Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull's Message on Climate Change - Rolling Stone
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Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on Planting Thousands of Trees to Help Combat Climate Change

“Perhaps that there is an easier and simpler way of life if we break free of those shackles…”

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 everywhere in between.

Ian Anderson started writing about climate change in 1973, in the lyrics for Jethro Tull’s “Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of a New Day)” on the album War Child.

‘Cause you were bred, for humanity
And sold to society
One day you’ll wake up, in the present day
A million generations removed from expectations
Of being who you really want to be

While those lines may sound vague, the threat of climate change is feeling more concrete with each passing year. And according to Anderson, the issues surrounding climate change are intertwined. “This is a very interdependent issue when we think about it, especially in the context of today’s world in the middle of a true pandemic crisis. Everything depends on everything else,” says Anderson.

Anderson points to society’s dependence on travel and fossil fuels as the major cause of climate change. And to offset his own dependence on travel (despite relying on public transit as much as possible, Anderson still has to get to gigs somehow), he’s planted tens of thousands of trees. Around 40,000 hardwood trees in total on his farm in southwest England: 30,000 of them 15 years ago, and 10,000 last year. He says, technically, he may be in carbon credit due to the seeds he’s sown, but that won’t stop him from cutting down on his own emissions.

“We have to get used to the idea that we don’t need to travel as much as we have taken advantage of doing in the past; we don’t need to depend on personalized transport. You see, I’m a public-transport guy. I don’t even have a driving license. I use the train; I use the bus; I share a lift with several other people,” says Anderson.

Anderson points out the danger of relying on public transit during the global crisis surrounding COVID-19, but also posits that the pandemic will cause a carbon-culture shift around the world. “Maybe this period is going to be a period that teaches us something. Teaches us perhaps that there is an easier and simpler way of life if we break free of those shackles of that perceived need to travel to exotic places, to use personal transport, to consume so much meat.”

For Anderson, individual choices can make all the difference for the future. “It’s all up to you.”

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