How artists are fighting climate change through concerts


As the climate is changing, it’s not too late to save us. There is room for both optimism and pessimism – salvation could come in the form of easy technological fixes or cataclysmic weather events that force us to work together. Barring a revolutionary technological breakthrough, one of the most likely routes to climate action is through social movements. Activism through nonviolent protest has been successful in achieving its goals if a critical mass of 3.5% or more of the population is mobilized. In other words, if 11.5 million Americans take to the streets and stay engaged, they can contribute to the sweeping social and political transformation needed to stop climate change. Beyond responses to repressive and autocratic rule, however, there are very few examples of sustained activism at this level of engagement.

So what will it take for millions of Americans to do what is necessary to stop the climate crisis?

Shared cultural experiences have the ability to serve as platforms for civic participation and activism that can mobilize the masses. Given the overwhelming evidence that young people are preoccupied and anxious about how the climate crisis is affecting them, it makes sense to activate them at events where the emotional energy can cause laughter and tears in equal measure – music does both.

Music travels everywhere. Bands perform in red states and blue states, to audiences of all races, genders, and sexual orientations. During the approximately 90 minutes of a live concert, everyone is united. These events have the potential to serve as on-ramps to climate engagement and activism.

On AJR’s 2022 tour alone, nearly 400,000 people in the United States join the band in various venues, creating a shared experience. Add those numbers to the audiences of other great touring artists and we may be approaching the required critical mass. Think of the possibilities if even half of these people channeled their energy and enthusiasm from music into the climate movement!

Building on-ramps to climate activism

However, artists need to do more than just mention the problem or provide press-worthy gimmicks to show how technology could save us. Fans cycling to power the stage or jumping on tiles to generate power may provide limited carbon offsets, but these actions don’t connect to any meaningful level of engagement that continues the work after the end. a spectacle ; fans cannot take the bikes or floors home with them. Real on-ramps involve the dissemination of information in the same way opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations both at the gig and beyond.

Social movements have long struggled to get supporters to do more than worry about an issue. Concerts have the ability to serve as a catalyst for change, connecting those who care about what they can do about it.

That’s why partnerships between organizations and superstars like Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Drake are invaluable. They connect the energy of a concert with the passionate activism of a protest, providing the public with many opportunities to get involved: registering to vote, soliciting environmentally friendly candidates, spurring action climate through carpooling offers and vegan food options, offsetting emissions to get to the event. , food waste donations, partnerships with local and national organizations and charitable contributions through ticket supplements.

But once they’re involved, how do we keep them engaged?

Nurturing activism after the show

Not only can concerts provide on-ramps to climate activism, they can also create connections that will keep fans involved through follow-up actions on social media and in person. What begins as opportunities at events can blossom into communities of engagement as the message is spread and friends and family are activated. For example, after hearing about oil and plastic pollution at an AJR concert, a young Indianapolis high school student launched a campaign to end all single-use plastic in her school canteen. school. The petition grew so quickly that not only her school, but the entire school district banned all single-use plastics. One person inspired their community to make a real difference.

Concerts have the potential to build collective identity in a way similar to protests – bringing together like-minded people with a common interest to create a sense of togetherness and focus their collective efforts for social change. We know that protest events have the ability to channel participants into other forms of activism and voter engagement, such as participating in voter registration drives, canvassing and town hall meetings in their communities. During the four years of the Trump administration, for example, many large-scale protests, including the Women’s March, People’s Climate March and March for Our Lives, have connected participants to political campaigns in the districts. of Congress around the 2018 midterm elections.

While there are many groups working to mobilize support for social and political climate action, organizations with strong local ties and deep roots in communities can be particularly transformative. Change that comes from below has lasting effects between election cycles. Local groups have proven able to directly connect people to ongoing climate struggles in their communities, counties, and states.

Dreaming of a new world

Concerts are an escape. But there are other worlds in which these spectators also dream of living. A world without a climate crisis that exacerbates extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires. As a result, a world with less hunger and fewer refugees. A world without pollution that causes cancer and asthma, and deforestation that leads to global pandemics.

As our leaders struggle to implement meaningful climate policies during this period of record oil prices and the highest inflation in 40 years, millions of Americans are wondering what they can do to make a difference. Music provides an ideal on-ramp to reach the millions of Americans who want to make a difference in the world, but don’t yet know how. In 2022 alone, more than 70 million people will come together to experience live music, far above the 11.5 million threshold that research suggests could lead to social and political transformation.

With the right partners in place, music can connect these concerned viewers and provide them with opportunities to make a difference in their communities once the band moves to the next town. Individual climate action can take a variety of forms, from planting trees in communities to reduce the heat island effect and limit stormwater runoff, to limiting plastic pollution in schools, or electing politicians who refuse fossil fuel money and prioritize climate action. In addition to the many civic groups doing locally integrated climate work, there are a growing number of coordinated service corps across the country with a mission to train young people to work on climate resilience in their communities for pay. Rather than just putting interested people on mailing lists, these projects truly energize the masses to take climate action.

Now is the time to take advantage of all the potential on-ramps to activism, including through music. By connecting people from all walks of life to sustainable efforts to protect our planet, we can all work together to reduce the risk of a cataclysmic climate future.

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