US needs anthem for fighting climate change: Dr. Lucy Jones

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Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist formerly with the USGS, is combining her love of music and passion for fighting climate change in a new initiative called Tempo: Music for Climate Action. Photo by Lucy Jones.

Lucy Jones is best known as Los Angeles’ earthquake guru. During a long career with the U.S. Geological Survey, she was the plain-spoken and unsparing go-to expert for the media and politicians whenever the ground moved in Southern California. 

But Jones is moved by other things as well, notably music and saving the planet. She’s combined those passions by starting an initiative called Tempo: Music for Climate Action. It’s part of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, which she founded after leaving the USGS. 

Jones got the ball rolling with a piece that she had written. It’s a spare composition that aims to capture the increasing pace of climate change.

“I started thinking about using a form that's common in the 16th and 17th centuries for the viola da gamba, where one instrument plays drawn out notes. And I could make that be the temperature data, and then try to create music around it,” Jones says. “When you play that data … my fellow musicians come out of it going, ‘Oh, we're so screwed.’”

But instilling a sense of doom isn’t Jones’ goal. Rather, she sees music as a catalyst for inspiring people to take the necessary steps to fight climate change.

“What I want to do is bring together climate scientists who understand that there are solutions, with social scientists who understand the emotional drivers that keep us from acting, and with musicians who know how to evoke emotions,” Jones explains. 

“Our goal is to support composers and musicians in creating music that inspires action, music that has hope and a positive goal that will move us to act instead of grieving and giving up.”

This week, Tempo: Music for Climate Action held its first Tempo Dialogue, a series of events to create a community of scientists and musicians exploring climate issues. Jones is also working to secure funding to offer prizes for musical compositions that could be awarded on Earth Day in 2023.




Chery Glaser