The Senior Senator from Massachusetts is part of a group of Senators who are planning an all-night marathon discussion of climate change, starting tomorrow.
She asks us:
Monday night, several other senators and I are pulling an all-nighter on the floor of the Senate to talk about the importance of pollution and climate change. We are going to do our best to bring attention to a topic that a lot of people in Washington don’t want to talk about.
I’ve been assigned a block of time to talk, and I want to spend a chunk of it talking about as many stories as I can from people like you.
So take the question wherever you want: What do you think the planet is going to look like 25 years from now if we don’t tackle climate change head-on? What small thing will be different? What big thing will change everything?
Here’s what I wrote:
I am a musician and a music teacher who is deeply concerned about the impact of climate change — not just on our agriculture and our infrastructure, but on our music and our cultural traditions. The beauty and richness of humanity’s music — whether it’s the swinging rhythms of jazz, the majesty of a symphony orchestra, the downhome delight of a bluegrass band, or the mesmerizing strains of an Indian raga — all depend on a complex civilization to survive.
When that civilization is threatened, that means our species’ precious musical heritage is endangered. The world will be a very different place in 25 years if climate change continues accelerating. For one thing, there will probably be a lot fewer people, if the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect impact agriculture and food systems as predicted. That’s a polite way of saying that millions, perhaps billions, of people are going to starve to death.
Now, that’s not the end of music; wherever human beings go, they bring music with them. But a lot of the music that we take for granted is going to disappear.
No matter where we live, we’ll be singing more funeral songs, and more songs to comfort the dying.
We’ll be singing songs to help us calm our children, even as their future becomes even more frightening.
But will we have time and resources to spare for symphonies? For jazz and folk festivals? When food is short for all but the very rich, what will the rest of us sing? What of the local cultures whose cherished traditions vanish underneath rising seas, or dry up in the aftermath of endless droughts? Will we do to the richness and variety of the world’s music what we are already doing to Earthly biodiversity?
There are two song lyrics which help give more perspective on these questions.
Peggy Seeger’s ballad “The Springhill Mine Disaster,” recalls the plight of the trapped miners in the wake of a catastrophic explosion, and includes this quatrain:
“Three days past and the lamps gave out /
Our foreman rose on his elbow and said /
We’re out of light and water and bread /
So we’ll live on songs and hope instead.”
When humanity runs out of water and bread, all we’ll have left are songs and hope. We’ll still be singing, but in a sorrowful scale.
Peggy Seeger’s older brother Pete just died a few weeks ago, and his song, “My Father’s Mansion’s Many Rooms” includes this verse:
“The choice is ours, to share this Earth /
With all its many joys abound /
Or to continue as we have /
And burn God’s mansion down.”
Let us not continue as we have. Let us preserve our beautiful and sacred Earth with all its many joys abound, so that our children’s children to the ten-thousandth generation can sing together in happiness as well as sorrow.
Thank you for standing up for our beautiful Earth against those who would silence its voices forever.