A couple weeks ago, FINNEAS asked, “How can you sing about love when the kids are all dying?” This week, Ed Sheeran has an answer. You just do it.
Now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ed Sheeran’s latest record =, “equals,” is about love. Not only has he gotten married and had a kid since his last solo album, but this is the guy who is famous for writing great wedding songs.
Yet, the reviews rolling in almost unanimously declare it to be a veering on too sweet, same old same old, but sure to be wildly popular album. The reviewers didn’t want this sweet little album, they wanted to be surprised. And honestly, I did too. Considering that he’s performed at a climate change awareness concert, visited Antarctica, and even included the fast-melting continent in his daughter’s name, I was rooting for some blatant climate culture.
Instead, = is concerned with only one thing, love. But perhaps, it’s me who needs to do some more serious thinking and not Ed Sheeran (he is the one making the big bucks after all). Of course, I want to see climate change addressed in all aspects of life, including pop culture. It needs to be, if we are going to mobilize enough people to create a livable future together. But then again, maybe plain old love, without climate subtext or radical messaging, has a place on this journey too.
Ed Sheeran’s album got me thinking — what does love look like in the time of climate change? It is hard to imagine that it will stay the same. Climate change is already affecting peoples’ decisions to have children or about who to date online. As the world seems to teeter toward apocalypse, how can anything stay the same?
Of course, I don’t know. I haven’t experienced a world with 2° , 3°, or 5° C warming for that matter. I can turn to pop culture for help imagining, though.
When I look back on apocalyptic or dystopian pop culture, what ties it all together is epic love stories. In the past several months, I’ve seen Interstellar, one father’s space-time-bending journey across galaxies to return to his daughter and save her from the apocalypse, twice. I rewatched WALL-E, Pixar’s feature that’s ostensibly about a trash-collecting robot who saves the human race from itself, but is really a brilliant reflection on the joy of holding hands, just today. My favorite dystopian series, The Hunger Games, is really a teen love triangle for the ages (that is until one boy knowingly sacrifices our heroine’s sister, and the choice becomes obvious — sorry Team Gale).
The truth is that no matter what happens, all indications are that whatever dramatic, world-shifting changes the climate has in store for us, the changes in the way we love will likely be small.
And this is the best news, because it is by leaning into our human emotions — like love — that we can solve this crisis together. Love your significant other enough to fight for a future together. Love the planet enough to think about ways to transform our society. Love your kids enough to stand up for them at the polls next week.
Just a couple weeks ago, Outside Magazine published a brilliant essay by Erica Berry on the need for more climate change love stories. She argues that showing love in the time of climate change, can remind us of all that’s worth fighting for. And she’s right.
So, listen to =, Ed’s new album about love, during this time of climate change.
He sings on the album opener, “Tides,”
“Timе stops to still
When you are in my arms, it always will
And life, lifе is changin’ tides”
When the climate is changing faster than we can track, the tides are rising, and all hope seems lost, love will keep us grounded. Love can be a path to action. Honestly, has there ever been anything else?