This past week we celebrated Earth Day on Wednesday and Arbor Day on Friday, which is ironic because we weren’t allowed to go outside.
Both days were created in the ’70s to promote environmentalism as science began to realize we were destroying the planet. And 50 years later, we’re still destroying the planet, despite floods and wildfires trying to drive the point home that we should stop. Mother Nature has gone from gentle cajoling to smacking us upside our collective head and yet we still don’t get it.
Music, is as often the case, has tried to help with some pretty good songs. So let’s listen to some while we look at nature out our windows.
Metallica — “Blackened”
What, you didn’t think Metallica would get into environmentalism? Metallica is shockingly woke! Really!
I mean, yeah, they’re still a metal band, but they’ve got more than a few great anti-war songs, and songs about the country’s poor treatment of veterans. And the Bay Area rockers also have “Blackened,” about humanity constantly trying to destroy the planet with pollution and atrocities, then being arrogant enough to think it’s no big deal.
They’ve also since used the name on their signature whiskey so… you know. But they were on the right track!
Bad Religion — “Ten in 2010”
This song about the dangers of overpopulation is still valid, even if Bad Religion’s prediction wasn’t quite right.
The song title, you see, refers to the prediction that there would be 10 billion people on Earth in 2010. I’m sure that made sense in 1995 when it was recorded, but we’re currently in 2020 and there are just under 7.6 billion people. This means they missed the mark by a lot. And it also means the song worked!
This is also notable for being the second-best song in Crazy Taxi, by far the best game for the Sega Dreamcast. The Offspring’s “All I Want” was the best, of course—it’s just a fantastic song to drive recklessly to. But this is right there, tailgating it.
Joe Walsh — “Song for a Dying Planet”
From a fast, upbeat punk song to this. I know, it’s jarring.
Walsh’s songs are generally pretty upbeat with a sense of humor, but he’s a fierce environmentalist, and this song is… let’s say it’s not cheerful.
This song was written in the early ’90s, but not a lot has changed since then: “We are living on a dying planet/ We’re killing everything that’s alive/ And anyone who tries to deny it/ Wears a tie/ And gets paid to lie.”
Imagine Dragons — “Radioactive”
OK, I cheated a bit here. This isn’t a song about environmentalism, strictly speaking.
The imagery of the song though, especially in California, where “fire season” has become a season in which the state is literally on fire, really hits home as we start to see the effects of climate change. The desolation, the ash, the destruction, Imagine Dragons might as well be talking about the town of Paradise.
Also, I’m bumming myself out, and I like the song so I’m giving myself this one.
The Beach Boys — “Don’t Go Near the Water”
As I’ve explained, I’m a big Beach Boys fan. Even on songs like this that feel more than a little forced.
The story behind this one is that their manager told Mike Love and Al Jardine to write something topical, so they wrote a song about water pollution. That seems like a natural match considering they’re called the Beach Boys and the album was called Surf’s Up. And it really is a good song.
That said, “toothpaste turning the ocean into a bubble bath?” I don’t think that’s how it works, Al. I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.