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Ten revolution-spurring climate change anthems

Some people meet at Egyptian holiday resorts when they’re concerned about the climate crisis. Some people make cheese. Some make music.

We know the climate change battle is as much about our own thinking as it is oil rigs, logging rights or COP summits. A rap album would never install a solar panel but it might just unlock new collective emotion and ambition in a way no politician or binder of facts ever could.

Here’s to the musicians sparking conscience and consciousness, asking us beautifully to be angrier, better, sooner. Ten of our absolute favourite climate change anthems:

koyaanisqatsi – philip glass

Hugely powerful movie soundtrack from the 1982 film that pioneered slow-motion and time-lapse cinematography to spell out the organ tingling unease that a new look at civilisation can stir up. Koyaanisqatsi comes from the Native American Hopi language, meaning ‘a life out of balance’ and this song, written by Philipp Glass conveys that no end.

pirate jet – gorillaz

Title song from a whole album based on a hip-hop infused climate breakdown universe, set primarily on an island made of plastic trash in the Pacific. It’s depressing and impressive all at once that Gorillaz used their superstardom platform back in 2010 to call attention to the climate crisis, bringing in artists like Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed and Mos Def to spit fire and poetry all over humanity’s repeated failures to correct course.

the sea is rising – bliss n eso

A direct and impassioned song by Australian hip-hop trio that plainly calls out the human condition responsible for war, famine and rising sea levels. Laid over pumping violins, the song looks inwards at the individual’s ability to make a difference, fading out calling for peace, love and unity.

supernature – cerrone

A 1977 disco blaster by French artist Cerrone, an undeniabe boogy classic. The track imagines a world where ‘Supernature’ returns to exact revenge on a ‘civilisation’ that has pushed it too far. When a track is this danceable it raises the question of whether and how fun and party can be invoked to help us reflect on crises or to stimulate activism.

timber – coldcut

Because we’re from Berlin, this playlist was never gonna happen without some pumping techno music. The original was released in 1997, stitched together with the industrial sounds of deforestation – axes, hacking, clunking, sawing gradually blending in impassioned synthetic wails. Lose your mind in a track like this and it’s hard not to see the insanity of how far our race has taken us.

ital roots – g ras

The reggae genre, dripping with sunshine and good vibes, might not be a genre you’d most expect to deliver stark warnings about climate breakdown, but this song channels reggae’s roots as a diasporic voice, projecting resistance to the institutions of oppression. G Ras pleasingly drawls out just how and why we’ve ended up in such a flawed place and what we need to get outta here.

all the good girls go to hell – billie eilish

Proof that climate change is the fight of the new generation, Billie and her brother Finneas arranged this song to channel Christian symbolism against climactic breakdown, seeing it as rooted in the worst of human impulses. Touching on the intersectionality of the climate crisis, this track points out just exactly who and what is really deserving of salvation, delivered in characteristic pop punches. Outside music, Eilish has rallied her fans to climate action with events, documentaries and social media campaigns all forefronting the climate emergency. Goddess.

big yellow taxi – joni mitchell

From one pop goddess to another, Joni Mitchell is widely recognised as one of the best songwriters of all time. She came onto the scene at a time when female songwriters, especially those with such powerful comment to deliver on modern times, were few and far between. Her songs covered love, philosophy and social movements, with Big Yellow Taxi being one of her most famous songs, deploring all the way back in 1970 how aimless concrete sprawl comes at the expense of the natural environment.

feels like summer – childish gambino

Another example of the climate crisis plight finding its way into mainstream music. This song catapults you to a warm Atlanta afternoon, the music video filled with memorable faces and friends from the Atlanta hip-hop scene and wider African-American society. The lyrics gradually unpeel Childish Gambino’s consternations about an ever heating climate and its intersection with racial and political struggles.

loveless – ursula rucker & 4hero

Spoken word artist Ursula Rucker graces this track from 4hero. The song, dressed as a dialogue bemoaning Earth’s faithless lover, humanity, uses Rucker’s soft and beautiful voice to weave the tragic tale of a relationship gone wrong. Music can be both a way to vocalise the need for action but also sit with our emotions and contemplate where we really are.

Do you have any favourite songs that capture the poignancy or crusade of turning the climate tides? That’s good. Our blog doesn’t have a comment functionality so you’ll simply have to listen to them tunes and share them with a friend. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

Oscar zt

Oscar is a Formo researcher and proponent of food system overhaul. He thinks cellular agriculture, smoothied up and multiplied by decent, change-hungry humans, can be cataclysmic force for good. Especially if there’s cheese involved.

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