The 1975 and Activist Greta Thunberg Cry ‘Rebel’ in Impassioned Climate Change Alert

There has long been a firm consensus about the power of music to draw attention to issues, and mobilize people toward causes with an efficacy unheard of in other mediums. There’s the primal, visceral impact of sound that drives a point home in a way that elaborate rhetoric often can not. And there’s the traditionally subversive culture associated with music, that makes it a ready conduit for conveying ideas that seek an extra outlet for worthwhile exposure and consideration. This has given rise to a long tradition of musicians adopting the causes of their times, with varying results. There’s a camp of the persuasion that it’s the duty of the artist to guide society through his or her work, and the opposing camp that finds any such obligation a corruption of pure expression. Whichever your take may be, a subject that screams for widespread attention is the issue of global warming.

The 1975 has taken it upon themselves to dedicate their latest single to this massive cause, teaming up with a figure who lends plenty authority to their presentation of the matter — or at least plenty publicity. Teen activist Greta Thunberg made a name for herself by her continued protests outside the Swedish parliament, an outcry inspired by the confounding inertia of the government in addressing the pressing issue. The publicity of her protests sparked a global movement of school strikes in the fight to combat climate change. She was merely fifteen years old at the time, and naturally became a symbol of the younger generation, struggling for a voice in a world set on a course to disaster, due to the recklessness of their elders. However, the 1975 are prime candidates for the type of criticism that can often get thrown around in matters like these — that their benevolent intentions can be a bit lazily realized, to the effect that what could have been a seismic force of good can end up coming across as little more than a vanity project. But then again, the track is sure to cause a lot of buzz, and should be applauded for calling attention to an issue where it’s sorely needed.

Over plaintive piano, Thunberg begins in alarming fashion, calling for a reality check with the words, “We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis, and we need to call it what it is: an emergency.” She urges us to recognize the problem, and take action, adding that, “Homo sapiens have not yet failed. We can still fix this.” In ancient history, the ice ages threatened to make us extinct, and the pressures of it shaped our existence, by forcing us to develop new genius in order to survive. Now, that intelligence has the upper hand, and it is in our power to take charge, one can argue that it is every person’s responsibility to take action against man-made climate change in order to thwart catastrophic distasters that are sure to plague our future. And that it is a human duty to challenge the very systems in place that are destroying our civilization. 

Thunberg goes on to elucidate the matter, going to great lengths to simplify it to the layman, saying, “The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it: we have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases, and either we do that, or we don’t.” While fair enough, this directness would resonate much more readily if it were accompanied by some contextual facts. Otherwise it lapses into the fodder feeding clueless rebels desperate to fill a void. The fact of the matter is that the greenhouse gases we are emitting are trapping heat, creating monumental temperature increases, melting ice caps, causing tsunamis, and already killing massive amounts of wildlife around the globe. If we don’t take action the future is sure to see colossal numbers of all life forms, including our own species, impacted and eradicated in large numbers across the planet. Whether you take it further, and think the end is imminent is up to you, but these facts are indisputable.  

It would be hard to not find this track and this whole venture admirable, and at moments impactful, especially when it comes to the point that Thunberg explains, “We need a system change rather than individual change, but you cannot have one without the other.” Where the 1975 let listeners down is by stopping there, rather than following through. The only conceivable explanation for allowing behaviors that threaten our very existence to go so excused, is ignorance and compliance on the part of vested interests. To address these issues further, the outro should have added a way for listeners to learn and understand more of how they can make a difference, how they can “rebel.” At moments, it can feel like the 1975 exploit Thunberg’s voice for their own platform, when they should have used their platform to offer a way for the millions of young listeners to carry on this dialogue, by creating or partnering with a website and global movement that gives access to solutions, to “system-wide change.” Including a website to solutions like practical transitions to clean, renewable energy sources — electric vehicles and effective community transport, solar power, and cultivation of forests that naturally balance out the effect of harmful gas emissions — would have helped avoid this effort being in vain. With such a massive opportunity to be heard, it’s a shame that the 1975 ignored these possibilities, along with the chance to offer “individual” solutions of effective ways that listeners can impact the outcome through daily choices  — adopting a complete, or at least a majority of an earth-friendly vegan diet, consuming less, flying only when absolutely needed, conserving electrity —  refraining, reusing, recycling. The track ends with the rallying call, “It is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel,” which has absolute truth to it, but you might reasonably interpret it as a call to rebel against this tepid strain of activism, and, like Thunberg, go a little further.  

The 1975’s self-titled track featuring Greta Thunberg is available July 26 on Apple Music. For more information on how you too can be the change needed to combat our global climate crisis visit Act Now.