Generation Z turns to pop music around the climate crisis

All summer, 24-year-old Augusta Sinnense had a Billie Eilish song “Over Headshed” stuck in her head. In June 2022, Eilish hosted a climate discussion series in London of the same name, along with her UK tour dates. In July and August, the UK faced a series of heat waves, breaking records for the highest temperatures ever recorded in the country. Senenci was walking through the busy London neighborhood with music blazing in his ears. Another of his favorites, Asa’s “Fire on the Mountain,” portends fate with words like “Someday the river will overflow / And we’ll have nowhere to go / And we’ll run and run / We wish we could put out the fire, oh.”

As a member of the Youth Council for Climate Action Earth Uprising, Senenssie is closer to climate powerlifters than most of his peers. Her activism has taken her to United Nations conferences on climate change and youth. But that doesn’t necessarily make her more optimistic. “You’ve got people saying a lot of words of congratulations and you’re getting people talking at all these important summits, but your work doesn’t have a binding effect on what gets set at high levels and affects everyone,” she said.

Senenci is not alone in her anger. That ominous tune you feel in the internet’s ether—where young people post memes about not only the hottest summer of our lives, but also the coldest summer in the rest of our lives—follows a shift in Generation Z’s perception of climate—a changing future. This feeling creeps into the memes they create, the way they treat their peers and family, and even the music they listen to. TikToks on Pinegrove’s “Orange,” a song about the devastating California wildfires of summer 2020, shows young fans crying in front of the camera over comments like “species doomed” and “I surrender.” Like listening to devastating songs after they’ve been dumped, young people enjoy music about the apocalypse to plunge into their climatic desperation.

For Generation Z, the future doesn’t look bright, but it does look hot

The first generation of Zers arose alongside the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report that detailed the catastrophic effects of a projected 1.5°C global temperature rise. certain catastrophe, and Generation Z become convinced that their future is over before it even begins.

“This generation feels like it’s facing an unprecedented threat… Like, we’re not going to get out of this. It’s forever,” said Sarah Jacquet Ray, Professor of Environmental Studies in her book A field guide to climate change concern, Ray describes asking his class to imagine a positive future where climate change has been successfully mitigated. She found that these students were unable to envision a future of any kind – their anxiety interrupted their ability to see themselves living into adulthood.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of pop-punk music that has been about how I’ve gotten better as I get older. Kelsey Herzog, a 25-year-old creator of TikTok, which creates playlists and makes recommendations,” says Kelsey Herzog, a 25-year-old TikTok creator who makes playlists and makes recommendations. Now it’s like I’m getting older, and it’s just too terrifying and I’m not having a good time. His tastes have changed to prefer music that embodies his anger and fear. One song for her in great rotation is “Colony Collapse” by Snag, with lyrics like “The more I learn, the more I thought the earth was a corpse lying at our feet.”

Survey 2021 in scalpel It showed that 56% of 16-25-year-olds believe “humanity is doomed” and 75% describe the future as “frightening,” highlighting the generational gap in expectations about climate change. Senenci describes the “paternal arrogance” she faces as fueling her climatic grief. She feels that adults whose daily lives are not yet affected by climate change are quick to play down her concerns.

Ray stresses that older generations tend to compare climate change to other threats such as economic stagnation and war. “There is a kind of battle in which the existential threats have been the most serious.” Older generations who have overcome their own challenges believe that Generation Z’s fears will heal over time. But with no evidence that the end of climate change is imminent, young people feel rejected and seek to validate their concerns elsewhere.

Listening to music feels like being heard

That’s why, after the release of the IPCC Special Report, he describes the world ending in floods, droughts and fires, like Hosier Wold, kid!, Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” and “Newdemo” Soccer Mommy’s have made a huge impact with people under the age of 25 — millennial songwriters can deal with their frustrations and fears across generations.

Tamara Lindemann, 37, of the popular band The Weather Station describes her lyrics as an attempt to address her own feelings about climate change. There is the term “soft denial”. You know, but you act like you don’t know. “I was in this place for a few years, just avoiding the topic in my mind, avoiding the topic in the news, and then hitting me again,” Lindemann said. She then wrote words like “I’m so sick of this bait and switch / I don’t want to smile when I open my present, there’s nothing inside,” showing Generation Z’s frustration toward the seniors. Generations that reduce their fears about the future.

“With other things you might be afraid of, you might be able to do some research and maybe you can ease your fears.” Says. “With climate, when you do research, it expands [your fear]. I think what is important about this problem is that fear and sadness are an appropriate and accurate response. His music reflects the fact that climate anxiety is not an emotion that must be resolved or overcome. Like his fans, Lindemann saw him shake in the background of his everyday life.

But the music of the apocalypse is not the epicenter of anxiety from which listeners can never escape. Once fans find validation in their feelings, they look around and find a group of other people who feel the same way. “I have this huge community of people who love the same music as me. We can all identify with the lyrics, be sad and anxious and all that. Although that sounds weird, it’s kind of warming,” Herzog says. Think about the role that fans of music play in shaping identity and building community in adolescence – only people who listen to your favorite band really understand you. Then imagine that unlike your parents or your classmates, the person next to you at the concert takes your deepest fears very seriously.

“Let’s say somebody was concerned, got involved in the community, found their people, and then got involved in some climate action,” Ray said. It wasn’t the actions they took that eased the anxiety. … The antidote to our feelings is the same antidote to the climate crisis, which is society. The all-too-familiar idea that individual actions don’t matter in the face of corporate inaction can leave young people feeling powerless no matter how many car rides or primitive journeys they give up. But creating the kinds of relationships they need for climate resilience seems within reach.

Once young people find an outlet for their grief, it can begin to transform. Barthez Strange has directed his concern to his work at a nonprofit climate advocacy organization for more than five years. Then, the 33-year-old songwriter quit his job in 2020 to release his debut album, disappointed and exhausted. live forever. He described his frustration with fellow whites for whom climate change was his first personal experience of injustice. “My life has always been affected by a third party forever, so I watch people in the climate movement go through the emotions that I had when I was eight,” he said. “But when you live it and are able to celebrate it, and process it in a way that you can raise the level of others, sadness can become fuel for beautiful things.”

Strange’s music, like Lindeman’s, begins with sadness, but songs like “Mulholland Drive” take listeners through the cycle of death and rebirth with lyrics like “I don’t believe in bullshit I wonder when we die / I’ve seen the end, it’s all in your face and eyes / I’ve seen how we die, I know how to lose.

For young fans who feel as if they are witnessing the end of the world, Strange presents the possibility that dropping an idea of ​​the future can make way for a new one. It alludes to what Ray calls the “radical imagination” needed to see a future that lies beyond a certain destiny. This fantasy is essential to finding climatic solutions, but the trick is that it cannot be accessed by trying to circumvent climatic sentiments through rejection or separation.

For Sinnense, this future seems to resist the temptation of pessimism that only rich countries can afford. While those least responsible for the climate crisis are already feeling its worst effects, she reminds me, young people in the South don’t have the luxury of giving up. And listening to music from artists around the world is one way to keep in touch. for the global climate movement. “Emotions can be kind of overwhelming,” Senenssie says. “But I think about the beauty of the fact that in this movement and in this space together, we felt so deeply, and we are so interconnected.”

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