Environmentalists Need Better Music

Categories: Pop Culture, Uncategorized

I was thinking about the impending return of the US Army from Iraq, and listening to one of the best anti-war songs ever.  “Hell Broke Luce” by Tom Waits.  Check it out below:

Yet, for some reason, it’s extremely difficult to find music that’s as driven and angry as that about the environment.  Why?  It’s  not for lack of severity of the issue.  Clearly, war and conflict bring death and misery to millions.  But so does environmental catastrophe.  In fact, as far back as 1994, Robert Kaplan argued that environmental scarcity, worsened in the coming years by population increases, rapid growth in consumption, and depleted resources, would lead to conflict.  More recently, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a security-based think tank in DC, echoed Kaplan, indicating that environmental and energy concerns should be a matter of top priority (PDF) given the emerging relationship between natural resources and warfare.

However, short of a slew of angry songs that came out directly in response to Hurricane Katrina (Public Enemy!), environmental music tends to be fairly tepid.  Don’t get me wrong – I like Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi as much as the next guy, but I wish the environmental movement had songs that sounded less like polite missives and genteel observations, and more like anger about the current state of affairs.  (And Lord, do not get me started on the horror that is the Counting Crows version).  Indeed, given the link between environmental mismanagement and other sociopolitical areas that inspire fury – racism, classism, inequality – the lack of vehemence is even more surprising.  I’d love to be proven wrong, but so far, driven music is the exception, not the norm.

So, here are two of the exceptions: “DDT” by Suicide Machines (corporate greed and the promulgation of toxins) and “Countdown to Extinction” by Megadeth (rampant biodiversity loss).  Enjoy.

DDT

Countdown to Extinction

About Kemi Fuentes-George

I am a professor in environmental studies and political science at Middlebury College.