SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

Will climate change give us the blues?

Climate change is predicted to intrude into almost every area of life - from where we live, to what we eat and whom we war with. Now music can be added to the list.

Will climate change give us the blues?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That's the unusual idea put forward by British researchers at a conference in Vienna, who say the weather has powerfully but discreetly influenced the soundtrack to our lives.

And tastes in songs are likely to change as the climate shifts.

Fancy listening to the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" when you are grinding out yet another long, sweaty heat wave?

"These assumptions we have about certain weather being good and certain weather being bad, like sun being good — that might change," researcher Karen Aplin of the University of Oxford told AFP at a European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.

In Europe, "people are like: 'Oh, yes!' when it's summer," she said.

"But if it's going to be 40 degrees (Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit) every summer for 10 years… that might change how people feel about the weather and the emotions they link to it."

Aplin and five other scientists combed through databases of more than 15,000 pop songs, finding statistical backing for the assumption that our moods are strongly swayed by the weather.

These emotions, in turn, are expressed in the music that artists compose and what the public likes to hear.

The team looked at some of the most popular English-language songs, mainly from the United States and Britain, from the 1950s to today — drawing heavily from an online karaoke website.

They searched song titles, band names and lyrics for references to weather.

"We found about 800," said Aplin. Of the 500 greatest songs of all time, as listed by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011, a whole seven percent were weather-related.

Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the most prolific in this category.

The sun was referenced most often, followed closely by rain, although "pretty much all types of weather came up", said Aplin.

The seasons and wind or breeze were third and fourth most popular, while "frost" and "blizzard" were at the bottom of the list.

Love and relationships were unsurprisingly the biggest single category for weather metaphors — "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone," crooned Bill Withers, while Billie Holiday lamented the "Stormy weather" after a breakup.

"What we found about pop music was that the lyrics can be used very clearly to link the weather to a particular emotion, and usually the sun is positive and rain is negative," said Aplin.

An exception was some Country and Western songs, which "talked about rain as a positive thing: it brings crops and food," said the atmospheric physicist who also plays double bass in an orchestra.

Stormy weather

The researchers were intrigued to find that in the 1950s, an active decade for hurricanes, more music was written about wind and storms.

This highlights the potential for a shift in musical themes if climate change brings ever-more frequent extreme weather events, as predicted.

Chirpy songs about sunshine and gentle summer breezes could get elbowed in favour of darker, more dramatic fare.

Based on present carbon emission trends, say climate scientists, worsening droughts, floods and storms as well as rising seas are waiting for us a few decades from now.

"Under climate change, the type of weather people are influenced by to write might change," said Aplin.

"You might find more songs about severe weather because that is more part of people's live, or a backdrop to their lives, than the weather we have now."

The research paper, which Aplin said had been accepted to appear in the Royal Meteorological Society publication "Weather" in May, will have an online link to the list of songs compiled so far, with an open invitation for people to add to it.

By Mariette Le Roux, AFP

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HEALTH

Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

The government passes on the costs for ambulances, but the compulsory health insurance might cover the payments - in some very specific cases.

Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Austria has a health system with compulsory health insurance for its citizens, similar to many of its neighbouring countries. Everyone is insured, either by their employer, themselves, or, in some cases, by the state.

However, the insurance models can get complicated and the “who pays for what” question can result in some costly responses. In the case of an emergency, when an ambulance is called, the professional rescue is made by the government ambulances and rescue service.

The costs are then paid for by the health insurance fund, with 75 per cent of Austrians covered by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK).

Can the health insurance companies refuse? 

The health insurance companies refuse to cover the costs for four main reasons, according to the City of Vienna: when the person is not insured at the time of the rescue operation, when there is no “medical emergency”, in cases of alcohol or drug abuse, and in case the person is found dead when the emergency services arrive.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

The exceptions are not without controversy, and patient lawyer Sigrid Pilz criticises the “lack of love in the procedure”, according to statements she has given in Austrian media.

There is also very little clarity on what qualifies as a “medical emergency”, and the health insurer says that it will cover costs when the insured person is “unable to talk and cannot use public transport due to their physical or mental condition, even with an accompanying person”.

“Only medical reasons count”, according to the ÖGK website.

Air rescue in Austria

Another significant exception to the insurance coverage concerns air rescue. The ÖGK says that it will cover the costs of domestic transport by aircraft if the patient is in danger of death, and the urgency calls for air transport. Additionally, the medical necessity must be proven by a doctor and recognised by the ÖGK.

The insurance company highlights that this does not include “accidents in the practice of sport and tourism on the mountain” – a not so rare occurrence in the Alpine country.

On its website, ÖGK reiterates that it “recommends taking appropriate precautions. Otherwise, an emergency can quickly become a big financial problem”.

The “appropriate precautions”, according to expert lawyers, would include hiring private insurance.

How much does it cost to call an ambulance?

The fees for emergency rescue are set by the municipal council in Austria. In Vienna, there is a lump payment of €709 for any use of the public rescue service – even if both assistance and transport have been deemed unnecessary.

There is also a €30 fee for each kilometre driven if the assistance is needed outside the city limits.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

The fee is valid from the moment an ambulance leaves its station. In practical terms, this means that if somebody faints on the street and a third person calls the ambulance in concern, emergency service will come. Even if the patient wakes up well and does not require assistance, they will receive a €709 bill.

There are several cases of people who called an ambulance after foot injuries, or due to high fever, for example, and as they were not considered “severe enough”, received the payment request.

It is worth mentioning that there are also ways to waive or reduce the fee, including in cases of low income or after direct negotiation with the insurance company.

It is not difficult to find examples, especially among immigrant groups and Austrian media.

In one case, shared on social media, Irina B. was a student in Vienna when she got sick with a high fever and dry cough – before the coronavirus pandemic. She decided to call the emergency ambulance and received a quick checkup at home and the recommendation to “drink a lot of tea”.

“On the day after, I went to my doctor, and he gave me treatment recommendations. I almost forgot about this story, but four months later I received a letter asking me to pay around € 700”, she wrote.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s new rules around sick leave for employees?

She decided to go to the main insurance office with her doctor’s sick note. The ÖGK representative told her to call the general health line 1450 in cases such as hers in the future and waived the payment.

“He said it was my first penalty, and I also suppose the certificate from my doctor really helped”, Irina said.

What should you do to avoid the high ambulance costs?

The best way to avoid ambulance costs is to call the Austrian health line at 1450. The health workers are trained to give advice on the phone.

They can quickly assess whether you need an ambulance or not – they can also call for you immediately.

The health line can also give medical advice if there is no emergency and call a doctor to your house if necessary.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’ and should you take it?

Whenever travelling, even inside Austria, primarily if you practise winter sports, it is worth considering private insurance with air rescue coverage.

Costs for helicopter rescues could add up to thousands of euros. The compulsory insurers will not cover in most cases.

SHOW COMMENTS