Mark, My Words: Sorry Greta, but I think we should rock our way into oblivion

Coldplay shouldn't stop touring to help the environment, they'd do more good on the road, argues columnist Mark Beaumont

If there’s one thing I agree with Jo ‘Nuke ‘Em’ Swinson about, it’s that I, too, can’t wait to see the planet burn.

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on a world run by liars and despots, that worships inanity and vacuousness, that unthinkingly guzzles up bullshit, prizes popularity over quality, thinks anyone over 28 with a sense of historical perspective is a ‘boomer’ and includes John Lewis Christmas ads and Maroon 5. Bring on the day, says I, when all human culture is obliterated by ecological apocalypse and rebuilt by the brave few who were intelligent enough to keep their Strokes records off-Cloud and live up a hill.

But as we hurtle open-armed towards our own species-wide demise, let us at least rock ourselves into self-combustion. Last week, Coldplay announced that they wouldn’t be touring their new album ‘Everyday Life’ for fear of their on-the-road emissions damaging the planet. “Our prayers are answered!” Tweeted everyone who was never going to see Coldplay live anyway – their loss usually, but it was mine now, too.


The fact is, whatever you think of their music, Coldplay put on one of the most spectacular, un-beige, bed-shitting live shows on the planet, a tornado of colour and excitement that makes a Beyonce show look like Milkfloat Karaoke. The sort of experience, in fact, that’s the only thing that will make the planet’s descent into scorched-earth postcode water wars the slightest bit bearable.

Their intentions are noble of course. They don’t want to tour until they can affordably put on a show that’s carbon-positive. It’s an attitude that’s spreading amongst the more progressive of the big touring acts – Billie Eilish has promised that her 2020 tour will be as green as possible and include an educational “eco-village”, while The 1975 are making recycled T-shirt merch and planting a tree for every ticket sold.

But even if such measures don’t make those tours entirely carbon neutral, we should cut musicians some slack. In a world where Trump is pulling out of climate accords at the behest of his fossil fuel puppet masters, Bolsonaro is torching the Brazilian rainforest like it’s backyard knotweed, Volkswagen are cheating diesel emissions tests and unconscionable wars are still being concocted over oil while funding is slashed for renewable energy research by corrupt right-wing leaders with a triple-A pass to the air-conditioned luxury mountain bunker full of sexy dead pigs and widdling sex workers, Chris Martin carting a couple of weapons-grade confetti cannons around the globe is pretty far down the list of surefire planet-throttlers.

All of this is not to play down the environmental impact of major live shows and festivals – we need to be offsetting every aspect of human activity as much as we possibly can, and that includes Rammstein. As part of the planet-wide effort, it’s essential that major venues strive towards full sustainability and events try to leave the carbon footprint of a housebound stoat.

But carbon shaming – accusing people who are speaking out against climate change of hypocrisy because they didn’t pedalo across the Atlantic to speak to a crowd of thousands using a biodegradable Yop carton as a microphone – is a diversion tactic used to distract from and diminish the emergency at hand, to silence voices like Emma Thompson with a gag of guilt.


On the contrary, if musicians are dedicated to working towards carbon neutrality, it’s vital that that message gets shouted from the biggest, most amplified and most eye-catching stages; the bigger the statement the greater the example it’ll set for others to follow and the more normalised and embedded the pro-environment attitude will become.

The 1975 provided one of the Moments Of Reading 2019 when they played their collaboration with Greta Thunberg, and that’s where an ideological offsetting becomes just as important as a carbon one. By not touring, Coldplay avoid bruising the planet a tiny bit, but they also quieten the Extinction Rebellion roar. And if the whole industry follows suit then it won’t be long before only Sleaford Mods can ethically play live, offsetting their carbon trail simply by lobbing a reusable tinny out of the Transit van window every mile or so.

And if our efforts to save the planet fail? I’d rather spend my last few decades of habitable planet rocking out to retina-exploding 5D live shows, thank you very much. At least I’ll end up saluting my desert mutant warlord with a whole bunch of euphoric nights behind me and a wrist full of flashing neon bracelets.