proceeds to critique the choice of things rappers sing about, with a (perhaps too subtle) critique of the obsession with glamour and the lifestyles of the rich, with their private jets:

“It’s all about them billionaires /
I’m so fucking serious /
Look, I love them zeros, they looking like Cheerios”

Interestingly, Pitbull’s songs rarely contain environmental messages, he just names his albums that way:
2012: “Global Warming”
2014: “Globalization”
2017: “Climate Change”

In interviews, he says: “If I made a record about [climate change], nobody would listen to it. I make records for people to have a good time, […] but with the titles, they start to connect the dots like a treasure hunt that I put together for them”

10) Amarok, “Hero”

This one is a lovely melodic rock song called “Hero”, from the Polish band Amarok. It starts out with what sounds like a fragment from a Greta Thunberg speech: 
“Now the eyes of all generations are upon you. 
The planet is dying, destroyed, sick of consumerism. 
Most people don’t even notice it”.

It’s not actually Greta, but channels her style almost perfectly. The voice is Marta Wojtas, who does backing vocals and writes all the lyrics for the band.

The song is about our need for heroes, and the internal struggles faced by those in the climate movement that we treat as heroes.

It’s perhaps my favourite song in the entire thread so far. Take a listen – it’s a gorgeous song…

11) Ela Minus, “Megapunk”

To mark the passing of another useless COP meeting, we need a protest song: Ela Minus with Megapunk, from her 2020 album “Acts of Rebellion”.

On the album version, there’s no other voices than Ela’s own lyrics (“You won’t make us stop”), but when she play it live, she mixes in other voice samples, so I’m sharing this version which includes samples from a Greta Thunberg speech. Amazing how many climate songs Greta has inspired!

Ela’s music is usually described as electro-pop, but I much prefer the term DIY techno-punk I saw in one review. Or, as she describes it: “bright music for dark times”.

Megapunk is the perfect upbeat protest song: 
“We can’t seem to find / 
A reason to stay quiet / 
We’re afraid we’ll run out of time”

“You don’t want to understand / 
You’re choosing to lead us apart /
But against all odds /
You still won’t make us stop”

12) Macy Gray, “All I Want For Christmas”

Time for a festive tune from Macy Gray, called “All I Want for Christmas”. It’s packed full of sensible Christmas wishes:
“All I want for Christmas is a whole bunch of stuff /
But anything that you can buy me won’t be enough /
‘Cause everything I’m hoping for is intangible /
Like free health care and gun control”

Makes me wonder why there aren’t more seasonal songs like this. Too earnest?

Macy’s verse on climate change is pretty straightforward:

“All I want for Christmas is to have a chance /
So please take care of the environment /
Take Mr. Gore more seriously /
And do what you can to stop global warming”

The Mr Gore reference dates it a bit, but then it praises “Barack”, and:

“I hope that your successor
Does the things he or she should /
That Mr. Trump, he’s an entertaining guy /
But let’s face it, really is he qualified?

Understated, perhaps?

13) Midnight Oil, “Rising Seas”

Last #ClimateRocks for this post. After a year of record temperatures, and useless climate policy negotiations, what could be more fitting than Midnight Oil’s “Rising Seas”, from their 2022 album Resist (featuring the warming stripes on the cover).

“Every child put down your toys/
And come inside to sleep/
We have to look you in the eye and say we sold you cheap/
Let’s confess we did not act
With serious urgency/
So open up the floodgates
To the rising seas”

I included a Midnight Oil song in my previous Climate Rocks post: Beds are Burning, which is often assumed to be about climate change, but is really about Indigenous Land rights. Given their legacy of protest songs, it’s not surprising the band have turned their full attention to climate change. 
Nearly all the songs on the new album deal with the climate crisis in some way, so give the whole thing a listen. 

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