Today, I am excited to introduce you to Climate Culture, the more playful of our two weekly series. Climate Culture is a reflection on the intersections of climate and pop culture… or the lack thereof. Those who know me know that while I follow the climate movement quite closely, I also love to read pop culture news. I love the escapism of a good Netflix show, the feeling you get when you find the perfect song at the perfect moment, and most of all — finding out that there is a whole community of people appreciating the same thing at the same time. I revel in the artistry as well as the pure joy of pop culture. Beyond that, I recognize its power. It is often said that culture is the water we swim in. If that’s true, why wouldn’t we harness it to respond to the crisis threatening the entire climate we live in? Culture can be an entry point to climate. So, every Friday, we’ll give you just that.
Today’s Deep Dive – Solidarity and Community in Climate Culture
For any movement to be successful, we must come together. This week, culture is helping us see connection in action. Join us for a look at the song “if you got a problem” by Joy Oladokun and the film adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway show, In the Heights.
Today, Joy Oladokun released a deluxe version of her June album in defense of my own happiness. Today’s release, in defense of my own happiness (complete), combines last year’s in defense of my own happiness (beginnings), June’s release, and new music. For those that have never heard of Joy Oladokun, get ready! Her music started to break through to a wider audience in 2020, and she was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert just a couple weeks ago. She’s a young singer-songwriter who writes about life, love, and her experience as a Black, queer woman in America. As for her genre, NPR writes that her music blends “easygoing soul, pop-rock, folk and hip-hop textures around her singer-songwriter sensibilities.” Personally, I love how she interweaves the personal and political.
In honor of the deluxe album release, I took a moment to better appreciate the track “if you got a problem.” While written about watching her partner’s struggles, this song perfectly exemplifies the culture we need in the climate movement.
“If you got a problem” is a song about solidarity. Oladokun sings over and over, “If you got a problem, I got a problem too.” All across the world, we are each wrestling with our own struggles. Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis are fighting everything from pipelines, to unjust infrastructure, to deforestation. But those problems are not just theirs to deal with. To achieve climate justice, we all need justice, and we cannot allow polluting industries to survive in anyone’s backyard. In fact, supporting the frontlines across the climate movement is not charity, it is solidarity. Oladokun is not singing of charity. She is not singing, “If I got a problem, I’ll help you,” but rather, “If you got a problem, I got a problem too.” Internalizing this message of solidarity will be important to winning our livable future. Solidarity is why On the Level is collecting data on every single climate action across the country. To have solidarity, we need to know who is taking action and where!
To watch solidarity in the face of a climate disaster on the big screen, look no further than In the Heights.
In the Heights is beautiful musical. It is vibrant and full of color, and yet, it still manages to depict the small moments that make a community. The beauty of an embroidered napkin, the way the street comes alive when the hydrants are open, the bodega on the corner. In the Heights is a story of dreams, and it treats the dreams of each of its characters lovingly. It also happens to be a climate film. The characters’ backdrop is a brutal heatwave and extended blackout in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, Washington Heights. In short, In the Heights is the climate justice musical you didn’t know you were walking into.
The musical exemplifies a deadly disaster (a heatwave) that we have already seen across the United States this summer, and that will unfortunately become all to common in the future. It also shows how those who will and are bearing the brunt of the problem are those who are already marginalized.
In the Heights is not just about problems, though. It is about solutions in the power of community. It shows the power of a community when everyone together says, “If you got a problem, I got a problem too,” when everyone says as Daniela does in the musical, “We are not powerless, we are powerful.” Taking action is done best in community, and when it is done right, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. It is un sueñito, a little dream, of a better future.
At On the Level, community and dreams for a better future are at the heart of everything we do. Our mission is to help everyone find their home in the climate movement. We’re starting by collecting data on every single climate action across the United States to get more people involved and show people how big the movement really is — but also — to help build unity and solidarity across the movement. We were so pleased to see recent climate culture emphasizing solidarity and community as well.
Other News Items: Lorde released her first music in four years with a single called “Solar Power.” She also announced an upcoming album of the same name, which we’ll cover upon its August release. Lorde has spoken out about the climate crisis before (and visited Antarctica!), but emphasizes that she is a pop star, not an activist. While it is important to remember that celebrities are not on the frontlines of the crisis and will not be our saviors, at On the Level, we do think anyone can belong to this movement! Relatedly, while Indigenous activists and allies have been on the frontlines protecting the water and opposing the Line 3 pipeline, over 200 celebrities and notable figures came out as allies against the pipeline in a letter to President Biden.
Looking for more? If you’re in need of more content before Friday, check out the following.
1. Listen to How to Save a Planet’s “Where’s Our Climate Anthem?”
2. Check out Think100, a project of Hip Hop Caucus, which focuses on creating climate culture.
3. Check out Climate Live, a project working to put on simultaneous concerts for climate action around the world.
4. Read Atmos magazine’s piece, “A Climate Love Letter to Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth.'”
5. Sign the petition to push Hollywood to tell climate stories. This is put on by new group Climate + Pop Culture and supported by Fridays for Future and 350.org.
Stay tuned for more next Friday!