I feel some relief at being a survivor of the “live fast die young” generation, although for me thesedays it’s not so much Alt J…more Control P. However, it seems that the Millennial generation is destined to live young and die fast if we don’t change our practices, and change them fast.
As a profession, we musicians have habitually had an inordinately large carbon footprint. Our production techniques, our travel schedules and, for those at the top of the tree, our lavish lifestyles have all dented the planet that has fed and inspired us over the centuries.
Wonderful World, World in Motion, All Over the World, The Man who Sold the World…
But… Baby Baby, it’s a Wild World…
Once, amplifiers were tools of the trade and feedback was a minor mixing irritation.
They are now scientific terms for the terrifying prospect of runaway climate change. We are losing ice from the poles. This means that we are fast losing the Earth’s reflectors which regulate temperature equilibrium. As they disappear, a darker sea is exposed which absorbs more heat…and so the feedback is amplified and accelerates, becomes unstoppable and the Earth quickly loses its habitable regions. We are already seeing heat stress deaths, strokes, kidney disease and heart attacks on the increase: India has seen temperatures up to 50 degrees and the recent heatwave in Europe killed 70000 people! It is estimated that rare toy 5 million a year currently die from Global Heating. This level of carnage is difficult to absorb and so it is easier to shut ourselves off from the true horror.
This heating has the knock on of impacting on the life support systems of our biosphere. As CO2 increases so does the acidification of the oceans. This in turn is killing the phytoplankton that provides 60% of our oxygen. As temperate regions become hotter, so deadly vector–born diseases such as Malaria, Dengue fever and Zika spread. West Nile disease is now endemic in Canada! We have lost 60% of vertebrates since the release of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and 1000 species are threatened with extinction.
So, what can we do to?
Air travel currently produces up to 10% of global CO2 emissions. Although we are fast developing the technology for electric flight, we are unlikely to see electric fleets before 2022. There is no getting around the need to tour and, of course, it is preferable for a band to fly to a fan base rather than vice versa, but much could be achieved with thoughtful scheduling of tours over less mileage, hiring rather than shipping equipment and, where possible, requesting sustainable sourcing of power.
And, of course, if we need to fly, we can offset our carbon with schemes to reforest and subsidise sustainable energy development in the global south. ‘The 1975’ for one has shown admirable integrity when they offset not only their upcoming tour flights but retrospectively all previous ones.
As temperatures rise, flying might seem less attractive as an option anyway. The 50 degrees seen in the global south, and set to spread north as a norm, is the upper limit regarded as safe for aircraft function. And, as the jet stream is disrupted by climate induced windshear, turbulence will become increasingly dangerous. Thunderstorms will push upward into cruising altitudes and increase the risk of dangerous high-altitude icing and engine failure.
The Retford Porterhouse suddenly seems the more attractive touring destination.
Our current production methods involve plastics and transportation costs. It is perhaps time to weigh up the sustainability of alternative distribution methods. Certainly, digipaks are preferable to jewel cases and vinyl in terms of plastics and research could inform which digital platforms had the most sustainable practices.
Of course, the music business relies on a substantial income stream from merchandising and a symbiotic relationship with the fashion industry. However, we need to confront head on the fact that 32% of the world’s pesticides are applied to cotton crops – a major cause of loss of biodiversity – and 20% of water pollution comes from textile treatment and dying processes – a significant contributor to global heating. It takes up to 200 thousand litres of water to grow and produce 1 kg of cotton (ie 1 shirt and a pair of jeans) so let’s think twice about t–shirts.
The end of the Vietnam war was hastened by an all-pervasive agitprop soundtrack. The airwaves were awash with wall–to–wall condemnation of the US government’s actions in the Far East. Musicians like Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Country Joe and Hendrix were on the frontline of the war for political change. We now find ourselves in an existential danger far greater than that of any war and we need the power of music to inform and agitate for political change more than ever. We can all lend our voices to the fight through lyrics, inspiring music and up-front interviews.
Where previous generations feared enemy action, the fear of Generation Z is one of Government inaction. It is time to make our voices heard by a government in the thrall of the fossil fuel industries. This is why I have thrown my hat into the ring of Music Declares Emergency. This is an independent group, created by artists, music industry professionals and organisations concerned at the lack of a cohesive, industry-wide response to the climate emergency.
MDE represents all areas of the music industry irrespective of genre, role, gender, race or sexuality and is led by individuals united by a deep concern for the climate and ecological emergency we currently face. We recognize that the music industry, due to its unique challenges needs its own group to drive this debate and collectively work towards solutions. MDE is an independent group that includes individuals who have been directly inspired by, or involved in, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Culture Declares Emergency, as well as members of leading music and environmental charity, Julie’s Bicycle and other music industry professionals. So far, we have had over 2000 signatories; among them are Massive attack, Radiohead, Johnny Flynn, Jarvis Cocker, Annie Lennox, Gary Lucas, and Peggy Seeger.
So, whether musician or fan, sign up and lend your voice to the chorus calling for more ambitious political action, and following up by taking action on your own environmental impacts.
There is no legacy on a dead planet
Music Declares Emergency
Founder member of Adam and the Ants and The Monochrome Set
For more information on how to get involved with MDE email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Extinction Rebellion go to https://rebellion.earth/
For more information about Julie’s Bicycle go to https://www.juliesbicycle.com/