Did you know that more than a tenth of the world’s energy comes from green sources? The last few decades have seen humanity try to push more towards healing our planet as global warming continues to ramp up. One of the most popular ways to raise awareness has been through music!
From the King of Pop up to modern progressive metal, plenty of music acts have tried to save Mother Earth through song. Here are the best songs about the environment!
1. “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson
Song Year: 1995
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” is the best place to start when it comes to a heart-wrenching show of everything beautiful in the world. Through the track, Jackson lists off many of the features of our planet that climate change is quickly destroying.
Jackson highlights flowers, rivers, forests, and humanity itself. The music video adds a creative element as well, showing armies marching through to bring some lie of peace. It’s a strikingly poignant song that brought Mother Nature to the attention of the world.
2. “Pass It On Down” by Alabama
Song Year: 1990
“Pass It On Down” is a song about leaving a healthy world behind for the next generation. Alabama encourages the listener to leave the sky blue and the ground green since we’re only ever borrowing the world.
Discussing undrinkable water and bringing Mother Nature to her knees, it’s a strong critique of the impact we leave on the world. Whether you’re doing it for the next generation or your own, do your best to pass on a world worth living in!
3. “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
Song Year: 2012
Though many are familiar with the song, the environmental messages on “Radioactive” aren’t always highlighted!
The song takes place in an apocalyptic future, leaving the protagonist breathing in ash and dust. In this radioactive wasteland, humanity has destroyed most livable areas. While the environmental message isn’t the strongest point, it’s still a crucial heart of the track itself.
4. “Blackened” by Metallica
Song Year: 1988
In the late 80s, Metallica was putting a thrash metal spin on environmental messages. “Blackened” is a strong, aggressive track on the impact we’re having on the world and what’s in store if we don’t address climate change.
Frigid winds, blackened grounds, and a barely habitable world take the stage in their track. The song certainly isn’t relaxing, but neither is global warming!
5. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
Song Year: 1967
It’s unlikely you’ve made it to this list without hearing Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World.” Through the opening of the track, Armstrong mentions a strikingly blue sky and all the flowers that the narrator can see.
While the song doesn’t use its lyrics to encourage environmental change, the message of our beautiful world comes through clear. “What a Wonderful World” has been used for climate activism for decades now!
6. “The 3 Rs” by Jack Johnson
Song Year: 2006
Jack Johnson isn’t new to making music for kids, given his work on the Curious George soundtrack. “The 3 Rs” encourages everyone regardless of age to engage in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” plan.
Kids sing along with the song as Johnson implores his audience to take care of the planet. Easily memorized and fun to sing along to, it’s a great way to introduce your kids to environmental conscientiousness!
7. “I Won’t Ever Be Happy Again” by Bright Eyes
Song Year: 2003
Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst invokes nature and man’s impact on it to a subtle effect on “I Won’t Ever Be Happy Again.” While the song isn’t strictly about environmental action, the first verse uses this language to show the effect our world can have on happiness.
Oberst mentions the painful blue of the sky and the yellow gown of sunrise. Stating that restricting the forest creates backyards, it’s a poignant message on what human interference does for nature.
8. “Where Owls Know My Name” by Rivers of Nihil
Song Year: 2018
You can find environmental tracks in any genre! Rivers of Nihil’s “Where Owls Know My Name” is the third part of a four-part album that focuses on nature and the changing seasons. The title track holds one of the strongest environmental messages on the album.
Whether you’re listening for the message or the sax solo, this is a track your environmental playlist isn’t complete without.
9. “Planet B” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Song Year: 2019
The band’s name might be strange to some, but their message brings some environmental care to thrash metal. “Planet B” discusses humanity’s impact on the world and how we’ll have nowhere to go if we continue to destroy this planet. As the chorus states, there is no planet B for humanity.
10. “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders
Song Year: 1983
If the message doesn’t get you, the catchy bass line will! The Pretenders use “My City Was Gone” to try to bring some environmental thoughts to their 80s audience.
Speaking about rampant development, the narrator talks about returning to Ohio to find all his favorite places torn down. Development has turned the beautiful farmlands into shopping malls and parking lots.
