IQ FEBRUARY 28, 2024 - by Oumar Saleh


Music legends Brian Eno and Jarvis Cocker united for a special keynote session to close yesterday's Green Events and Innovations conference (GEI16).

The hour-long discussion at London's Royal Lancaster Hotel was chaired by Cathy Runciman of EarthPercent - a charity dedicated to linking the music industry to some of the most impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency.

Renowned producer and EarthPercent founder Eno previously headlined the event, which is organised by A Greener Future in partnership with ILMC, alongside Norwegian popstar Aurora and Grammy Award-winning artist and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier.

Eno shared the stage with Pulp frontman Cocker to sound off on the importance of a healthy planet, with the latter gracing the audience with a visual exploration of his "Biophobia". Here is a selection of highlights from the conversation...

Balancing activism with artistry...

Brian Eno: "I didn't suddenly want to give up being an artist to solely become a climate campaigner. But I thought, 'Why don't I just carry on being an artist, make the money I can make, and give it to the people who are doing the work?' I'm good at making things and I get paid well for it. They want to make something important too... in this case, they want to save the planet. So, why don't I just support them?

"There's a lovely Venn diagram about the Japanese word 'ikagai', and it's how you decide what you're going to do in your life. The diagram has four circles that intersect and they are: what I love doing, what I can get paid for, what the world needs, and what I'm good at. The intersection of these four things, if you can do it, is your sweet spot. That's what you ought to be doing."

The fear of hypocrisy...

BE: "Hug your hypocrisy [laughs]. You cannot help being a hypocrite in a system in which you're entangled. You could say, 'I'm a real purist, I'm not going anywhere or doing anything because it will involve taking a bus or a train or in some way wearing clothes that have been made somewhere that have been transported via a system that we're trying to change.' To some extent, we're going to be compromised by it, and will hopefully be less compromised as we change. I gave up flying many years ago, and I've successfully not flown except twice over the last eight years. It was really hard to do, but it was possible because I don't tour and because I don't have any relatives [laughs]!

"However, I understand that it's not a choice everybody can make. What I recommend is to just do it a little bit better, but don't do it too often. If you have to go to America, for example, put together as many meetings as possible to avoid repeat flights. It's such a Daily Mail thing to target someone and make a big story about them after they've been photographed with bags of shopping and getting into a car after they've complained about fossil fuels. It's not an important criticism."

The "difficulty" of making the climate justice movement more inclusive...

BE: "In America, there are over 450,000 different environmental groups. Some may belong to two or three of them, but it's unlikely that one person will belong to a thousand of them. So there are billions of people just in North America who are somehow grappling with this, and they either may be small groups trying to save a local lake, or a larger group like Friends of the Earth. But the facts are that there are millions, if not billions, of people who are in some way engaged with trying to tackle this important issue. Why don't we ever hear back from each other?

"In terms of numbers, we significantly outnumber the likes of those climate change deniers over at 55 Tufton Street. Trouble is, we don't know about each other. There's a book by a Russian historian by Alexei Yerchek called Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, which is about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the amazingness of being in a system that seemed to be absolutely fixed, set, unchangeable, which suddenly disappeared overnight. And I think this could happen here. I think we could reach a tipping point where everybody realises, 'Hey, we're part of this movement!'

"In Yerchek's book, he says revolutions happen in two phases: the first is when everybody realises that things aren't working right, and the second is where everybody realises that everybody else realises it. And that's a critical point, where there's a sudden coalescence. Everybody is fighting the same fight, so we have to get into that frame of mind. We are the majority, and we have the power. We just have to come together and make use of it."

Being a "biophilic"...

Jarvis Cocker: "I suffer from biophobia, which means I'm frightened of nature. I was probably born in this condition. But having been born in Sheffield, I didn't become aware of it until later in my life.

"I first realised that this condition was a problem for me when my now ex-wife glued together pages of Mary Motley Kalergis' illustrated book Giving Birth because I would feel faint at the most explicit images of women giving birth. Before she gave birth to our son, I was seriously worried about passing out or throwing up, but when it actually happened, I was supportive of her and even cut the umbilical cord. I realised at that moment that perhaps biophobia was something I could lose over time if I was prepared to work for it." His trip to the North Pole in 2008...

JC: "I went with a small group of fellow artists to the North Pole because we had come to see small icebergs. We were passengers on a voyage around Greenland organised by Cape Farewell, an organisation that took both scientists and artists to polar regions to investigate and react to something which was called climate change. The term was new to me at that point, and it seemed like a more widespread form of biophobia to me. More people were becoming scared of nature, and many of them seemed to believe that nature was turning against mankind.

"We sailed the Arctic Ocean for two weeks, and visited various sites in Greenland. On the very last day, we sailed through a channel to get back to the port we left from a fortnight earlier. I was standing alone at the deck of the ship, and I was looking at this landscape. Suddenly, out of the blue, I started crying. And for the past 15 years, I've been trying to find out why that was."

The myth of a "technological fix"...

JC: "There seems to be a worrying tendency for people to solve the problem of mankind's effects on the environment by meddling some more. Not very logical. Let me show you this small book called Salmon: A Red Herring, written by the artist duo Cooking Sections which consists of Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe. This book examines the detrimental effects of salmon farming on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and it's a very good example of what happens when man tries to play God.

"Here's an extract: when chemicals are ineffective, salmon are splashed with boiling water over short periods of time to remove the lice caused by intensive farming. This is an imprecise method. In 2016 over 175,000 Scottish salmon were boiled alive during a not uncommon accident. Here's another one: under the weight of accelerated growth, spines curve, tails shorten, and jaws bend. More than 90% of farmed fish are deformed. How much faith does that give you in a technological fix for climate change?"