2019’s Biggest Pop-Culture Trend: Climate Anxiety

According to Grist, 2019 was officially the year the ‘climate crisis’ went mainstream. Grist makes a point that no longer is mention of the warming atmosphere, melting ice sheets, and acidifying oceans — along with the resulting human suffering — limited to the “environment” section of the newspaper.

‘Climate Crisis’ appeared everywhere in 2019. Climate Crisis came up in movies, songs, and books meant for widespread consumption and the ‘crisis got  major airtme from the Democratic presidential candidates. Grist explains that climate anxiety definitely blew up in 2019, in everything from pop hits to the Impossible Whopper.


There has been no lack of climate change themes in some of the popular TV shows this year. Season 2 of HBO’s Big Little Lies spent an entire episode on the subject. The final season of The Affair jumped 30-plus years into the future to a climate change damaged Montauk.

New nature shows  came with a darker foreboding twist. Netflix’s nine-episode series Our Planet looked like Planet Earth at first glance. YouTube’s Hostile Planet series documents how animals adapt to extreme conditions, and blames ‘climate change.’


This year, we saw a great deal of  books about the Green New Deal, including On ???? by the Canadian, social activist, and well known critic of capitalism Naomi Klein. David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth had a broad reach, if its six-week stint on the New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list (and 3 million copies sold) is any indication.


The 8th-highest-grossing movie of the year Frozen II, the sequel to Disney’s 2013 masterpiece Frozen, wherein Anna and Elsa must save their kingdom from a natural world that is “out of balance” by reckoning with their family’s harmful environmental legacy.

Fast food 

Fast food became a ‘climate crisis’, about how “cutting carbon-intensive animal products from your diet is one of the simplest ways to significantly reduce your carbon footprint, and beef became the worst sinner of 2019, with 20 times the climate impact of plant-based proteins like beans and soy. So replacing our hamburgers with processed faux meat made of soy-and-coconut-oil. 2019 might be the first year that fake burgers got big.”


Celebrities didn’t hesitate to speak up about climate change this year. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made the environment their ‘issue of the Month’ in July. They were blasted for being climate change hypocrites after taking two private jet trips in one week. Pictures emerged of the royal couple in Nice, on the French Riviera boarding with their son a 12-seater Cessna, which costs around $24,000. The Cessna would have generated seven times more carbon emissions per person than a standard commercial flight.

The 81-year-old-star Jane Fonda, wanted her chance in the limelight and first got arrested in October for protesting climate action” in solidarity with the Fridays for Future movement, the weekly school strike for climate action started by Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg.” Fonda has been protesting every Friday, getting arrested, and her famous friends — including Sam Waterson and Sally Fields — have been joining her.

Pop music

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” catchy tune even involves ‘climate change’ – Lil Nas claimed on Twitter . Other artists like “Billie Eilish” and “Lana Del Ray” included ‘climate anxiety’ in their music and used the burning planet as a backdrop against the usual pop-song stuff, like the triumphs and woes of growing up and falling in love. The 1975 teamed up with Greta Thunberg, youth activist and Time Person of the Year, to record a “song” that’s just her reading one of her speeches over background instrumentals.

This mass climate change charade shows no signs of slowing down, and will no doubt continue well into 2020.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met, and married an American journalist and moved to D.C from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A in Graphic, Media and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

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