Last month the 1975, an English indie-pop band, dropped a new track on Spotify. The track, titled “The 1975,” is unusual, since it features a message from teenage climate activist and Noble Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg’s call to action and rebellion against climate change is anything but a traditional song of the summer. The track is neither catchy nor fun to dance to. There are no choruses to belt out in the front seat of a convertible or words to memorize. The song will not play at your middle school dance. Thankfully, no Twitter drama or relationship scandal is tied to anyone involved.
In terms of potential impact, Thunberg and The 1975 have created a song that the youth should be listening to, because everyone has a stake in the subject of climate change.
Thunberg is a young person that everybody should be paying attention to. At the age of 15, the Swedish ninth grader made the decision to go on strike at her school after her country’s hottest summer ever with severe heat waves and wildfires. Initially only planning to strike until the Swedish general election, Thunberg has continued to strike on Fridays with many of her classmates joining in.
Thunberg has been outspoken about the need for adults to be just as vocal as the youth. The young climate activist went beyond striking at her school, to protesting outside the Swedish Parliament building every Friday and making speeches all across Europe and at the United Nations.
Thunberg’s activism has already elicited support from figures like United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and inspired similar actions all around the world.
Now, Thunberg has decided to collaborate with musicians like the 1975 and incorporate art into her activism. Despite topping charts and having their songs played internationally, The 1975 tends to fly relatively under the radar, rarely getting credit for pioneering the revival of ’80s synths in their upbeat songs.
A band with a nostalgic energetic sound of the ’80s might seem unlikely to collaborate with Thunberg on a somber track, but the 1975 have a history of making political statements with their music.
In a profit-oriented industry, very few groups would use their energy to release a track heralding the potential end of human civilization as the result of human-made climate change. Yet, the 1975 occupy a unique space both within the music industry and social consciousness.
On “The 1975,” the group is subdued, not gliding into a flurry of piano and guitars. The background sound is slow, melodic, beautiful and emotional. Most importantly, the track carries a sense of nostalgia like their other music, except this recent track makes the viewer long for a simpler time and view of nature before pollution ravaged much of the Earth.
Listening to this track on your headphones is an all-encompassing experience, where you feel surrounded by the melodies, akin to how every human being feels the effects of greenhouse emissions.
However, the 1975’s beautiful sound is in the background, relatively quiet, to give the spotlight to Thunberg’s climate action speech. Thunberg wastes no time with pleasantries.
“We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis,” she begins, “and we need to call it what it is: an emergency.”
The Swedish activist then continues to state that humanity must first leave the stage of denial, acknowledging both the problem of climate change and that society does not yet have all solutions figured out. The teenager bluntly asserts that humanity is losing and that older generations and political movements have all failed to protect the planet.
Rather than just being a doom and gloom tale of humanity’s hopelessness in the face of environmental catastrophe, she presents a hope for potential change.
She declares, “but homo sapiens have not failed.”
Thunberg explains that humanity still has time to fix the situation and save the planet. She does not trivialize the problem, explaining that the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge homo sapiens have ever faced.
Despite the problem being great, the solution seems so simple to Thunberg. She says that, “Even a small child can understand it.” The simple solution is to stop emissions of greenhouse gases.
Stopping greenhouse gas emissions is a black and white issue to Thunberg. Either humanity stops or humanity does not. This choice will determine whether civilization goes on.
Thunberg provides a number of potential pathways and solutions. She calls for transformational action, inspecting the institutions that govern society rather than just demanding individual change, citing the need for both.
"I think that as long as they go after me personally with insults and conspiracy theories then that is good. It proves that they don’t have any arguments. And that they see us as a threat because we are having an impact." @GretaThunberg https://t.co/H4HD0WG10b #auspol
— Matthew Rimmer (@DrRimmer) August 2, 2019
Sweden’s most vocal teenager proclaims that every major change in human history has come from the grassroots level, so it is time to enact civil disobedience. The music cuts for Thunberg’s last statement: It is time to rebel, said clearly and loudly.
In this track, Thunberg and the 1975 are using art to rebel. Art as activism has a long history of enacting change. From the statue of liberty at Tiananmen Square, to the Guerrilla Girls and Banksy’s art pieces today, artists are often the first to act.
Now, “The 1975” joins this history, making it the most meaningful and impactful music collaboration of 2019 by far.
Yet, art is only one way to act, and Thunberg shows that there are many ways to rebel against the emissions of greenhouse gases. Another is to join together in a nonviolent, disruptive, civil disobedience, as the organization Extinction Rebellion has.
The Extinction Rebellion holds demonstrations, occupies spaces and submits themselves for arrest with the goal of awareness and change. Thunberg and the 1975 are donating all profits from their new track to Extinction Rebellion.
Other organizations, such as Sunrise, have been campaigning for widespread environmental policy reform. Regardless of how one choses to act, whether like Thunberg and the 1975 or someone else, it is important to understand: It is time to rebel.