By David Tucker, Communications Analyst, GFDRR
Interview with Climate Music Project founder Stephan Crawford.
I’ve never been more moved by such a jarring cacophony of music.
Closing the second day of the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, I was treated to a performance by the Climate Music Project – a collaborative of scientists and gifted musicians that have come together to leverage music as an instrument for communicating climate risk.
I was skeptical. After all, when it comes to galvanizing action to protect the planet, one barrier is that the risks of climate change are not always easy to communicate. Layered in technical details and fraught with uncertainty about the timing and intensity of climate change impacts, the science behind climate change can get very complicated. At the same time, the long-term horizon by which some of the worst impacts of climate change are projected to occur means that the changing climate may not be immediately tangible to many people. How could something as conceptually divorced from climate science as music possibly tell that story? My skepticism soon turned into curiosity.
The music began with a calm, steady melody, accompanied by the smooth, vivid lines of various graphs slowly waltzing across a large screen behind the performers. Their symphony was set to the tempo of fluctuations in carbon dioxide levels, global temperature, and earth-energy balance – three variables commonly used to track climate change – over five centuries.
As the song reached the “present day”, it was startlingly and increasingly interrupted by jagged notes – like that unmistakable sound of a pianist’s finger accidentally hitting the wrong key. Before long, the harsh sounds outnumbered the beautiful ones, and I could hardly stand to listen any more. Behind the musicians, the charts were now every bit as frenetic as the song. And it became clear what I was listening to: the degradation of our environment, and the dangers that climate change poses to future generations if we don’t take decisive action.
Based in San Francisco, California, the Climate Music Project pens and performs musical compositions, based on climate data, which are designed to communicate the urgency of climate change to audiences around the world.
“What we do is we take climate science and through music, we make it visceral and palpable and then drive change,” explains founder Stephan Crawford.
We had the opportunity to interview Crawford – and catch a snippet of their live concert – at the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum in Mexico City, hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank. I encourage you to give it a listen – it may be the most important “bad” song you ever hear.