Three questions on music and climate engagement with Supreetha Krishnan and Sara Wilson

The MIT Climate Machine, an ESI program to bring climate knowledge and engagement to arts experiences, has been busy this summer and fall creating interactive exhibits at music festivals across the United States and Europe. With our partners at Anjunabeats and the Involved Group, the Climate Machine has set up augmented reality posters to probe festival-goers’ level of concern about climate change and readiness to take new action.

We’ve also brought on two new team members, Supreetha Krishnan and Sara Wilson, to participate in design and research for the Climate Machine. To introduce Supreetha and Sara, we asked them three questions about music and climate engagement.

Why are music festivals promising places to reach people with climate knowledge?

Sara: The strong ties within music fanbases (that I’ve both witnessed through our research and experienced as a fan myself) are an incredible launch-point upon which climate engagement can develop. Our aim is to connect people within these communities to others who share similar interests in climate action, thereby building upon their preexisting bond as fans to evolve into climate communities.

Supreetha: Music festivals are spaces where a wide variety of people from different backgrounds come together to enjoy music; to listen to someone else. We believe there is a huge opportunity here to reach people with climate knowledge and we are trying to find creative ways of doing so. We want to understand what can drive this group of people to live more sustainably and to learn from them how music festivals can become more sustainable. For music festivals to survive and stay relevant, they will have to address their emissions and waste and the live entertainment industry is starting to realize its responsibility towards the planet. Can a shared interest in music and in artists unite all these people to change their habits? And as a result, can attendees demand climate conscious decision making from festival organizers?

Do you come to this work from a background in climate communication? Music? Both?

Supreetha: My involvement with this project is driven by the urgency of climate change and my love for attending live music events. I have a background in design: design of products, services, and installations. Climate action and sustainability have always been close to my heart and central to my work. I also grew up learning music, and I’m currently trying my hand at making music.

Sara: While my research experience is focused in climate communication, I believe my background in music (as a pianist, composer, and—most importantly—a fan) will be essential to this research. As climate education is the first step to building climate communities, the MIT Climate Machine is exploring artistic strategies to increase engagement with and retention of this information. This includes translating our data into music compositions, through which we aim to spur curiosity and discussion around climate action.

What have your first projects with the MIT Climate Machine taught you about effective climate engagement?

Supreetha: When dealing with a public audience, in our case music festival attendees, I feel it is important to provide information at different levels, using different media, whether it is augmented reality, music, film or a written piece. Different kinds of messaging can reach different people. With the Climate Machine, we are experimenting with different and yet interesting ways to engage people, visualize information and motivate them to engage with climate research.

Sara: Our first experiences have been inspiring, and I’m increasingly optimistic about the potential of climate engagement within fan communities as a consequence.  So many people care about the climate, but they don’t necessarily know what to do or how to start. With the Climate Machine, I believe we can begin developing methods to connect these communities with essential resources that will catalyze their engagement in climate action.