Music has the capacity to make climate resistance feel more personal

Artists connect the climate crisis to meaningful lyrics

Music is the heart of climate action.
As individuals around the world grapple with the realities of the climate crisis, some artists are addressing it in a more emotionally charged manner—through music.
 
Songs about climate resistance differ from news headlines because information or anxiety is relayed through an artistic medium. Because of this, listeners can relate to the lyrics on multiple levels, often having a more personal experience with the issue. 
 
Even if it isn’t the main focus of their songs, singers and songwriters have been weaving environmental imagery into their music for years. 
 
Childish Gambino’s 70s-inspired track “Feels like Summer” brings the beat back to the present with the climate-centred lyrics: “Each day gets hotter than the one before/ Running out of water. It’s about to go down.” Billie Eilish draws attention to her home state of California in “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” singing: “Hills burn in California/ My turn to ignore ya.” 
 
These references are subtle and nuanced; I usually don’t pick up on politically charged lyrics unless I analyze them as text. 
 
However, knowing they’re present in the creative vision of so many singers makes me perceive music through a different lens—as something that’s not only enjoyable, but laced with important environmental messages. 
 
Local band Funeral Lakes, a musical duo of Sam Mishos, ArtSci ’17 and Chris Hemer, ArtSci ’17, have been at the forefront of creating music inspired by the climate crisis. 
 
This year, they released EP Golden Season following their 2019 debut album. In these tracks, the duo continued to reflect on the impending destruction of the world around them, while balancing their fear with images of the beautiful outdoors. 
 
“We first started this project as a medium to express our fears and frustrations,” the band wrote in a statement to The Journal. “Most of our songs are political, and it just so happens that the climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time, so it comes up quite often in our songs.”
 
Funeral Lakes often bridges the realms of art and advocacy. Upon the release of their first album, the band teamed up with RAVEN Trust to raise funds for the Pull Together campaign. “Supporting and respecting Indigenous sovereignty is an essential part of climate justice,” Funeral Lakes wrote.
 
The band said their anxiety and frustration manifests not only in their lyrics, but also sonically. 
 
This elevates the emotional experience for listeners, allowing them to feel the tone and rhythm of the band’s fear rather than just hearing their words. 
 
“Music can be a powerful tool for communication and disseminating information,” the duo said. “Music and other forms of art also provide an emotional rallying point, capturing what we are collectively seeing and feeling.”  
 
Creative individuals arguably gravitate to art for comfort and guidance when faced with external struggles. Whether it confronts romantic heartbreak or more serious societal issues like the environment, music can, as the band described, act as a mirror for collective human emotions. 
 
Regarding the role students play in the climate crisis, the band said our generation is more tuned into the realities of climate change. 
 
“The existence of groups on campus and in the community advocating for climate justice, such as OPIRG, QBACC, or the work of Divest Queen’s, are sources of hope and inspiration.” 

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