Not just one of the most established of singers in the sphere of folk and country rock, but also in the hearts of many fans across the world is Neil Young. At the age of sixty five years, this Canadian born musician, songwriter, movie director and humanitarian has endeared himself to a wider audience beyond the musical realm he is known to. Neil Young was born in Toronto, Ontario, in the general hospital on the twelfth day of November 1945 to Scott and Edna Young. As an artist, singer and songwriter, Young has touched on many issues in his illustrious career as an artist, traversing a wide range of topics including love and relationships, life’s challenges, political administration and leadership, social growth and awareness, social welfare of citizens, and emerging issues within the sphere of environmental conservation and nature. His songs speak of his dreams as young boy, the aspirations of a young man, and the perspective of an American citizen on the economy, social, political status of the country as well as the global environmental challenges. As a vibrant and outspoken artist, in tune with social issues, Neil young has used his own personal outlook on nature and the environment to convey environmental conservation as critical through his work, with the intention of stimulating public awareness, participation and support for positive environmental measures.
Environmental conservation and preservation of nature is a crucial message that Neil young has continued to pass to his audience since the 1970s, after the release of his famous album, “After the Gold Rush” (Durchholz & Graff, 2010). Environmental conservation is an idea that Young has persistently spoken of in his songs and other works with passion, while calling for governments and non-governmental organizations, charity agencies, communities and the public to act in conservation of “mother nature” .Degradation of the environment in the lead up to this era, had been a major issue, particularly resulting from the rising incidences of pollution. Much of the literature on science and ecological sciences focused on the emerging concern for the natural environment and the possible effects on people, wildlife and the general quality of life. Many artists including the budding Young, during the growth of environmentalism, turned their focus on the environment, further spurred on by the growing rates of industrial pollution, habitat destruction and deforestation, contamination of water and other natural resources, and general lack of concern for the state of the natural environment. Thematic issues in some of the country and folk songs written and sang by Young with the “Buffalo Springfield” in the late 1960s before their break illustrate his deep connection with the natural world and environment (Durchholz & Graff, 2010). “Broken arrow” written by Young and performed by the group draws imagery on natural surrounding with a deeper reflection of the writer; one that pictures young’s fascination and close bond to his natural environment and elements of nature. One unique and telling line in “After The Goldrush”, released in 1970, clearly speaks of his personal perspective on the contemporary environmental degradation as pointed out by Hickman; “look at mother nature on the run in the 1970s” . In many interviews on concerning his work on “Greendale”, Young has incessantly pointed out his deep love for greener lifestyles and conservation of the elements of nature through green technologies. How governments treat their natural resources and the environment is theme that runs through Young’s “Greendale”, in manner suggesting its significance to the people and their life. In similar manner to “Greendale”, young points out the same idea in the song promoting for more participation and action from the people in government policies, legislation and management of their natural environment (Thrasherswheat.org, 2003). Notable feature in the popular 2009 title song “Fork in the road” is his personal outlook on green house gas emissions from the many cars drive in the country and other developed economies in the world. Teaming up with a renowned mechanic in 2008, Neil Young initiated a project to convert his 1959 Lincoln continental convertible to run on electricity instead of the conventional fuels; passion for green technologies on display. Through his call for adoption of greener technologies and call for attention to environmental concerns, Neil Young has strived to pass his idea on environmental conservation
Informing the Audience
Neil Young has used a variety of techniques and methods in arts, as well as other out-of-the-box approaches to reach a wider audience on environmental issues as he advocates for conservation of the natural environment. Music being the central point of his life and career, Young has sung on environmental concerns in different genres apart from his country and folk-rock style including experimental rock, grunge and hard rock. Singing in his touching falsetto voice, intertwined with tenor, Young has used his songs to pass this message. A clear technique use by the artist is his nature of writing deep and personal reflections on the subject, as pointed out in the lyrics to his songs. Furthermore, Young has been involvement in the movie industry using Bernard Shakey as pseudonym, directing and co-directing influential films with underlying environmental themes. “Greendale” directed by Young in 2003 is a famous work used to his pass idea on public participation and their role on advancing conservation in spite of lack of political goodwill and government support on the fight against environmental degradation. It has since been developed and further produced by planet shifter magazine as a graphic novel serving to reach a larger group of comic lovers on Young’s ideas. An outspoken critic of the way governments on the global scale shun environmental concerns, young has used other unconventional methods to illustrate the need for clean and green energies in light of greenhouse gases. This was exemplified by his public conversion of his 1959 Lincoln convertible to use electricity rather than conventional fuels that result in adverse emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. In addition to these, Young has collaborated with other artists including Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson in establishing and supporting related projects such as Farm Aid in 1985. He has given speeches on the environment in numerous occasions during Farm Aid conferences and other platforms in addition to his concerts. To Young, all avenues possible within his reach have been instrumental in reaching out to a wider audience on environmental issues.
Young’s Intended Goal
It is evident through the artist’s work that the environment and all aspects related to it are a huge area of concern to humanity in light of the recent developments. Young has taken the opportunity afforded him as an artist with national and global appeal to preach environmental conservation as key in the fight against environmental degradation, pollution, global warming and climate change. His purpose in passing his thoughts to his audience has been to generate greater awareness on the impact of humans in further depleting the environment with pointers to what can be done to alleviate the situation (Thrasherswheat.org, 2003). Neil Young conveys his notion about conserving nature and ensuring that its resources are kept in their pristine conditions with the sole purpose of generating more concern and participation on environmental issues by the public, organizations and their governments. His message strives to cut across all borders at the global audience with the environment being the central idea as also seen in his 2009 album “Fork on the road” (Durchholz & Graff, 2010). In the album’s title song, the artist points out human consumption rates of fossil fuels, supported by the high standards of living and lifestyles in developed countries, particularly pointing to America, as adding to the problem. Young in addition to pointing out what people ought to do to help, in his own perspective also points towards actions that are retrogressive to conservation efforts which the public can change in lieu of their adverse contribution to environmental conservation. Moreover, Neil Young has indicated his deep belief that nature should be conserved in addition to mitigation measures including adoption of clean technologies. Reason behind his efforts has been to pass crucial ideas to the masses on the issue generating awareness that can bring positive change.
As an artist with a musical career spanning over forty five years, Neil young has kept with a constant trend of speaking on environmental issues with a focus on conservation. Spreading his idea on environmental conservation being critical in light of the growing environmental degradation though pollution, green house gas emission and myriad of other human induced causes, Young has used a number of different platforms, techniques and approaches to contact a broader audience. This includes numerous public speeches during his concerts, organized aid conferences and other public forums. His passion for the environment stems from his childhood love for nature and further inspired by rising global concerns on the same issue. With the underlined purpose of inspiring greater concern and action for conservation, Neil Young continues to advocate for positive environmental actions through his work.