In New Orleans, Music Is A Climate Issue — And Climate Is A Music Issue!

Over the four years of the Climate Letter Project, I had relatively few opportunities to link climate and music, despite the many obvious connections. This was one.

The NOLA Defender (New Orleans, LA) gives the Big Easy’s perspective on climate:

Global warming often conjures images of melting ice caps and smokestacks spewing soot. On Friday, a group of New Orleans cultural pillars put brass bands and New Orleans food in the conversation. Community leaders and climate change awareness activists flooded the docks at Mardis Gras World Friday afternoon to support the I Will #ActOnClimate campaign, and to discuss the potential impact of climate change on New Orleans.

After Glen Hall III, of the Baby Boys Brass Band, piped out his rendition of the National Anthem on the trumpet, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation President and CEO Mark Romig gave his opening comments.

“We are all affected by climate change, including this city’s tourism industry, which is a major economic driver,” he said. “Tourism relies on the things that make New Orleans so great, like our picturesque wetlands, our world-renowned seafood, our rich culture, our heritage, all of which are at risk due to the changing climate. Chefs, musicians, tour guides, artists, and event planners have gathered here to urge action to end climate change. Not only for the sake of our industry, but because we have a moral obligation to future generations.”

Here’s how I responded:

Blues and jazz may have been born of hard times, but New Orleans’ musical genius took its character not only from sorrow and oppression, but from the region’s productive agriculture and essentially benign environment. The same is true everywhere in the world: music flourishes where there’s enough to eat, where people have enough security to devote time to refining their artistry, and performing for audiences, and teaching their craft to others. Thanks to its location, the Crescent City is feeling the punishing effects of climate change more immediately than many other locations, so this formulation is no abstraction.

Whether it’s New York or New Delhi, Laos or Louisiana, the arts only flourish when the climate allows people to invest their time in cultural expression. Subtract climatic stability, and it’s not just agriculture and infrastructure that’ll suffer; without a habitable future, all of humanity’s priceless and unique musical expression is at risk.

Warren Senders


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