Politician (and Former Soft-Rock Hitmaker) John Hall on Climate Crisis
In honor of Rolling Stone’s Climate Crisis issue, we asked artists to contribute messages about what they, their governments, and everyday people can do to stand up to the threat of climate change. From England to Jamaica to the United States, we are hearing from artists and activists around the world about what we can do locally, globally, and everything in between.
John Hall had some hits with his Seventies soft-rock band Orleans — such as “Still the One” and “Dance With Me” — but he also had some hits at the ballot box, too. He held local elected positions in upstate New York starting in 1989, and represented New York’s 19th congressional district as a two-term Democrat from 2007 to 2011.
The former congressman was talking about the environment decades before that, though. Hall wrote environmental ballad “Power,” which he performed alongside Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills at the large No Nukes rally in Battery Park, New York City, in 1979.
That’s a legacy he’s hoping to pass on to his grandchild as well. “My six-year-old granddaughter, and her generation after I’m gone, will be experiencing the effects of this in a way that I would really like to help,” says Hall. “I don’t want them to look back and say, ‘Grandpa didn’t do enough to help us survive on this planet.’ “
Hall equates the personal steps he’s taking around climate change to what needs to be done around COVID-19: driving less, flying less, cutting down plastic use, and telling his friends about it. “It’s important that everyone knows that things have changed and are going to change a lot more, and in bad ways if we don’t change our ways,” he says.
Those conversations aren’t always easy, according to Hall: “It takes being a little bit bold, because sometimes people don’t want to get into a discussion that they might not have all the answers for, when people start questioning their opinion. So you find the answers. Your read, you research, you talk to people about it.”
Hall says it’s important to transition from carbon fuels to renewable energy, but that he didn’t have enough political support to do that when he was in Congress. He also thinks governments have a lot of agency in making that transition easier for working people. “There are more people right now working in the wind and solar business each than there are in the entire coal industry in the United States,” he says. “It’s taken off. And with a little more government help, it could take off faster.”