This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog
ThisÂ is an update of an article that originallyÂ appeared in theÂ Hong Kong-based magazine, EcozineÂ in the spring of 2015.
Over the past few months, Iâ€™ve noticed something curious wheneverÂ Â I climb to the top of a wind turbine. Â Looking out over the landscape from my birdâ€™s-eye view 80 meters above ground, I often find myself thinking about John Lennon: Â wondering what kind of songs he would have written about climate change if he were still alive today. Wondering what lyrics he would have inventedÂ to underscore the urgency of global action and, simultaneously, to promote solutions to climate change such as these wind turbines that I love to photograph.
In this age of the Anthropocene, what poetry would Lennon createÂ to challenge the status quo and inspire radical change, as he didÂ with Imagine, his 1971 iconic anthem at the height of the Vietnam War and one of the most influential protest songs in history?
Discussing the enduring popularity of Imagineâ€™sÂ gentle melody and simple lyrics â€“ both of which camouflage radical anti-war and anti-capitalist ideals â€“ Lennon is quoted by author Geoffrey Guiliani as saying: â€œNow I understand what you have to do: put your political message across with a little honeyâ€¦ our work is to tell [apathetic young people] there is still hope and still a lot to do.â€
He clearly didnâ€™t mean â€œsugar coating.â€ I suspect Lennon figured out in his short life what has taken behavioural scientists and communications experts decades to understand: that you canâ€™t change an individualâ€™s or societyâ€™s behaviour by clobbering themÂ over the head with constant negative imagery and doom-and-gloom stories. As Amory Lovins has famously said: â€œYou canâ€™t depress people into action.â€ Â Instead, letâ€™sÂ offerÂ hope, a tangible way forward, creative solutions, a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Yes, evenÂ a little dab of honey.
Lennonâ€™s advice is particularly relevant to climate change artists. As I have previously written on this blog, artists from all disciplines and from all corners of the globe must rise to the challenge to collectively transform apathy into action, despair into hope.
Baptized by the protest music of the 60s and 70s, I have great faith in the power of poets, songwriters and other artists Ã la Dylan and Lennon to define and influence a whole generation through music. Itâ€™s just that they seem to be conspicuously missing right now, when we need them most. Echoing the New York Timesâ€™ Andrew Revkin, I believe we are long overdue for a new wave of protest musicians to burst onto the scene Woodstock-style to question authority, motivate Millennial and the so-called iGeneration to get involved, to march in the streets, to raise their voices, to divest from fossil fuels, to not lose hope, and to showÂ the rest of us how to embrace the inevitable transition towards a post-carbon, clean energy economy.
To put it simply: Iâ€™m convinced that Lennon would agree that protest music is the missing ingredient to breathe new life and a sense of urgency into the global climate change conversation.
As a photographer, Iâ€™ve taken Lennonâ€™s advice to heart: I have decided to focus my camera exclusively on the way forward, on positive and tangible solutions to climate change, notably renewable energy. As a photographer, I am truly inspired by the breathtaking speed at which the clean tech industry is evolving. Much of this work is quite technical in nature; the challenge for me is to find ways to artistically interpret the social, public health and environmental benefits of these potential breakthroughs: energy storage; distributed energy; green architecture; solar powered roads; micro-wind turbines.
I now understand that we will never solve climate change by waiting for our politicians to solve it â€œfor us.â€ No. At this time, it is the dreamers, the creative visionaries and risk takers such as Elon Musk and Danielle Fong who are moving us forward, imagining the future, inspiring radical transformation of the world as we know it.
I hope Lennon would approve of my taking liberties to modifyÂ hisÂ original lyrics to adapt them forÂ the Anthropocene. You can listen to my version â€“ Imagine No More Warming â€“Â here, sung and arranged by Pierre Laurier. If any musicians out there reading this post would be interested in using these lyrics for a cover, I would be thrilled. Let me know your thoughts.
Follow Joan Sullivan on TwitterÂ @CleanNergyPhoto
Filed under: Music, Photography
Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.
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