11. “Idioteque” by Radiohead
Song Year: 2000
Radiohead’s “Idioteque” paints a grim image of the future, insisting that the bleak world they paint isn’t hypothetical and is already happening. The band speaks about women and children going into a bunker first as another Ice Age comes to radically change our world. It’s a staunch depiction of a world unchecked.
12. “Fall on Me” by R.E.M.
Song Year: 1986
R.E.M.’s “Fall On Me” meets Radiohead’s imagery but, instead, discusses humanity’s refusal to counter climate change. The band talks about how society has found a way to talk around the problem and let children handle it instead.
The dark satire of politicians encourages listeners to keep their conscience in the dark as statues begin to melt. It’s bleak and painful to hear, just as the world they paint will be.
13. “The Moan” by Mount Eerie
Song Year: 2015
More about nature as an entity than the environment as a whole, “The Moan” invokes the sound of howling wildlife to the track. Heavily distorted and jarring in contrast, the narrator uses the track to discuss becoming one with nature. As he listens to the howls, he thinks of wandering into the forest to join nature in the night again.
14. “Supernature” by Cerrone
Song Year: 1977
With a groovy bass track and a swanky synth lead, Cerrone’s “Supernature” brings a hint of sci-fi to environmentalism. The narrator paints a world where the use of artificial chemicals in our farming has awoken creatures from underground. Though the metaphor is a bit fantastical, the message of our impact causing irreparable damage is core to the song.
15. “Truth to Power” by OneRepublic
Song Year: 2017
“Truth to Power” is a staunch message begging listeners to act to fix climate change. The video is especially powerful with videos of displaced families, melting ice caps, and sinking cities.
The band writes from the point of view of nature in a letter to humanity. Paired with videos of the destruction we’ve brought to Mother Nature, few songs could tug your heart strings harder.
16. “Boat” by Mountain Man
Song Year: 2018
Mountain Man’s “Boat” brings the three members in an acapella story about the narrator finding a boat to cross a river. Though not strictly about environmental activism, “Boat” paints a beautiful scene of the environment itself and the natural world we live in. With spiritualism and oneness with nature central to the track, you’ll want this in any nature-themed playlist.
17. “License To Kill” by Bob Dylan
Song Year: 1983
Bob Dylan is one of the biggest names in music, and the singer-songwriter used his influence to try and bring attention to the ever-changing climate. “License to Kill” speaks about how humanity believes they have the right to do whatever they’d like with the planet as its owners.
Referring to this appetite for destruction as a “license to kill,” Dylan asks who’s going to stop the damage. As humanity continues to suffer from these actions, the question is repeated throughout the track.
18. “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye
Song Year: 1971
Marvin Gaye uses “Mercy Mercy Me” as a chance to bring attention to and strike out against climate change. Highlighting our damage to the oceans and mercury-filled fish, the quiet and soothing instrumentals bring a somber tone to the already-heartbreaking track.
Gaye mentions irradiated ground and how we’ve killed off wildlife in our damage. With overcrowding and a darkening sky, Gaye asks the listener how much more they can stand before it’s too much.
19. “S.O.S (Mother Nature)” by Will.I.Am
Song Year: 2007
The last song off of Will.I.Am’s album Songs About Girls, the singer begins the song by asking God to send someone to help us fix the damage. Mentioning climate change, volcanoes, and ever-worsening weather, Will.I.Am states that anyone who says things are okay is lying to themselves and others.
20. “Ravens” by Mount Eerie
Song Year: 2017
Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum has a discography that focuses deeply on nature and an earth-centric spirituality. “Ravens” paints our small place in nature through the showing of overgrowth and travel.
While the song is primarily about the passing of Elverum’s wife, “Ravens” features the narrator walking through the overgrowth of a forest. Using nature as a metaphor for grief and coping, the environmental message is subtle but impossible to ignore.
21. “Don’t Go Near the Water” by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 1974
“Don’t Go Near the Water” shows Johnny Cash painting a picture of the damage we’ve done to the environment. Through the track, the narrator implores children not to go near the water as it isn’t water anymore. Instead, it’s become a dirty gray sludge filled with pollutants and dead fish as humanity poisons the clean mountain water.
