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Voices

Ellie Goulding Is a Climate Change Activist as Much As She's a Pop Star

VICE Impact chats with the Grammy-nominated artist on the roots of her activism, her role models, and how she is using her star power to champion environmental protection.

by Madeline Moitozo
Oct 19 2017, 5:45pm

Image via Facebook.

When British pop star Ellie Goulding was a little girl, thinking about our planet would keep up her at night. And while she discovered music as her life's purpose, her commitment to mother Earth has been with her since birth. "When I was really young I was really affected by the enormity of the planet. I am talking like six years old," the Grammy nominated artist told VICE Impact. "I was really affected by just how spectacular the idea was that this is the only planet with livable life. I think I was really overwhelmed by that."

When fame found her at the age of 21 with the debut of her first studio album, Lights, the next five years flew by in a chaotic whirlwind of live performances and jam packed schedules. Goulding also dealt with crippling anxiety, which she has publically vocalized her struggle with and triumph over. But in the wake of her learning to fight her inner demons, something else happened.

"As [my anxiety] balanced out and I started to be at peace with what I do as an artist," she said. "It dawned on me as it came up more in the news that I could be seek out climate change … and everything came back to me from when I was a kid."

Goulding then decided to use her voice offstage to bring attention to the cause.

From encouraging her millions of fans to sign up for World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour, to collaborating with jewelry designer Daisy London on a bracelet that funds environmental initiative, she is ambitiously versatile in her efforts. She even used an invitation to appear as a guest on Sesame Street to reach the America's youngest television audience. When given a suggested song list, she took the opportunity to ask if she could sing about something related to climate change instead.

"At first they were like, 'That's kind of heavy.' Then they got back to me and suggested we do a song about where water comes from and how it helps things grow and keeps everybody happy," Goulding remembers, "So we ended up doing that and it was a great experience, but to me the most important thing was getting through to the younger generation."

Like many artists, Goulding seeks to learn from the greatness that came before her. Applying the same ardor to her activism, British primatologist and fierce animal rights activist Jane Goodall and conservationist Rachel Carson have served as her north stars. "There were so many women in the '70s who were championing [combatting climate change]. I recently read [Carson's] Silent Spring, which is not the most positive book, but is important in illustration of the impact of pesticides." Ellie said.

Goulding receiving the Global Leadership Award. (Photo via Diane Bondareff/ UN Foundation)

This week Goulding is being honored by the United Nations Foundation with the prestigious Global Leadership Award, praising her commitment to educate her fans and raise her voice as an advocate. Others honored include Senator Bob Corker, for his work ending modern day slavery, United Nations Mine Action Service, for 20 years of life-saving work to mitigate the threats of mine remnants from war, his Highness Aga Kahn for his humanitarian leadership, and the chocolate giant Mars Inc. for their approach to sustainability.

"When Ellie Goulding uses her voice, people listen," says Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of United Nations Foundation. "She is using her platform to raise awareness about the need to safeguard our planet and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.Her passion for helping the planet makes her an obvious choice for the United Nations Foundation's 2017 Global Leadership Award. "

When asked what being honored with the award means to her, Goulding was lighthearted. "It means that I can pester my friends in an official capacity," she said, adding, "The opportunity to work with other people in a unified way who are passionate about the cause, who really spend their time researching and investing their time becoming experts, to me is like a dream come true."

Learn more about the WWF Earth Hour and Goulding's work with Daisy London.

You can also check out more information about the UN Foundation's campaigns and how you can get involved.