53 Songs About Nature and the Environment
Every Day Is Earth Day
My dad participated in the first Earth Day as a college student back in 1970, and in many ways I've followed in his footsteps. For years my family has participated in an annual river clean-up in which we collect garbage that people have left in and around our local river. Along with an army of other volunteers, we comb the water, riverbanks, and adjoining wooded acreage, cleaning as we go.
In one day, we attempt to undo some of the damage that the past year has inflicted—trash that includes tires, soda bottles and beer cans, fishing equipment, discarded clothing, and broken lawn chairs. Litter from careless residents threatens to choke our river. We can at least try to ease the congestion.
I hope you have your own way of giving back to our Earth. If you love the environment as much as I do and place a priority on preserving and protecting it, then why not make a playlist of pop, rock, and country songs—because really, isn't every day Earth Day?
1. "Truth to Power" by OneRepublic
If you've never heard this achingly beautiful 2017 pop song, then stop what you're doing right now and listen. It depicts our earth in human-like terms as an aging loved one who reminds you of her increasingly frail and weak state, vulnerable to all the assaults of humanity.
Despite those indignities, the Earth seeks our action to change before it's too late:
It's hard to keep goin' on, hard to keep goin' on
If you could see me the way I see you
If you could feel me the way I feel you
You'd be a believer.
2. "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson
The Earth is crying and the heavens are falling down in this 1995 international chart-topper. War, pollution, and environmental devastation have taken their combined toll, and the narrator wonders whether there is time to reverse the destructive course we are on.
This socially conscious song is the last song Michael Jackson sang before his sudden death in 2009.
3. "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" by Marvin Gaye
Yearning for a purer, simpler time, the narrator in this 1971 R&B song laments all the damage that we have done to the earth. This includes poisoned air, oil spills, overcrowding, and radiation. He wonders what we've done and how much more abuse the Earth can stand.
What environmental issue concerns you the most?
4. "Big Yellow Taxi" by Counting Crows (featuring Vanessa Carlton)
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone?
When it comes to nature, that's absolutely the truth. This song was originally recorded in 1970 by folk singer Joni Mitchell, then revived in 2003 as a much bigger, international hit.
The tune describes how a paradise-like plot of land was paved over in the name progress so that it could become a parking lot, a pink hotel, a boutique, and a night club. The song also asks farmers to stop using DDT, as the narrator prefers imperfect apples to poisoned ones.
5. "Eyes Wide Open" by Gotye
Are you willing to make the necessary changes to save the world?
This 2015 pop song is ironically catchy because it features a foreboding message warning us of Earth's destruction. It points to civilization's end and indicts humankind as having walked the plank towards our own self-destruction, eyes wide open.
6. "Pass It On Down" by Alabama
The country group Alabama reminds us in this 1990 ditty that the environment is merely ours to borrow until we pass it on down to the next generation. We have to preserve the air, forests, and the oceans so that our children can enjoy them. The song references the detrimental impact of acid rain, unsafe drinking water, the hole in the ozone layer, ocean trash, and deforestation, and it motivates us to act now:
So let's leave some blue up above us
Let's leave some green on the ground
It's only ours to borrow, let's save some for tomorrow
Leave it and pass it on down.
7. "4 Minutes" by Madonna (featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland)
There is little lyrical depth to this dance pop number from 2008, but the message is clear: there isn't much time left to save the world. The song creates urgency around taking action and encourages us to wake up and do something now.
8. "Make a Little Wave" by Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas
This 2009 song is about the power of social activitism. It emphasizes what one determined person can do, making small changes that in turn can impact the broader world and those in it. The tune was part of an initiative by young Disney stars to benefit environmental conservation and wildlife organizations.
9. "Doctor My Eyes" by Jackson Browne
Who is to say what exactly made the guy in this 1972 pop song so glum. Some say it was the war. Others say it was the totality of living. Regardless, he's witnessed the evil and destruction of the world too long, and it has wrecked his idealism. As he tries to seek a doctor's help, he realizes that he's become too hardened and simply accepts his fate.
Don't be this guy. Our environment needs you to persist and get busy.
10. "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver
Anyone who has been to the Rockies understands the all-natural high you can get there:
Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake.
The 1972 soft rock tune is one of Colorado's two official state songs, describing both the beauty of the mountains and lamenting the destruction brought with economic development. Tourism is the top industry in Colorado today, generating more than $80 billion in revenue annually—both a blessing and a curse.
11. "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons
If we're not careful, nature as we know it will cease to be. We'll be left with what's in this 2012 electro-rock song, a radioactive wasteland. The narrator paints a picture of a post-apocalyptic world where he is surrounded by ash and dust and breathes in toxic chemicals.
12. "Fall On Me" by R.E.M.
This early R.E.M. song from 1986 was initially about environmentalism and the problem of acid rain. The result of pollutants, acid rain damages forests, fresh water, aquatic life and infrastructure. It causes paint to peel, steel on bridges to corrode, and stone statues to erode.
