Our cultural influence as musicians is our most powerful force, and one we must use for good.
We need to green our own act for many reasons – it’s the right thing to do, it feels good, it’s what our fans expect and it better aligns us with the forces of life on Country. But we are not individuals. We’re profoundly connected to each other and to land, water and sky. And we’re not simply powerless ‘consumers’ of culture; we are living, breathing creators of it, with potential to shift the way our society feels, thinks and acts.
When you’ve got art you’ve got voice. And when you’ve got voice you’ve got freedom, and with freedom comes responsibility.
Richard Frankland, Gunditjmara filmmaker, musician and activist
Be a role model
Probably the most beneficial action you can take to care for our planet is modelling your care and commitment and getting others involved. Whether you realise it or not, you are a cultural role model. Let your fans, the industry, media and government know how you feel about the climate emergency and the extinction crisis. Let them know what's special to you about the Country you were born on and the places you live amongst and love now. Behaviour change research tells us that positive reinforcement and inspiration tend to work better than shaming. But sometimes things need to be called out, too. You’ll be the best judge of the right tone for your community.
Jack River, at the School Climate Strike 2019
Use your platform to talk about current issues and events, or to challenge existing cultural ideas – like the fact that we are somehow separate from nature. Share the ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups are showing leadership, and boost the voices and needs of their communities, artists and activists, whether it be a local issue or something big like a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.
It may sound simple, but it helps to make it normal for the rest of us to talk about it, especially for those who look up to you. As you go, try to be inclusive and consider the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.
Montaigne advocating to #StopAdani at the 2018 ARIA Awards
Talking about issues is great, but taking action is even better. Use your platform to lead by example. Talk about what you’re doing and encourage your audience to join in. The changes you make will be amplified a thousand fold if you bring others along for the ride.
There are plenty of resources in this guide. Consider sharing your favourites with fans. Start an online conversation about food waste, fast fashion, transport emissions and energy usage, about what you're learning about First Nations leadership in healing Country, or about organisations and movements that are working to directly solve those problems. Make sure you always bring it back to the collective, the systemic – because the challenges we face are not ones that ‘green consumption’ or individual choices can fix. We need people to join together and get active. You can inspire them to do that.
When you lead by example you not only influence your fans, but your peers too.
“Let’s fight climate change side by side.” - Missy Higgins protesting fracking in the Kimberly in 2018. Photo via Frack Free WA.
Imagine if every conversation included green ideas. Imagine this was normal and leaving it out felt weird. That’s where we want to get to. So speak to venues, suppliers and service providers. Ask how you can help them make your show, event or product as green as possible. Ask what their sustainability policy is or what actions they’re taking. Tell them you want to promote this stuff to your fans. Tell them what you’re after, or simply ask: “How could we make this greener than usual?” Encourage your team to ask these questions too.
Give a shout out to those who bring their own water bottles to shows or who use greener travel (see our transport section for more on that). Ask your followers to share what they’re doing or the places and issues they care about. What we pay attention to grows. So help draw attention to the good stuff in the world, and the stuff that matters most. Was the venue welcoming of sustainability measures? Let the audience know. Do they have an awesome recycling/composting system, invest in renewable energy, or do great work in the community? Mention it.
One of the most valuable things you can contribute is your presence at protests and events and your music to the movement. Some ways you can use your cultural power:
Green Music Australia worked closely with Bluesfest – Australia’s Premier Contemporary Blues and Roots Festival – and 11 performing artists, to bring a strong Stop Adani presence to the festival. Most notably, our strengthened relationship with John Butler and his amazing team helped to deliver a fantastic finale.
Without a doubt, our presence at Bluesfest was one of Green Music Australia's biggest media impact events with both mainstream and music press.
Link up with local regeneration projects, tree plantings, beach clean ups when you’re in town. Tim Minchin’s Greening page has a great list of active local groups to connect with across Australia and Aotearoa. And make it visible, letting your fans know what you’re doing and why.
The problems we face are hundreds, if not thousands of years in the making. They are rooted in the story we tell ourselves about being separate from, rather than belonging to, Country. Consider how your work reinforces or counters that story.
Musicians are generational storytellers with the ability to connect with audiences at a deep visceral level. That’s a cultural influence other leaders can only dream of. Make the link between ecology and humanity and help the dominant culture let go of the need to perpetually exploit, compete and divide.
When speaking out about the natural world, consider the words and phrases The Guardian and journalist George Monbiot use (and which ones they avoid). Click the links to find out why ‘climate crisis’ is better than ‘climate change’, and ‘living systems’ is better than ‘natural resources’. As Monbiot says, we need to “talk about the living world with words that engage people, reveal rather than disguise realities, and honour what we seek to protect”.
If it feels creatively true for you, consider the content of your music and explore ways to write to the truth of our times, whatever that is for you. There’s no limit to the ways that can be done. To prove that point, we’ve pulled together an epic playlist of ‘Green Music’ for inspiration. It's chock full of new and old music, with all genres from hip hop and folk to ambient, metal, reggae, pop, country, soul and everything in between. Now, it's all over the place (which is why we’ve also curated a bunch of themed playlists) but that diversity is kind of the point: there are as many ways to respond or integrate this stuff into your work as there are artists in the world. So dig in and explore. Go to your favourite spot, listen to see what sounds Country is calling for, and then chart your own creative path.
Music is so powerful in movements because when we sing together, we literally get on the same vibration. It’s a physical thing. It’s like an audio hug, or holding each other’s hands, or putting a hand on your shoulder in support. In that way, music is exactly what we need.
Lu Aya, Peace Poets
Support organisations creating change and encourage your fans to do the same.
There are so many groups doing wonderful work:
"At first we thought we were on our own, but then we discovered that there are so many other artists out there who are also participating in the Green Music movement. Here’s to creating a better, safer and healthier planet for us all to thrive on."
In Heart’s Wake