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Rock around the thermometer

17 Jun 2020 | OP ED Watch

In “Climate Fwd,” the megawoke newsletter of the New York Times, Kendra Pierre-Louis discusses increasing references to climate change in American popular music. Which is the sort of thing that tends to give the social sciences a bad name. But actually it shows just how widely the notion that we are destroying the planet has been accepted by the youth of today. Which as we’ve said before indicates the fatuity of trying to convince them of it again, instead of giving them some practical way of proceeding.

Pierre-Louis gives a good account of her methodology and its limitations. In the end it came down to just 10 songs, a small sample of the countless tunes bestowed or inflicted upon our ears each year. But a good sample because they were popular and influential ones and the references to climate were certainly not accidental. And even if one might suspect they had a commercial as well as a conviction component, the fact that genuflecting at the green altar helps sell product is significant.

She then writes one of those sentences only a social scientist could love: “There’s some evidence, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, that art, and culture more broadly, can shift people into action on climate change.” Oh really? Art and culture affect behaviour? Someone should write a paper, ideally an unreadable one with 43 footnotes.

From our perspective, it illustrates once again a strange weakness in the climate change movement: The obsession with winning an argument it has already won. Young people are on board. They want to take “action”. Your problem is to find some action they can take that will work and not do far more harm than good. So stop singing that same old song and get busy with some practical ideas.

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