An environmentalist’s playlist

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October 5, 2009

10:19 AM

Are you planning a protest soon? Or maybe you want some inspiring tunes to keep you on track with a personal sustainable goal of some kind? Music can be an important part of those endeavors, as music is often a powerful motivator for causes.

Pablo Casos said, “Perhaps it is music that will save the world.” I don’t think I need to try to convince any college student of the power of music. Many of us create music or live for the next great concert.

But even so, it is interesting to consider the ties between music and the environmental movement, both past and present. Music has always been used at protests to inspire participants. Outdoor music festivals often have an environmentalist vibe. There are many songs appropriate for these categories and more, so here is a list to get you thinking. These songs are related to environmental problems:

“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. I bet you already thought of this one.

“Don’t Go Near the Water” by the Beach Boys. “Toothpaste and soap will make our oceans a bubble bath / So let’s avoid an ecological aftermath / Beginning with me, / Beginning with you.”

“Mother Earth” by Neil Young. “How long can you give and not receive/ And feed this world ruled by greed?” He plays harmonica and organ, making this sound like a very sorrowful addition to the list.

“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Margin Gaye. He wants to know “where did all the blue skies go?”

“In the Year 2525” by Zegar and Evans. “In the year 9595 / I’m kinda wondering if man’s gonna be alive / He’ taken everything this old Earth can give / and he ain’t put back nothing.”

Here are a couple of protest songs:

“Don’t Cut Me Down” by Olivia Newton-John. This song is very slow, but she wholeheartedly protests the removal of old-growth forests.

“That Lonesome Valley” by Pete Seeger. Pete Seeger is one of the greatest protest singers of all time. He wrote this song in 1969 about the polluted Hudson River. In 1966, he founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the river.

“We Shall Overcome.” This song is sung by many activists; it is traditionally used in social movements, but it can apply to the environmental cause as well.

Here are some just about loving good ’ole Mother Earth:

Just about anything by John Denver. He actually changed his name from John Deutschendorf reportedly because he loved Colorado so much.

“This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. This is a very simple folk song that you probably sang this in your first grade music class. But perhaps now you have seen more of the U.S. and can appreciate his simple message even more.

This blog has an even longer list of rock songs relating to environmentalism.

When you tie the environmental movement to a number of other movements, such as anti-war or anti-commercialist movements, you could have an endless playlist. But whatever you choose, remember that the music is important but it is also enjoyable. Have fun!

Peace & love until next time!

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