22. “(Nothing but) Flowers” by Talking Heads
Song Year: 1988
Though the song is poignant on its own, “(Nothing but) Flowers” is most powerful when paired with the music video. Through it, the members of the band stand juxtaposed with statistics on the world. Mentioning privately-owned machine guns, factories, and the rapidly-dwindling environment brings another level of strength to this already-sobering track.
23. “Burn On” by Randy Newman
Song Year: 1972
Beginning with nothing more than the piano and slowly-rising instrumentation, “Burn On” almost sounds like it’d be more at home in a horror movie score. In a way, it does, as it paints the damage humanity is doing to our world. As the instrumentation shifts, the sights continue to come in.
Newman discusses the many things traveling into Cleveland on an average day. As the red moon rises, an oil barge travels down the Cuyahoga River. Bringing imagery of fire and burning as the oil barge passes through, it’s a striking message of how we’re changing nature at its core.
24. “Feels Like Summer” by Childish Gambino
Song Year: 2018
The quiet vibe of “Feel Like Summer” can make it easy to overlook the environmental message. The narrator discusses the rising heat and how we won’t have a chance to slow down the heat if we don’t act soon.
The lyrics continue to discuss the machines made that have harmed our world. As the lyrics turn mournful, the narrator tells the listener that he knows they feel his pain and that they can change it if they act soon enough.
25. “The Dripping Tap” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Song Year: 2022
King Gizzard’s discography repeatedly focuses on nature, and our second entry from the band brings one of their greatest tracks on the subject. “The Dripping Tap” features a distantly-sung introduction mentioning how the business suits won’t turn off the tap even as the future hangs in the balance. The critique of oil carries this 18-minute track.
26. “Despite Repeated Warnings” by Paul McCartney
Song Year: 2018
McCartney’s “Despite Repeated Warnings” asks the listener what we can do to fix climate change. Stating that the captains aren’t listening to the warnings of danger ahead, he states that we can only stop it by grabbing the keys and locking the captain up.
27. “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” by Billie Eilish
Song Year: 2019
“All the Good Girls Go to Hell” brings an environmental message to counter religious propaganda. Invoking the burning California hills and rising water levels, Eilish questions why anyone would want to save humanity when they’ve poisoned themselves so thoroughly.
28. “Seminole Wind” by John Anderson
Song Year: 1992
Anderson’s “Seminole Wind” focuses on how development and urban sprawl have ruined the land. Discussing people digging for riches and how the Seminole lands have been torn apart for development, the narrator begs the wind to blow while it still can.
29. “Cherokee Rose” by Corey Smith
Song Year: 2000
Similar to “Seminole Wind,” Corey Smith’s “Cherokee Rose” looks at how development has ruined the Cherokee lands of Georgia. A heartbreaking critique of overdevelopment and colonization, the environmental message combines with dehumanization for an unforgettable track.
30. “The Silent Life” by Rivers of Nihil
Song Year: 2018
“The Silent Life” follows a juxtaposition of nature and growing older as a human. Part of the third part of a four-part concept following the seasons, “The Silent Life” features an immortal man watching nature overtake man to rule the world again.
As the years go on, the narrator thinks of better times and how it could have been stopped. As the seasons slip through the narrator’s fingers, they think of a poorly-lived, silent life.
31. “Where Do the Children Play?” by Cat Stevens
Song Year: 1970
Cat Stevens asks a lot of questions in our last entry, “Where Do the Children Play?” Saying that building massive planes and train stations is fine, he only asks where people expect children to play if we continue with the urban sprawl.
Discussing sky-cracking buildings, Stevens asks if the plan is to continue building higher or if they’re content yet. As the narrator wonders if they’ll be left to die, the listener is also left wondering when they can expect the development to end.
Top Songs About The Environment, Final Thoughts
Climate change is real, and we’ve already reached a point where the damage is impacting humanity on an annual basis. While listening to environmentally-conscious music is great, consider taking action to help save the environment. Look into local foundations you can donate to and do your best to support environmentally friendly businesses.
Did we forget some of your favorite songs about the environment or any songs with environment in the title? Let us know of any songs that deserve a spot on our list in the comment section!