13. "Seminole Wind" by John Anderson
Today the Sunshine state is a booming tourist mecca, but it used to be home to the Seminole Indians. This 1992 country song bemoans the draining of the Florida Everglades and the forcible removal of the natives from their lands in the name of flood control and economic development:
Ever since the days of old
Men would search for wealth untold
They'd dig for silver and for gold
And leave the empty holes ... .
Amazing Facts About the Environment
Did You Know?
And How About This?
The U.S. consumes 30% of the world resources yet has only 5% of the world's population.
Every day, 27,000 trees are cut down for toilet paper.
Approximately 40% of lakes in America are too polluted for swimming, fishing, or aquatic life.
Paper can be recycled up to 6 times. Unfortunately, paper still makes up about 29% of municipal solid waste in the U.S.
Walk a mile on an average U.S. highway and you'll find 1,457 pieces of litter.
Every year, 80 trillion aluminum cans are used. Although they can be recycled indefinitely, only about half of aluminum cans are actually recycled.
The human population has grown as much in the last 50 years as it has in the last 4 million years.
Each minute, we lose 100 acres of rainforest.
According to an 2018 study, microplastic particles exist in 90% of bottled drinking water.
Americans toss 25 trillion Styrofoam cups each year. Styrofoam is the most unfriendly packaging product to the environment today, taking more than 1 million years to decompose!
Global demand for clean water will increase 40% by 2050, according to the United Nations.
Plastic bags and other plastic trash kill 100,000 animals in our oceans every year.
14. "Blackened" by Metallica
Metal rockers care about our environment, too. This 1991 metal song personifies the planet and features Mother Earth's painful death at our callous hands. Our selfish actions will catapult the planet into a blistering obscurity, obliterating all life as we know it:
Take her breath away
Millions of our years
In minutes disappears.
15. "Time Is Ticking Out" by The Cranberries
We need to wake up to the impact that our actions are having on the global environment before it's too late. That's the urgent message in this 2002 indie rock song. It references the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the hole in the ozone layer, and radiation. Blaming human gluttony and politicians' inaction, the narrator fears that our children will reap an environment that has been ravaged by pollution.
16. "Don't Drink the Water" by The Dave Matthews Band
This rock song from 1998 is a tribute to the native people of America and the persecution and devastation felt at having their entire world ripped from them by encroaching European colonists.
The song's narrator is a non-native who looks forward to moving aside current inhabitants and building upon their once-sacred land. Filled with hatred, greed, and an insatiable appetite for expansion, he claims what is not his and fills the water with their blood.
So you will lay your arms down
Yes, I will call this home
You have been banished
Your land is gone
And given me
And here I will spread my wings
Yes, I will call this home.
17. "Another Way to Die" by Disturbed
The message in this 2010 heavy metal song is a warning to us all:
The time bomb is ticking
And no one is listening.
Our future is fading
Is there any hope we'll survive?
The song predicts apocalyptic consequences of humans' insatiable consumption. Global warming is Mother Earth's revenge, and it will lead to starvation and destruction of our way of life unless we repent and reverse course immediately
18. "Going Up the Country" by Canned Heat
Long before it became a GEICO jingle, this 1968 rock song was the unofficial anthem of Woodstock, appealing to escapist desires of young hippies. The narrator invites his friend to leave the city's conflict and flee to the peace of the country, where they can jump in the water and commune with nature.
19. "Beds are Burning" by Midnight Oil
Just as Americans have a shameful past in usurping the land of the American Indians, Australians similarly treated their own indigenous people poorly. This 1987 rock song references destroying land that belonged to the native Australian people and the indifference towards their suffering. It also calls for returning their land to them, finally.
20. "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
This instantly recognizable pop ballad from 1967 is in the Grammy Hall of Fame for good reason. The uplifting song references skies, rainbows, trees, roses in bloom, and other natural phenomena as proof of the beauty of life.
Even More Songs About Nature and the Environment
21. Nature's Way
22. Equally Destructive
23. Only Human
24. Fields of Gold
25. Gone Green
26. Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Peter, Paul & Mary
27. Take Me Home, Country Roads
28. Listen to the River
29. Green River
Creedence Clearwater Revival.
30. Nothing but Flowers
31. Nobody's Fault
32. If a Tree Falls
33. Echo Beach
Martha and the Muffins
34. Sunshine on My Shoulders
35. Winter Bird
37. Down by the River
38. The Range
39. The 3 Rs
40. Conviction of the Heart
41. Skies of L.A.
42. S.O.S. (Mother Nature)
43. I Need to Wake Up
44. Poison in the Well
45. What About Now
46. Why'd You Want to Live Here
Death Cab for a Cutie
47. It's the End of the World as We Know It
48. A Campfire Song
49. Paradise (What About Us?)
50. Be the Rain
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Florida Georgia Line
52. My City Was Gone
53. Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Do you know any songs about self-reliance?
There are a number of songs on the topic. Many of the songs are contained in the following two playlists, both with a slightly different focus:
1) "Songs About Survival and Perseverance in the Face of Challenge" http://hub.me/aiQFi
2) "Girl Power Playlist: Songs About Female Empowerment" http://hub.me/akaBKHelpful 1
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