Earth: environmental anthem or offensive joke?
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On the 18th April, the song Earth premiered. Labelled as an Earth day charity single, the video opens with a news report on the Californian wildfires before panning to the outside world. A young boy whizzes by on a skateboard, passing through a black cloud of fumes and dodging trash strewn across the streets. The boy has a brief tussle with his friends and consequently knocks over a trash can, the contents of which roll into Lil Dicky, one of the writers and the central vocalist of this song.
After an argument with the group of boys, Lil Dicky walks away with the group in pursuit. One boy remains to pick up the trash and comes across a book. He opens it and the scene is transformed into an animated world, one in which the world’s biggest celebrities are singing animals.
Here are all the celebrities involved: Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Halsey, Zac Brown, Brendon Urie, Hailee Steinfeld, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, Adam Levine, Shawn Mendes, Charlie Puth, SIA, Miley Cyrus, Lil Jon, Rita Ora, Miguel, Katy Perry, Lil Yachty, Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor, Joel Embiid, Tory Lanez, John Legend, Backstreet Boys, Bad Bunny, Psy, Kris Wu.
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There is no denying that the chorus is catchy. One listen and you are likely to be humming along to ‘we love the Earth’ for the remainder of the day – definitely a trend that I can get behind.
The overall message is beautiful, hilarious, and has the potential to make caring about climate change a little cooler as we watch our favourite celebrities transform into adorable (very horny) characters.
However, some of the lines are more than a little controversial. The line ‘we forgive you Germany’ is enough to make anyone cringe. Seeing a white man flying over the African continent on an eagle singing ‘we love you Africa’ contributes to a white saviour narrative and presents Americans as in possession of the knowledge to save the planet. This line implies that the ‘we’ in this song are Americans, rather than all humans, and that only this nation can lead the way.
Admittedly, this song gives a voice to the animals and plants, literally and metaphorically, and is presented as a collaboration between all ‘Earthlings’. However, the massive overhaul of our society (which is needed if we are to meet emissions reductions targets) is not present and our current ecological situation is overly romanticised. The cows are in a lush green pasture, a situation which is in absolute opposition to the realities of our global dairy industry. Also, the ocean scenes show pristine waters, glittering treasure chests brimming with gold, and colourful corals – thanks to Attenborough, we know this is not the case.
The line ‘let’s all just chill’ is another major problem – the rate at which the climate crisis is worsening means that we need to start acting now. In fact, we are already behind. This song reduces the serious nature of climate change. The message is reductive – give money and fund some renewable energy projects rather than make effective changes in your everyday life.
However, perhaps this upbeat single is exactly what we need. It is so easy to drown in disheartening stories about increasing temperatures, declining animal populations, and climate change denial from our top politicians. Despite the pitfalls in this song, it may be a channel through which more people can engage with climate change.
This song represents changing attitudes towards this global crisis. Caring about the environment is becoming mainstream – our favourite celebrities are becoming advocates for change and directing their work towards this cause. Hopefully the fan-bases of these individuals will follow suit, realising the global urgency of climate change. However, this requires celebrities to actually share the song – and very few have actually done so.
Lead image credit: Earth artwork, 2019