Active Listening #10: CLIMA by Chen Zhangyi

Active Listening is a series that unites composers with audiences who care about social justice. The goal of this series is to inspire empathy, educate listeners, and offer steps to actively support each cause. Each composer has chosen to address a social justice issue they feel passionate about, and with each installment, actions which listeners can take are provided.  A new installment of this 10-part performance video and interview series will be released on the first Wednesday of each month through September 2019, featuring works commissioned and performed by pianist Lior Willinger. This project has been funded by an award from the Presser Foundation.

The final Active Listening installment urgently calls for individual action to confront the climate crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that a rise of more than 1.5C would have devastating consequences on the livability of the planet. Large-scale lifestyle and policy changes need to be implemented immediately to ensure that we don’t exceed the 1.5C mark. Each one of us has an important choice to make: either to live in willful ignorance or to act consciously and creatively towards a solution. The demand on individuals to lead cleaner and more sustainable lives is greater than ever, considering the recklessness of our world leaders.

CLIMA by Chen Zhangyi

Monster hurricanes. Raging wildfires. Polar vortexes. Blistering heat waves. Extreme weather occurrences only continue to rise in frequency and intensity due to climate change. In the video below, Chen Zhangyi discusses how a monsoon surge in his native Singapore prompted him to become more active in working towards climate justice. Last year, this surge brought cool weather, completely unexpected in tropical Singapore. The work evokes drastic changes in temperature and humidity, depicting an extreme and unstable environment. 

So what can we do?

The composer and performer offer the following:

  1. Eat less meat and dairy. Researchers say this is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact. Meat and dairy production is responsible for an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly, eliminating (or reducing) beef, the highest-impact meat, from our diet is a huge step towards climate justice. The Amazon rainforest is burning because cattle loggers and ranchers intentionally set fires to clear the land for beef farming. (Check out Active Listening #2 for more on deforestation.) Switching to a plant-based diet might be ideal, but simply choosing to eat less meat and dairy would significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Check out this climate change food calculator to see which food items contribute the greatest carbon emissions, and plan your diet accordingly.
  2. Stop wasting food. A third of all food products never gets eaten. This waste accounts for a whopping 8% of global emissions. Although food waste occurs throughout the supply chain, make sure to only purchase what you can eat.
  3. Drive and fly less. Consider all your other travel options. For shorter distances, can you walk or bike there? For longer distances, can you take the train or bus instead of fly? If you need to drive, is carpooling or public transit an option? Switching to an electric vehicle can also significantly reduce your environmental impact. In some cases, travel can be completely spared. For instance, videoconferencing can take the place of business travel.
  4. Conserve energy and water. Make sure to do all the little things. Switch to LED light bulbs. Insulate. Go easy on the A/C and heat usage. Use cold water to wash your clothes. Line dry instead of using the dryer. Turn off the tap when soaping up your hands or dishes. Repair any leaks or drips around the home. If possible, switch to a power company that uses renewable energy, like solar or wind.
  5. Embrace a zero-waste lifestyle. Not only can we demand low carbon in our products, but we can also simply use fewer products by eliminating single-use items and replacing them with reusable alternatives. Here’s a list of 101 tips to get your zero-waste creativity going. Going out for coffee? Bring a reusable mug. And definitely learn how to compost!

The recording of CLIMA is available for download on Bandcamp. All proceeds from the sale of this track will go to support, an organization working to move us from the age of fossil fuels to an era of 100% renewable energy.

Lifestyle changes are needed because life itself is at stake.

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