In a world of false advertising, is music the most powerful response?

22nd September

It’s almost at the point where you have to laugh. The laugh would be dry and dark and loaded with guilt but, once you’ve cycled through all the reasonable responses – engagement informing, protesting, resisting, anger, sadness, frustration, maybe even a little bit of direct action – it feels like a hollow laugh is all that remains.

Let’s review the latest fun addition to the Alice in Wonderland world of climate politics.

We now know that the Head of Cop 28, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber of hosts Dubai, was put there by Edelman (De Smog story link), the US PR firm that Clean Creatives so expertly outed at this year’s Cannes Lions as green washers par excellence. This should come as no surprise, we live in a world in which we still hear that record temperatures, never seen before wildfires, floods on a scale and at a geographical range that is unprecedented, sea ice reduction, and biodiversity loss at staggering levels and speed are attributed by sitting politicians in the UK to anything but carbon emissions and business practice and have become such a part of our daily news diet we have reached a point where we cannot begin to focus a response.

To date the responses we have are pledges, references to those things that have been done with no mention of those that have not. A focus on how well certain groups are doing in relation to others. A blue-sky future where untested and underwhelming technologies and start up ideas will deliver massive changes that are based in theory, not fact.

This is marketing. A brand strategy for an existential crisis. The way we are trying to preserve the way we are, not the way we need to be.

When you step back from the noise and the confusion and look at this, it is very simple. We are going in the wrong direction. We need to choose a different route.

It seems abundantly clear that relying on the current procedures to deliver the massive changes we need is not a winning strategy. That seems to deliver the wrong people into the positions that matter, all the evidence tells us so.

We have been here before. I’ve been here before. The 80’s was similar in many ways, a relentless narrative that suggested gains whilst all around we saw losses, framed by the threat of nuclear annihilation.

And what was music’s response? ‘Two Tribes’, the derided but influential Red Wedge, ‘Wham Rap’, ‘Shipbuilding’, ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Fight The Power’, ‘The Message’, ‘Eton Rifles’ and so much more, a torrent of expression and resistance and hope that put us in a different place. It denied the branding we were being sold, pulled back the curtain and pointed at the wizard. Not some all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing God but a small thing that was wedded to a small vision that hurt and damaged people in the name of profit.

Ultimately, for a time, we won. That artistic expression created a change in public priorities and public perception, drove new agendas and belief systems. Things really did get better. For a time.

This time, we must win for good. The climate crisis isn’t triggered by a nuclear suitcase or a rejection of big state politics. It is triggered by the way we live.

It’s heartening to see music beginning to respond en masse in a similar way. Not just Billie Eilish and those we already know about but a wider, deeper artistic response that is considering the widest implications of the crisis as fertile ground for inspiration and communication. When we launched in 2019 there were a handful of artists explicitly writing about and talking about the situation. It feels in recent times like the climate crisis is set to be a leading inspiration for the songs of this generation.

As with that 80’s period, once again the music industry stands in its perpetual uneasy alliance with an artistic expression that likes the creative propulsion of its work whilst decrying the economic reality of its continued existence. It remains a simple fact that for artists to suggest a better, fairer future, in the main they do so with the support of companies whose driving focus is profit.

Unlike the COP presidency though, that alliance is based on something other than preserving the status quo.

On a daily basis we talk to companies large and small that are looking to make their businesses better across current impacts and, crucially, future practice here in the UK. Our global network continues to grow and align with domestic music industries and partners across the globe. Sure, there are many more hurdles to jump, especially around over production, but the direction of travel is correct. There is a pathway that recognises business can be a force for good, that the system can adjust for the better of all.

In climate world, it’s always very easy to see the gaps, point out the hypocrisies, bemoan the failures. It was the same in the 1980’s as images of progress on the TV collided with the reality of decline around every corner of my hometown. Yet, from that came something powerful and, ultimately, greater. We stand on a similar threshold, on a greater scale, with a vasty larger community. And we will succeed.

#Cop28 #carboncapture #PublicEnemy #TheSpecials #TheJam #FrankieSaysRelax #GrandmasterFlash #Wham #Edelmann