Credit: Kyla McCallum

This Extremely Random Earth Day Playlist Has Something for Everyone

Our staffers pulled together their favorite Earth Day songs and the results were... varied

Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)

Marvin Gaye


“Radiation underground and in the sky // Animals and birds who live nearby are dying”


Arguably my favorite song from a transcendent album that forever inhabits my most played records. I’m never not in the mood to hear Marvin wait for the answer to his timeless question about our planet: How much more abuse from man can she stand?

— Katie Yale, Digital Editor


New World Water

Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def)


“Fluorocarbons and monoxide // Push the water table lopside // Used to be free now it cost you a fee // ‘Cause oil tankers spill they load as they roam cross the sea”


Here’s a guy who was talking about drought, forest fires, contamination, and the world’s unequitable water supply back in 1999 when this song dropped on Black on Both Sides, an album that I stood in line to purchase at its midnight release, and one that still slaps. “Fuck a bank; I need a twenty-year water tank” is feeling especially precinct these days.

— Katie Yale, Digital Editor


Rape of the World

Tracy Chapman


“This the beginning of the end // This the most heinous of crimes // This the deadliest of sins // The greatest violation of all time”


From the first word to the last, the entire song calls us to account. A #metoo song for the environment.

— Tracie Butler-Kurth, Philanthropic Strategist


Gone Green

Brad Paisley


“It’s the littlest thing we take for granted when we sacrifice to save the planet.”


I first heard this song while visiting family (I don’t typically listen to country music, but they do). It’s refreshingly direct, even a little tongue-in-cheek.

— Tracie Butler-Kurth, Philanthropic Strategist



The Source / Paradise Valley / Mercury

Honey and the Sting


“Water runs free and clear, wash away obstacles, fears, wash away to the sea”


I could have added every song from this album, From Source to Sea, which follows the journey of the Connecticut River, but these three are particularly special to me. “The Source” evokes water flowing from the land out to the sea, and carrying away obstacles with its steady, undulating movement. “Paradise Valley” gives a personality to the river that made the valley where I live luscious and fertile; it reminds me of how our relationship with our environment has to be a give-and-take. And “Mercury” speaks to our carelessness and the long-term ramifications of short-term solutions.

— Donovan Arthen, Director of Finance and Operations



The Narcissist Cookbook


“When my skin feels like a barrier between everything else in this universe and me, then I try to remember that there very well may be a link between us that I cannot see.”


This song is a recent discovery of mine and I love the reminder it gives us about the interconnected nature of life — how we are not separate despite what seems like our best efforts to differentiate ourselves from the more-than-human.

— Donovan Arthen, Director of Finance and Operations


Wasteland, Baby!



“And the stench of the sea and the absence of green // Are the death of all things that are seen and unseen // Not an end but the start of all things that are left to do”

Both a love song at the end of the world and an acknowledgment that the end can be a new beginning, this song calls for action and the recognition of beautiful moments in the darkest of times.

— Kim Schmidt, Digital Production Intern


Monkey Gone to Heaven



“Now there’s a hole in the sky // And the ground’s not cold”

Like so many formative albums, I first heard Doolittle from the upstairs hallway of my childhood home, muffled through the sound of my brother’s bedroom door. All that came through were the album’s peaks, the moments when you pity the microphone under the weight of Frank Black’s sudden howls. This song howls at the climate crisis like no other. Yes there’s stuff in here about Poseidon and apparently some Hebrew numerology, but what I heard through the door was the sorrow and rage at a generation handing itself over to a fate that even forty years ago felt inevitable.

— Sumanth Prabhaker, Editor-in-Chief


S.O.S. (Mother Nature)


“The environment is fragile // and we been on the gradual // Declining in a lifetime or lose the battle”

In just a little over four minutes, this brooding final track on the artist’s 2007 album Songs About Girls identifies the root causes of the climate crisis as political corruption and capitalism.

— Amy Brady, Executive Director



Gary Numan


“This was always your one life // I won’t pretend that it matters // But don’t you wish you’d just listened more? // This was always your one home // I won’t pretend that I’ll miss you // But don’t you wish you’d just listened more?”


Gary Numan, the godfather of electronic music, was inspired to make his latest album, Intruder, by a poem his daughter wrote about climate change. According to Numan, every song on the album is from Earth’s point of view. My own kid got hooked on Numan through Intruder because of the musicality, but like all teenagers, our imperiled planet is a permanent fixture in their consciousness.

— Tara Miner, Editorial Production Manager


Oh, What a World

Kacey Musgraves


“Oh, what a world, I don’t wanna leave // There’s all kinds of magic, it’s hard to believe”

The first time I heard this song I was camping. Its swirling, spacey chords and guitars captured the awe and wonder of the stars above so perfectly I thought the sky itself was singing.

— Amy Brady, Executive Director


The Space Program

A Tribe Called Quest


“The heat, the heat, the heat, the heat”

As the wealthy invest in roads to higher ground, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg train their eyes on the rest of us. How will we inhabit a planet that was abandoned by those in search of new worlds to ruin? To A Tribe Called Quest, the space program isn’t an exploration of frontiers, it’s a door closing before we can escape.

— Sumanth Prabhaker, Editor-in-Chief



Abraham Marder


“Gone into the rain today // wet fields of green … you call my name // you wave and scream // but I can’t hear anything.”

The song appears at the end of the film Sound of Metal (a story about a musician’s hearing loss). For me, it captures a sense of loss about the repercussions of not understanding Earth’s distress; it brought to mind the frustrations from missed opportunities to stem climate change over the last 30-40 years.

— Tracie Butler-Kurth, Philanthropic Strategist


Big Yellow Taxi

Joni Mitchell (Tribute by Strings Attached)


“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

It’s an old song, with references to DDT, which luckily we don’t use anymore, but we still use plenty of other biocides. I’m with Joni Mitchell on this: I don’t care about spots on my apples/ Leave me the birds and the bees

— Camille Dungy, Poetry Editor



Trouble in the Water

Common, Malik Yusef, Kumasi ft. Aaron Fresh, Choklate, Laci Kay

“They do the unthinkable // Water same color as tea // That’s still deemed drinkable”

This song remakes the spiritual to write a modern-day protest against practices that poison and pollute the world’s water.

— Camille Dungy, Poetry Editor


Go to The Woods

Dar Williams


“I am afraid of the woods // But what I fear more, what I fear most // More than the man, the beast, or the ghost // Is that the woods are disappearing”

I appreciate how this song is honest about the fact that not all of us feel safe in the woods, but that it’s still important to protect these spaces.

— Camille Dungy, Poetry Editor


What a Wonderful World

Louis Armstrong


“The colors of the rainbow // so pretty in the sky // are also on the faces // of people going by”

I just love how upbeat and embracing this song is. So many of the songs we put on these ecology playlists are justifiably angry. I love how Armstrong says all the same things, but out of a space of joyful love.


— Camille Dungy, Poetry Editor

Honorable Mention:


Vampire Blues

Neil Young


“I’m a vampire, baby, suckin’ blood from the earth // Well, I’m a vampire, babe, sell you twenty barrels worth”

I could have picked any number of Neil Young’s songs (“After the Goldrush” comes to mind)–he’s been writing and singing about corporate capitalism and the environment for decades, and hell, he’s got an album called The Monsanto Years–but I love the simple blusey droll on this one. Honorable mention status is because although he’s still rocking in the free world, Neil recently removed his music from Spotify.

— Katie Yale, Digital Editor



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This is a collection of Orion Staff contributions.