When singer-songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens wrote “Where Will the Children Play?” in 1970, the song, with its vivid lyrics of ecological destruction, became a beacon for environmentalists.
Nearly five decades later, the song has been given a new music video that depicts one of the most pressing environmental threats in recent years: plastic pollution.
The video, directed by Chris Hopewell, is in the style of claymation and shows two children navigating an industrial wasteland mired in plastic pollution.
Ninety percent of the video was made using recycled materials.
“The track itself has a very strong environmental message, so we decided very early on that the video itself should have as low an environmental impact as possible,” Hopewell said in a statement. “Film production can cause a lot of waste as a by-product of the model-making, set, scenery design, and construction, so we went into this trying to use as much recycled, upcycled material as possible.”
In one scene, the children free fish from a net that was made from plastic waste gathered from a beach in South Wales, according to Rolling Stone.
“We collected 10 Ikea bags of washed-up plastic waste and barely made a dent!” Hopewell added. “I’d like the video to make people think about the legacy of what we’re leaving for future generations. We need a total rethink about the way we consume.”
In another scene, the children confront a factory spewing plastic waste and emissions into the environment. The children ride to the top of the factory to shut it down with the help of other people.
Ultimately, the story strikes a hopeful tone, showing that a plastic-free future is possible.
The video was produced to coincide with the Plastic Free July campaign, which calls on people to refuse single-use plastics for the month of July. An additional series of behind-the-scenes videos, released over the past week, explores the environmentally conscious process of making the music video.
The movement to move beyond plastic has gained momentum in recent years as awareness of the scale of plastic waste becomes better known.
The world has produced an estimated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste over the past several decades, and 91% of it hasn’t been recycled.
This plastic waste contaminates marine and land environments and pervades the air we breathe. It has been shown to injure, impair, and kill animals, and disrupts ecosystems.
In the Netherlands, 11-year-old Lilly Platt is leading plastic clean-up initiatives. In Cameroon, Forbi Perise is educating students about the problem of plastic waste and working with local fishermen to stop the problem. Hundreds of other youth are attending plastic clean-up bootcamps.
In this way, the refrain of “Where Will the Children Play?” is being answered by children themselves who are making their own space, insisting on a clean environment.