Stephan Crawford is founder and executive producer at The ClimateMusic Project where he uses music to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis. Stephan has a fascinating background in international affairs and had a 20-year career with the US Dept. of Commerce supporting US clean energy companies around world.  Already aware of the climate crisis, his attention has now turned to his other passion, music. As executive producer at The ClimateMusic Project, he collaborates with professionals in the sciences, arts and technology, and uses music to communicate the severity of the climate crisis and the need for urgent action.  Music is such a powerful form of communication as it allows you to connect directly with people’s feelings.

Find Stephan Crawford here:

The Climate Music Project:

#Leadership #Commitment #EmotionalIntelligence #EQ #climatechange #music

[Video Transcript]

Matt Schlegel:                   How are you feeling about climate change and how are those feelings influencing your behaviors? Thanks for joining me in conversations with leaders who are engaging with their feelings as a leadership tool for both inspiration and motivation. Today, I’m speaking with Stephan Crawford, founder and executive producer at the ClimateMusic Project which uses music to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis. And now for the conversation…

My guest is Stephan Crawford. Stephan has a fascinating background in International Affairs and had a 20 year career with the US Department of Commerce supporting US Clean Energy companies around the world. Already aware of the climate crisis, his attention has now turned towards his other passion, music. He is the founder and executive producer at the ClimateMusic Project which in collaboration with professionals in the Sciences, Arts and Technology uses music to communicate the severity of the climate crisis and the need for urgent action. Music is such a powerful form of communication as it allows you to connect directly with people’s feelings. I’m so excited for the conversation. Thank you, Stephan, for joining me today.

Stephan Crawford:          Thank you for the invitation. I’m pleased to be here.

Matt Schlegel:                   Yeah. So why don’t we just start off and I’d just like to know how you are feeling about climate change now?

Stephan Crawford:          So many emotions and yet also somewhat numb. I did my very first or I participated in my very first climate event in 1988 so that’s a long time. And I mean, I think the emotions started then and I’ve gotten to the point though where the emotions are there but I can’t let them overwhelm… At least in terms feeling of sorrow or a feeling of loss or despair, I have to put those in the background in order to even just every day to be able to function. So in a way it’s controlling emotions but I think the other thing I should mention is that my generation, I think you probably, will also remember this. We grew up also at a time when there was another issue which was the threat of instantaneous nuclear annihilation growing up. That was also an emotional hit so I think our generation has been, I think, conditioned to having to deal with really difficult emotions on a constant basis.

Matt Schlegel:                   Right. Well, so it’s really interesting how you brought up sorrow and grief. Do you find that those are the main underlying motivations? I know all of us probably, cycle through anger, anxiety, grief but it sounds like your starting point is more in that sense of loss.

Stephan Crawford:          Yeah. I mean, I think you start with what you love, right? I mean, what the motive force for me is the fact that I think that I love life. I love this planet we’re living on, I love the individuals in my life. And the thought of losing any of that of course, does immediately bring up a sense of despair, loss and sorrow. But again, as I said, that those can be very debilitating if you let them be debilitating and so for me over all these years now, I’ve just become very good at compartmentalize those emotions and keeping them in a box somewhere in my subconscious. And the other emotions that are the more driving emotions like anger and I think just a sense of frustration are the ones that actually, keep me going on a day to day basis.

Matt Schlegel:                   Right. Oh, that’s fascinating. Thank you for sharing that. And that leads me into my next question then, how are your feelings influencing your behaviors and direction as a leader today?

Stephan Crawford:          Well, I think they’re what keep me going, they’re the motive force. It’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. I think that we live at a time when we could be preserving this Eden that we share with the rest of life because we have the knowledge to do so we have all the tools we need to do so and yet we are not choosing to do so which for me is just absolutely, almost unbelievable. And I think the motive emotions for me right now is just a very strong desire to combat human stupidity and small mindedness in all of its forms to really get us onto a plane where we can really appreciate what we have been given and work to preserve it and to cherish it which we’re certainly, not doing in our current system, that’s for sure.

Matt Schlegel:                   And I’m getting the sense it’s that people haven’t come to that same sense of feeling the problem like you have. And so how are you finding that your music is able to connect the climate problem with people’s feelings?

Stephan Crawford:          Yeah. I come from a fairly privileged background, I have to admit that. I mean, that is something with the case. And so I’ve had the opportunity to have taken aa graduate degree in Environmental Sciences for example, and have had the opportunity to meet people and to talk about the issue and to have it very present in my life because I’ve had the space in my life for it. I haven’t had to work two or three jobs. That’s a really important factor and I think our society has gotten to a point where most people are struggling. At least most people I know are struggling outside of my immediate circle. And so it’s not hard to understand why people are not able to internalize the problem and really fully become aware of where we are, it’s because there’s so many distractions right now.

