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Op-ed: How the Music Industry Affects Climate Change

We keep hearing the phrase, “Eventually, humans will go extinct,” and immediately blame all the things we have been told are affecting our planet. Lack of recycling, non-eco-friendly cars, continuous contamination, cutting down trees, burning forests, etc. We do this because they are easy things to blame as opposed to the music industry, books, and fast-fashion practitioner companies like Shein, Forever 21, or Zara.

We do not want to negatively view these things because we enjoy them. And the idea of no longer participating in cheap purchases from Shein, YouTube clothing hauls that attract so many viewers, or going to live concerts every weekend is too much for us to bear. This is because we live in a world where music is a saving grace to so many people in so many ways. Taking away Coachella would mean taking away one over-the-world weekend from a US resident that hates their day job and suffers from monotony every Monday through Friday. The alternative to not going in support of a lack of climate change is entertaining the cognitive dissonance theory.

We do not want to engage in cognitive dissonance, which is an uncomfortable mental state between a belief and behavior. It basically means a contradiction of beliefs due to a person engaging in behavior that opposes their supposed belief. This causes mental discomfort for the practitioner because people tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and feelings, which is why his conflict causes unpleasant feelings of unease or discomfort.

The avoidance of feeling forced to do something when learning new information is the reason so many people don’t know of the effect on the planet that the music industry has.

But I have bad news for all of you, it’s bad. Climate change research shows that the music industry takes a substantial toll on the environment.

From the production of CDs and vinyl records to the carbon emissions that live concerts and streaming services emit. Some say carbon footprints are the main cause of human-induced climate change. It “contributes to urban air pollution, it leads to toxic acid rain, it adds to coastal and ocean acidification, and it worsens the melting of glaciers and polar ice.”

The production of one single record made from plastic can cause a disaster since they’re almost impossible to recycle. Its production not only consumes a large amount of energy, but it can also take up to 1,000 years to decompose. It also traditionally uses “ozone-depleting, solvent-based ink to print cover art.”

However, by replacing CDs and vinyls with streaming services, you only come across another problem. According to a study from the University of Glasgow and Oslo, “the transition towards streaming recorded music from internet-connected devices has resulted in significantly higher carbon emissions than at any previous point in the history of music.”. The song Despacito in 2017 reached 4.6 billion streams, and according to the website AljaZeera it used as much electricity as the combined annual electricity consumption of Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic.

Major U.S. festivals also generate around 100 tons of solid waste every day, and the audiences use around 10 million plastic bottles annually. I’m sure none of those are getting recycled. Let’s not mention the huge environmental footprint that comes from touring.

However, the responsibility to make this better does not just fall on one group of people. Not just because it’s impossible to create change without the masses, but because this is a problem that affects and is caused by the music industry and what surrounds it. The Energy Tracker Asia website says “The power to decarbonise the music industry is in the hands of four groups: producers, streaming companies, musicians and fans.”

It is possible, and artists like Billie Eilish, Coldplay, the 1975, etc. are already taking steps to make the music industry more eco-friendly. Which means we all can too.


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