Punking Global Climate Change

Thanks to Laura McLay for pointing me to this gem, in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal:

Mick Jones: The initial inspiration for the song “London Calling” wasn’t British politics. It was our fear of drowning. In 1979 we saw a headline on the front of the London Evening Standard warning that the North Sea might rise and push up the Thames, flooding the city. We flipped. To us, the headline was just another example of how everything was coming undone.


We rehearsed hard each day—taking a break in the afternoons to cross the road to a fenced-in playground where we played football. It was like team-building thing. We had a strong sense of togetherness.

[Lead singer] Joe Strummer was living in a building along the Thames and feared potential flooding. He did two or three drafts of lyrics that I then widened until the song became this warning about the doom of everyday life. We were a bit ahead of the global warming thing, weren’t we?


This motivated me to search a little more in the area of “punk rock” and its connection to climate advocacy…which turned up the interesting case of the brilliant climate scientist Ken Caldeira, who…

…grew up in the suburbs of New York City, studied philosophy at Rutgers University and landed in Manhattan in the late 1970s. He moved in art circles that overlapped with the orbits of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He played bass for a punk rock band, Fist of Facts. And he was a devoted activist railing against nuclear weapons and power (though he’s since changed his view on the latter).

Despite his peacenik credentials and long hair, Caldeira jokes he was the early “sellout” in his crowd because he worked on Wall Street, doing programming for investment banks. Still, he wasn’t enough of a sellout to stay out of jail.

In October 1979, after the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island plant, Caldeira joined a protest in front of the New York Stock Exchange. He was hauled to jail in the suit and tie he’d worn to work. He was arrested again a few years later demonstrating at the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island. Not surprisingly, his Wall Street fling didn’t last long.

“I decided I’d rather make less money and be more fulfilled and happy, than make money and be depressed,” he said.

After reading ominous reports about global warming, he decided to study atmospheric science at New York University, where he would eventually earn his doctorate.


Here’s “Fist Of Facts” playing a song called “Warming”

If you have more submissions for “Punking Global Climate Change” I’d be fascinated to hear them and delighted to post them.

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