Like many writers I know, I find that having some tunes playing in the background often helps make the words and sentences come more easily. Usually I go for classical or jazz (I don’t want other people’s words distracting me), but sometimes I opt for rock or country and bluegrass or hip-hop. For some reason, this spring Neil Young’s modern classic After the Gold Rush was in heavy rotation on my turntable while I was writing on topics as diverse as the California drought, ivory smuggling, and wildness in the twenty-first century. The title track, you might remember, includes these indelible lines:
“Look at Mother Nature on the run/
in the nineteen seventies”
Listening to the lyrics again and again made me wonder: If Mother Nature was on the run 40 years ago, what would Neil Young think about the state of the environment today, as climate change impacts the entire biosphere and civilization slams the pedal toward the sixth mass extinction? Maybe, “Look at Mother Nature under the gun/ in the twenty-first century”?
Well, looks like I have something of an answer. Last week Neil Young released his latest album, The Monsanto Years, a double-barreled protest album that takes aim at “the thoughtless plundering” of Earth, genetically modified foods, and the power of giant corporations like, you guessed it, Monsanto (and Starbucks, too). Here’s what Rolling Stone had to say about The Monsanto Years:
He’s rarely driven his point home as vehemently as on The Monsanto Years, a jeremiad against the agrochemical behemoth of the title and what he sees as American farming’s Frankenstein future. “From the fields of Nebraska/To the banks of the Ohio/Farmers won’t be free to grow/What they want to grow,” Young sings at one point. If the imagery evokes Woody Guthrie, the righteous rock & roll fire is pure Neil.
This is garage-to-table grousing for a genetically engineered world, a landscape where you’re supposed to see some weeds. Young’s lyrics often sound like advocacy journalism or posts to a Daily Kos comments thread: “When the people of Vermont/Voted to label food with GMOs/So that they could find out what was in/What the farmer grows/Monsanto and Starbucks, through the Grocery/Manufacturers Alliance/They sued the state of Vermont/To overturn the people’s will,” he proclaims on “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop,” a jaunty rant with a whistled refrain.
As a longtime fan, I can’t wait to buy the album and hear what Young has to say. And I’m psyched to report that the admiration is, in a way, mutual. A couple of weeks ago Young invited Earth Island Journal to join him on his upcoming Rebel Content Tour promoting The Monsanto Years.
Young chose the Journal as one of a select group of magazines that will be featured at a “News You Can Trust” tent during all of the tour’s concerts. We’re in good company: Young’s other trustworthy media sources are The Nation, Mother Jones, YES!, and Permaculture Magazine. I’m guessing that Earth Island Journal’s hard-hitting coverage of the biotech industry (see here, here and here) and our constant watchdogging of the oil and gas industry (see here, here and here) earned us a spot on that roster.
Young will be joined onstage by Promise of the Real, a band anchored by Micah and Lukas Nelson, sons of Willie Nelson. Band of Horses will open the show for the first half of the tour. Norah Jones’ band, Puss N Boots, will open for Young and Promise of the Real on the second half of the tour.
Here’s the Rebel Content Tour calendar:
Get your tickets today. When you’re at the concert nearest you, please come by and say “Hi” to the Journal team at our table.
And, hey, Neil – thanks much for reading, man.