Student’s Corner

In 2012, Gorillaz released Plastic Beach, one of their most critically acclaimed albums. In the lore of Gorillaz, the concept album paints the picture of the band seeking refuge in an island made of plastic near Point Nemo (perhaps referring to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) . The album’s themes of pollution and how it appears that mankind’s nature is to pollute and corrupt society (as seen in Some Kind of Nature) were my first introductions to sustainability discourse in music. This post, I’d like to dedicate to the various songs and artists that have pushed discussions on sustainability into the mainstream. 

It wasn’t until later when I would relisten to Gorillaz’s 2005 album Demon Days, when I connected the dots and realized my favorite song off the album “O Green World” had themes about the earth holding on faintly as we continue to pollute it and the longing to exist in a time in which the world wasn’t so polluted (“Bring me back to Fallen Town, where someone is still alive”). 

Outside the realm of Gorillaz, artists like Marvin Gaye and Donald Glover have been producing works protesting climate change for decades. Gaye in 1971 released Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) which mourns the downfall of our climate and the responsibility we have in the destruction of the environment. Gaye begs for mercy as he sees “Poison [in the] wind that blows” all around us, “fish full of mercury”, and the overcrowded land we live on. Donald Glover’s Feels Like Summer provides a warning of the dangers of global warming. “Every day gets hotter than the one before, running out of water, it’s about to go down” and “air that kill the bees that we depend upon, birds were made for singing waking up to no sound” depict the grim future we may experience if we do not combat climate change. 


 Lastly, Australian artists have been producing songs that comment on the state of our climate. Pond’s Tasmania is a yearning to go “shack up in Tasmania before the ozone goes” as the “paradise burns in Australia”, and the longing to “breathe real air again” as (the members mentioned) Australia is becoming less and less of an uninhabitable place and more and more people are searching for new places to live. King Gizzard’s discography is riddled with songs on climate change. The Environmental Music Prize Award Winners have dedicated themselves to write music that is not only entertaining, experimental, and connecting (many of their songs have similar motifs that create a whole universe fans call the “Gizzverse”), but also criticizing companies and governments who contribute to the climate crisis. Songs like If Not Now Then When? Raise the question of When are we going to care enough to do something? “When the ocean’s coming up? When the rain just won’t stop? When the fire’s burning?”; Planet B criticizes humanity’s role in destroying the earth by creating a future in which the Earth is no longer sustainable for humans and the need to find somewhere else, only to find out “There is no Planet B”. Melting is about the dangers of climate change, Open Water is about rising sea levels, Anoxia about dying from fire (which could subtly discuss global warming), Doom City is about a world filled with pollution, and Plastic Boogie is about all the plastic in the world polluting our oceans (“F*ck all of that plastic…it’s gonna come and kill us…death will come from plastic…particles in the ocean”). 

There are a myriad of songs that comment on the climate crises. This article is just jotting down some I have listened to in the past and present. The beauty of using mainstream media like music as a platform to vocalize global issues is that they target a large audience; and with (usually) the main goal for an artist to produce a catchy song, the likelihood that listeners will sing the song on repeat and look into the cause of the artist is likely. Thus we get this cycle of spreading environmentally-conscious music to a massive audience and increase the likelihood of action being taken.

Written by Lugardo Marroquin ’24

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