• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

How can the music industry help climate change? 

ByOlgi Riley

Mar 19, 2023

Considering the music industry’s renowned negative impact on the environment from touring-artists to energy-consuming festivals, this feels like a somewhat oxymoronic question, yet a group of DJs passionate about offsetting the negative impacts of their industry, decided to tackle this conflict. 

Forming in 2011, DJs for Climate Action (DJs4CA) use DJ Culture and Dance Music to promote climate activism by running events and campaigns, releasing music, and collaborating with advocacy groups. 

A recent collaboration with Greenpeace (an environmentalist corporation) was about engaging the music community to connect with the sounds of nature. Using sounds recorded by Greenpeace from around the world ranging from Indonesian rainforests to the Arctic, DJs4CA asked their community ‘How do we want our future to sound?’. The initiative was about inviting musicians to create original music inspired by these sounds which if chosen would be released onto a double LP pressed with a new eco-friendlier method and proceeds going to local organisations where samples were recorded.

DJs4CA also host events that bring together like-minded individuals to help spread messages and question how the music industry operates. 

Their event, ‘Earth Night’ in 2021, conducted over Zoom due to covid restrictions, saw a panel discuss the million-dollar question, ‘The Climate Crisis is Here. What Can Music Do About It?’. 

Led by music journalist Chal Ravens, the group discussed their organisations, the role of music in the climate action movement and ways the music industry can improve. 

Wang Jue (multimedia producer at Greenpeace East Asia) discussed how Greenpeace had noticed people viewed climate change as a more distant issue, one needing to be tackled by politicians and governments. To encourage people to connect with climate change on an individual level, music was used to help build this emotional connection that would encourage people to be more concerned and hopefully transition from a concerned citizen to activist. 

Pranitan Phornprapha discussed his progressive festival, Wonderfruit. Based in Thailand, the festival asks attendees to think about sustainability with Phornprapha describing it as “come for the music, stay for the lessons in life and sustainability” situation. The festival is an example of how decisions can massively reduce a festival’s environmental impact and that sacrifices do not always have to be made. The concept of reflecting, adapting and challenging the music industry’s environmental impact is key to the festival. The decision in 2019 to introduce a “no cup, no service” policy, came after the decision that the previously used compostable cups were still waste at the end of the day, a decision that ultimately saved the use of 200,000 single-use cups. Even more impressively, for the past two years despite the tonnes of carbon dioxide generated mainly from people flying in for the festival, Wonderfruit has had a net positive effect on the atmosphere. Other areas of credit include its stages made from natural resources such as hemp. Hosting the likes of Busy P (who helped launch Daft Punk), the bamboo-constructed Forbidden Fruit stage saw festival goers partying into the early morning, reminding us how sustainability and music can co-exist and that engaging with the environment does not have to impact the quality of a music experience.

Fay Milton discussed how her organisation ‘Music Declares Emergency’ is about bringing the music industry together to call on the government for urgent climate action. Endorsed by musicians spanning the spectrum of music genres, from Billie Eilish and The Sex Pistols to Tame Impala and Radiohead, shows how all musicians and listeners of all types of music are invited to join their collective. Their slogan ‘No music on a dead planet’ is about creating that emotional connection to climate issues, referencing how much our music means to us and how meaningless it will all be without a future for our planet. From a more tactful perspective, she also discusses how lots of the climate work, engaging with banks or energy provides, can be “boring” and having musicians fronting the message adds “sparkle to it”, giving climate action a sexier edge.  

Organisations like DJs4CA give platforms to others and provide opportunities for discussions on how the music industry can progress and improve its impact on the environment. DJs4CA by running events like ‘Earth Night’ and campaigns like The Climate Soundtrack, helps messages of climate action be spread, ideas to be shared and encourages other musicians to also take action. 

Desert Willow along Indian Cove Nature Trail” by Joshua Tree National Park is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.