And then also it’s scary. It’s scary at the same time, it’s abstract and so I think that our society’s in a point where it’s almost like a perfect storm against awareness and against action because there’s so many things that can actually get people off rail when it comes down to trying to learn about it and even… And then once you know about it trying to act. So I think music is something though that is very primitive in us, it’s very visceral in us, it’s very intuitive in us. And I think it’s something that, because so many people connect with it, not everybody but most people do connect with music that it is an important vehicle, a very powerful vehicle to begin the process of driving that awareness and new insight that can lead to opening hearts and through open hearts, open minds.

Matt Schlegel:                   Yeah. That is so important and I think you described the situation that we’re in so well. Where we’re also busy in our day to day working in the system that it’s hard to pop out and just think about working on the system. And we’re not going to get people to do that unless we connect with their hearts. And like you said, music is just one of the most powerful forms of communication for doing that. So thank you so much for this absolutely, important work that you’re doing.

Stephan Crawford:          It’s been a gift, actually.

Matt Schlegel:                   Yeah. And I expect that as you succeed in what you are doing, more people are going to be having feelings about the climate and then as they come into those feelings and they’re motivated in their various ways what advice would you give to leaders and aspiring leaders that are having these feelings? What advice would you give them now?

Stephan Crawford:          Well, one of the things I want to just say parenthetically perhaps, is that I think what’s really important is to have… Even for those people who think they know a lot about the issue and I include myself in that, to have some humility and to really understand that we all need to keep learning from each other, learning from people we don’t think we can learn anything from. I think that’s really important and I’m just looking at my own trajectory over the last years and my understanding of the issue has evolved dramatically to the point where now I used to see it as more of a technological problem that technology could fix a long time ago. And I’ve moved to an understanding that really it’s a symptom, it’s the climate emergency is not a monolithic problem. It’s a symptom of how the many dysfunctional ways that we have organized our society and our economy.

And as a result, there are many concomitant symptoms that also reflect this, for example, structural racism and poverty. These are all related symptoms of what we need to fix and so that’s really important to understand that we all need to continue to grow. And I’m working on that all the time in terms of what I would suggest to somebody who maybe is just getting started. The most important thing I think is learning more about the issues, the first step. And there are many great resources out there if you’re really brand new to the issue, check out for example, the EPA website or the NASA website that has a lot of great information there. If you know a little bit more and you’re ready to get started, check out and see how you might reduce your own footprint as a first step.

There’s the global footprint network has a carbon calculator where you can actually, it’s interactive. You can play around with numbers, it’s really interesting to see how you can make or reduce the carbon intensity of your own life. And then probably, most important right now for everybody is especially, with the midterm elections coming up is voting for candidates who support rapid climate action. That is incredibly important because what happens in November will really set the stage for how well the United States is going to be able to deal with this issue and we have to deal with it now. And then beyond that, I have to say that just start somewhere and keep walking. What I think what is really amazing is and what gives me hope is the power of individuals to make a difference.

And it all starts with a first step and then another step and if you repeat it, I think you’ll be surprised how far you can go. The ClimateMusic project just began as an idea in my studio here and playing with the idea, we took one step then another step and just a few years later, we’re here. So I think that there’s a lot that can be done just by talking to people. So that’s the other thing is if you feel like your neighbors don’t know much about the issue, invite them over, maybe start a learning group together with your neighbors. And once you’ve all learned together then figure out ways to work together in community to, for example, influence policy or to make changes in your community.

So there are many things that we can do. And the other thing I should mention is that all these things have co benefits, they can strengthen your community. They can make people who otherwise might feel isolated, let feel less isolated. So there are many possibilities of building virtual circles here which I think ultimately, will make everybody’s lives better. And that’s the other important point here is that we have to all understand that by solving this problem and really solving it again, solving it as solving the actual problems within our society not just climate change as a symptom, I think we really can create a world that’s within our grasp that really will make life better for virtually everybody. And that is something that everybody should really understand and really take to the heart and that’s something that I think should really motivate people as well.

Matt Schlegel:                   Yeah. Beautifully said. Boy, and I was just ticking off all the great ideas in there and just to highlight what you did is you took your knowledge and passion around climate change and then intersected that with your passion around music and you just so perfectly, highlight how no matter where you are, you can take whatever you’re passionate about and apply it to helping us solve the climate crisis.

Stephan Crawford:          Absolutely.

Matt Schlegel:                   Building communities. So I just think you are a really extraordinary example of the power of that. And so thank you again, for all of the great work that you’re doing. And I would love to have you come back and give us an update as you move forward with the ClimateMusic project. And thanks again for joining me in the conversation today, Stephan.

Stephan Crawford:          Thank you, Matt. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Matt Schlegel:                   Thanks for watching. Stephan has long had feelings about the climate crisis and he shared that his starting feelings tend to be sorrow, loss and despair. And since those feelings can be quite debilitating, he’s learned to compartmentalize those and tap into other feelings that give him more motivation on a day to day basis. That is such great advice from Stephan. Also, I love all the suggestions that he has for leaders and aspiring leaders who are having feelings about climate. He serves as such a great example himself by emphasizing the importance of simply communicating how you’re feeling about climate with others in your circles whether that be in conversations or using music as Stephan does. If you found this conversation helpful, please click on the thumbs up button, subscribe to the channel and get notifications of future episodes. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thanks again.

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