Saudade and Climate

Source: Pixabay

The summer 2018 has been very warm, in my country and in many other countries. Temperature records have been set in many places, and the absence of rain has caused severe drought. The drought has in turn damaged vegetation and led to many forest fires. It is hard not to assume that the weather this summer is a sign of what exceedingly will come if we do not stop climate change. But our scientists have known about climate change for decades, and we should be worried about the future regardless of the weather this particular summer. Even if we had had a cold summer 2018 our worries about the future should have been the same.

Why do I write about climate change in a post on, a site that focuses on our experiences and love of music? It will soon be evident. An important connection is the Portuguese concept “saudade”, the sentiment of many fado songs.

Music has been important to me all my life, and I believe I share the love of music with many. We love different kinds of music, and we love music in different ways, but to most of us music plays an important role in our lives. I do not play any instruments myself and I do not sing much – but I listen, watch, enjoy and integrate music in my emotional life. It is a part of human culture that means a lot to me.

The Internet is a fantastic tool to discover music that is previously unknown to you. The associations provided by general search engines, different streaming services and online stores let you start the association game wherever you want and invite you to experience artists in some way related to the musical neighbourhood of your starting point.

This is how I found the Portuguese fado, a genre quite a bit from my usual music choices by the time. The associations this time forwarded me to Portugal from the Brazilian music I then was trying to get to know better. The musical associations are sensitive to cultural connections, and there are many historical and cultural links between Brazil and Portugal. Fado actually “spent some time” in Brazil during its development, and recently the Portuguese fadista Carminho has interpreted Brazilian Tom Jobim’s music on a fantastic album where fado expression is amalgamated with the soul of bossa nova. (See Carminho)

Anyhow, the association helped me to discover fado, a genre that found a passage into my identity and soul. (See Personality and music preferences) I then listened a lot to fado, and reading about fado I learned about the many fado houses in Portugal. Naturally, my wife and I then wanted to go to Portugal and experience fado in those fado houses. We did so in 2016, and once more in 2017. (See A Fado Experience, A Lisbon week of Fado and The Conserva-te Experience.) We also attended fado concerts in Sweden.

After our fado excursions in Portugal I came to feel Portugal as a country that is particularly close to me. It is not my home country, but the cultural experiences in Portugal have made me connect emotionally more closely to Portugal than to most countries. I suppose this is an effect of sharing a cultural expression, and to do that on location. It is also a fruit of the connections we have made with Portuguese people living in Sweden.

I sensed this close emotional bond when I some weeks ago heard about the extreme temperatures that awaited Lisbon and Portugal during a peak of the summer heat. Also remembering the devastating fires in Portugal last summer I asked myself – can one live there if this development continues?

From these thoughts I suddenly realised something. It was not a revolutionary and inventive thought, just a line of thinking that I have not pursued the full way before. Maybe you have not either. We tend to think about climate change primarily as something that concerns nature and our possibilities to live a good physical life in our world. Can we sustain the heat, can we get food and water enough, and can we at all continue to live where we today live?

But climate change is not only about nature and our physical well-being. Culture is also at risk – in my first glimpse of this thought represented by my loved fado. What would happen to fado? But of course, fado is only one of many cultural expressions. There are enormous amounts of cultural expressions in terms of music, art, literature, poetry, theatre, philosophy and science in Portugal and in all other countries in the world.

Global warming changes the conditions of nature in a way that has many threatening consequences for humanity – and actually for all living. And there is a dangerous tipping-point not too far away. This is the point where we cannot stop the development because we have started autonomous and accelerating dynamics. The state into which the earth can develop if climate change is not stopped is devastating. On the way to this state there might be severe conflicts in the competition for liveable conditions.

To imagine that our generation would not be able to save climate, not be able to save the living planet, and thereby not be able to save the culture that humanity has developed and passed on from generation to generation – that is a truly devastating thought. Can there be a thought more relevant for the fado sentiment of “saudade” – sorrow for something valuable that forever is lost? The irony is that among the fruitful seeds of human culture there have also grown some seeds that have created the situation where humanity and all its culture are at risk.

But if we could use this insight and the image of “the ultimate saudade” as a motivation to act, then maybe we can help to avoid the catastrophe. But we have to hurry.
  • We must encourage our politicians to agree on climate-friendly policies. Presumably, they must be encouraged by us because they may think we would react negatively to the necessary reorientations in our lives.
  • Ourselves, we have to consume in a more climate-friendly way. One example of many is to avoid flying.
  • Climate-friendly consumption will in turn direct production of goods and services to climate-friendly goods and services.

Let us all do this! Let us do this to save the climate of our planet, thereby saving life on this planet and thereby saving culture created by humanity.


Climate-friendly choices are fully compatible with a good life. My wife and I will soon visit Portugal again, but we have stopped flying. Next time we go to our loved Portugal we will travel by train. On our way we will enjoy some nice experiences in the countries we pass. Not being able to travel to Portugal and experience fado would be a sacrifice. Going by train is not.