Brighid Fry’s push to get as many Canadian musicians involved in climate action as possible is motivated by an “existential fear” of environmental disaster of which she and other young people will bear the brunt.

While the teenage daughter of activist parents has long been concerned about threats to biodiversity, the cascading news about how little time we have to avoid its worst impacts and the limp response of governments have ratcheted up her worry.

"In the last few years, it has started to weigh on me and affect my mental health, and I feel like I need to do something to try to change it, or I would be very depressed," said 18-year-old Fry, who with fellow singer-guitarist Pascale Padilla comprise Toronto indie folk band Moscow Apartment.

They and scores of other Canadian musicians and young climate activists are doing something about it, this week officially launching the Canadian chapter of the Music Declares Emergency movement and related Climate Live initiative.

The movement, started in mid-2019 and spearheaded by drummer Fay Milton from U.K. band Savages, aims to turn the industry’s attention to cultural and operational changes that would contribute to carbon neutrality.

That means pushing major labels to commit to operating in the most sustainable way possible, by selling sustainable merchandise, pressing on recycled vinyl, and taking less flights, Fry said.

Other Canadian artists who have signed on include Tegan and Sara, Dan Mangan, Good Lovelies (which Moscow Apartment supported on a cross-Canada tour in 2018), Scott Helman, Hannah Georgas, and members of Broken Social Scene.

The Canadian contingent is joining more than 2,000 other bands and musicians, including Radiohead, Billie Eilish and Massive Attack, in the movement, which also has chapters in Germany, France, Switzerland and Chile.

Climate Live, meanwhile, is an initiative led by young climate activists who are planning a series of simultaneous global climate concerts virtually in April and hopefully live in October, just before the COP26 round of international talks where countries are expected to update their climate ambitions.

“Our hope is to get tons of really big Canadian artists to come and play and speak up about this,” says @BrighidFryMusic. #ClimateAction #ClimateJustice

“Our hope is to get tons of really big Canadian artists to come and play and speak up about this,” said Fry, noting that she would personally love to involve bestselling and award-winning pop stars Shawn Mendes and Jessie Reyez.

“Musicians have really big platforms. And the big artists when they speak, their audience listens,” she said.

Brighid Fry (front) and bandmate Pascale Padilla perform at a concert they organized last year in support of the global climate strike and to raise funds for the Wet'suwet'en opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Photo supplied by Brighid Fry

Sustainable music

Moscow Apartment, which released its second EP last year after winning Slaight Music’s It’s Your Shot competition several years ago, is currently negotiating a record deal and wants to have climate commitments included in it.

“We want the record company we're negotiating with to say that when it is feasible and possible to try to do everything in the most sustainable way possible," Fry said, adding that they are looking into using recycled vinyl for their future records and replacing the shrink-wrap packaging with reusable plastic sleeves for their current pressing.

Fry is also involved in efforts to create a domestic closed-loop system for band merchandise, which would make it easier for Canadian artists to cut out polyester and use recycled cotton, reduce chemical use in inks and eliminate plastic packaging, and move to print on demand in order to avoid wastage.

“You can get shirts made of recycled polyester and organic cotton, but making sure that everything that goes into making that T-shirt is as sustainable as possible, that's not really a thing in Canada yet," she said.

Fry said it’s important that young people play a leading role in climate activism, since they will feel an outsized burden from inaction.

“To be a little macabre, we are going to have to live with this for longer than older people," she said. "But also, we don't have the same power and say, because youth aren't in government or high up in companies that have large carbon footprints. So for us, the way we can change this is through activism and all coming together and using our voice."

The broader Music Declares movement, meanwhile, is calling on governments to act now to reverse biodiversity loss and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2030.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer