Columns

Rolling Stones' Chuck Leavell: Longer Summers in South Prove Climate Change Is 'Undeniable'

Chuck Leavell performs with The Rolling Stones at Bobby Dodd Stadium on June 9, 2015, in Atlanta. (Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP)

WASHINGTON – Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, an environmental activist, said a U.S. government ban on gasoline and diesel vehicles is “inevitable” as a way to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Leavell also weighed in on President Trump’s continued use of Rolling Stones’ music at his rallies. In 2016, the Stones said the Trump campaign did not seek permission to play their music at his rallies and asked him to stop. Trump played the Stones’ hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” during a rally held earlier this month in Mississippi.

Leavell was asked for his opinion of Trump still playing the Rolling Stones’ music despite the band’s public opposition.

“The band has asked him not to – that’s all I know. They’re not songs I have any control over or that I’ve written but they’re songs I’ve certainly had the pleasure of playing many, many times – and so I respect the wishes of the band, and I think they would like to see it cease,” Leavell told PJM during a recent interview at the Choose Outdoors Partner Awards reception, which was organized to support the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program for 2018.

In 2016, lead singer Mick Jagger explained that he is not able to stop Trump from using his music.

“Some of that publishing goes in the early days beyond their control, so that’s an issue that’s controlled by others,” Leavell said.

Trump frequently uses “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” after his speech ends at rallies. PJM asked Leavell if he thinks the meaning of the song is connected to what’s going on in the country today.

“It means a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s a wonderful piece. I have a friend who tells his daughter that phrase, you know, ‘honey, you can’t always get what you want but if you try you’ll get what you need.’ You know, so, I think it’s a wonderful phrase that means a lot to a lot of people. I think it’s a very real phrase – a very honest phrase,” he replied.

Leavell, who joined Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week during the lighting of the 2018 Agriculture Department Christmas tree, shared his views on the Trump administration’s handling of environmental issues.

“I would like to see the administration step up and do more, obviously. I was not all that pleased that we pulled out of the Paris Accord. I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done for our country and our planet and, we’ll see, hopefully things will change for the positive,” Leavell said.

“When people ask me: what can I do? Plant a tree. Talk to your community. Talk to your church. Talk to your school. Get the kids involved and go out there and plant 12, 15, 100 trees and make a difference and talk about it and read about it and learn about it,” he added.

Countries such as the United Kingdom have enacted a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 and the Indian government has set a goal for companies to sell only electric vehicles by 2030. Democratic lawmakers have proposed a bill to ban gas and diesel vehicles by 2035.

Leavell was asked for his opinion of a ban on gas and diesel vehicles.

“I think it’s inevitable. I think you’re seeing recently GM is laying off a lot of people. We don’t like to see the loss of jobs, but what we do like to see is they’re starting to look forward – they’re going to change their paradigm of the vehicles they make. We’re going to autonomous or driverless vehicles,” he replied. “We’re going to more hybrids and electric vehicles to help decrease the fossil fuel usage and so forth. We’re seeing this all over the country, well, all over the world, and hopefully we’ll see it more and more in this country.”

Leavell, co-creator of the Mother Nature Network, was also asked if he agrees with politicians who believe the world does not have much longer to wait to take further action on climate change.

“I can tell you this. I’m 66 years old. I grew up in the South; I grew up in Alabama. I live in Georgia now. I remember the Septembers in my youth – you always needed a jacket. It was cool. These days, the weather doesn’t really get cool down there until October, November. It’s undeniable. The changes are coming,” Leavell said.

“We have seen the evidence of the shrinking of the polar caps. This is very disturbing. We keep breaking records year after year – the hottest summer we’ve ever had in this part of the country or that part of the country. We’ve seen the devastation of forest fires. We’ve seen the increase of really bad storms – recently in south Georgia we had Hurricane Michael devastated a billion dollars’ worth of timber,” he added.

Leavell elaborated on steps he has personally taken to “go green.”

“My wife and I are tree farmers. We live on our land. We work our land. When I’m not rocking and rolling, you’ll find me on a tractor. You’ll find me in the woods working and trying to improve the land and do everything that we can to be good stewards of the land. In terms of what we can all do, I think the evidence is very, very clear we live in somewhat troubled times with our environment,” he said.

“I think we need to take the bull by the horns – make a lot of changes and try to be kinder to our planet. Look, I’m a grandfather. I’m a father. I would like to see our future generations have a good shot at living comfortably and living well on this Earth and in our country. I think we can all do better.”