Last Words: Musical Pollution - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Last Words: Musical Pollution

Last Words: Musical Pollution

Published June 21, 2019

When you think of pollutive industries, what springs to mind? Oil, agriculture, shipping and transport probably jump straight to the top of the list. But what about musical pollution?

It may surprise you to know that the music industry has a sizeable environmental impact. A 2010 report found that the British music industry produces, on average, 540,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, with three-quarters due to live performances, and a quarter due to recording and publishing.

Musicians have always travelled to play shows, and audiences will travel to see them. These activities generate what economists call external costs, which are borne by a third party. In live music, external costs are a debt paid by the environment when audiences generate carbon emissions by flying or driving to see an artist perform.

Businesses influence so much of the way that people live our lives that it seems that changing the way they run must surely be one of the keys to solving the climate crisis. Profit-driven businesses have for too long obsessed over productivity and profit while failing to consider their environmental external costs. The climate crisis shows us the consequences of this mentality now—these costs can be among the most important ones to pay, and they will be paid, if not by businesses then by someone else.

I opened the search engine Ecosia today to find a heartwarming announcement. “We planted 80,000 trees to make this the greenest music festival ever,” it said. The company planted one tree for each festival-goer at Paris’s We Love Green festival, which has also banned single-use plastics, encourages reusable water bottles and makes recycling easy for festival-goers. All these steps prove that businesses have the power to make ethical decisions, making environmentalism easy and accessible without taking away from the fun.

What we do as individuals matters, and so does what we demand of the companies we purchase from. And if all businesses make sure that their products and services are sustainable, ethically sourced, accessible and thoughtful, that goes a long way in fighting the climate crisis. Even companies planting trees can go towards paying all their debts, just as a Lannister would.

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