Climate music and moods


Climate Museum UK popped up in a small way as part of a ClimateKeys concert – which was music by LaymanHuman (aka Stuart Frobisher) and the choir of St Mary Magdalene school, at the school in Little Venice. It was an evening concert for parents, children and public, at the end of the school’s Climate Week. ClimateKeys is the project of pianist Lola Perrin, and the format of concerts is music followed by a climate speaker and discussion. In this case I was the speaker, and then the follow-up discussion took the form of inviting the audience to talk about their feelings about the climate and planetary emergency stimulated by two ‘mood catchers’. These offer a spectrum of emotions represented by colours, with a moody tone and brushwork inspired by Rothko, and the spread of blue to red colours inspired by the world temperature chart. Participants could mark them with up to six markers, spread over any of the moods they most often experience. The idea was to show the emotional temperature of the room, and in this case, because there was one mood-catcher for adults and another for children, we could show a difference between generations. 

It so happened there were a lot of younger children, who seemed to enjoy filling up the spaces on their board, so their data was a lot less reliable than the adults’! But they did veer away from the ‘depressed’ end of the spectrum, which on the other hand, the adults veered towards. None of the adults marked the ‘Cool, I can block it out’ emotion.


It was a chance to try how it works to pop-up in an event with a short amount of time to engage people, and also to explore climate change with an audience of parents, children and teachers. Anything to do with a subject as complex as climate change, and emotions, needs much more time. So it was only taking the temperature really, in more ways than one. What I did find out is that people definitely don’t easily talk about their feelings about this situation, and that they don’t often do it, or at least, that this audience don’t, apart from a few.

I explained why I was wearing red and blue, using the blue-to-red world temperature chart, and explained about how long temperatures have been warming up and having impacts already. I then talked about what happens when we think about climate change, how we can react with denial, disavowal and rationalising. Then how these habits of mind can be broken by a learning attitude, by recognising that you are part of the climate story, and that you are the one of the humans that is clever enough to solve the problem.


If I’d had more time, I would have talked more about stress and hormones, about psychological defences, biases and values. I would have encouraged discussion to explore how we need to allow ourselves to feel right across the emotional spectrum but also to try to support each other into the more positive and balanced states (away from extremes of fury or apathy) – at least some of the time. And, more time, of course, to let people talk. There never is enough time! But it was great to try some of the ideas of Climate Museum UK with a mixed audience of ages, and to mix it up with live music too.

Update December 2019: We’re now carrying out some research into climate emotions, and invite people to do this short survey.

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