Yesterday 500 people — mostly Gen Z, though the odd tag-along parent could be spotted — descended upon Flippers, the west London rolling skate palace.
This was no mass skate-off. The crowds had come to hear activists discuss climate change. Waiting for the day’s speakers to grace the stage — a curious, cottage-core thing, blossoming with bundles of fresh produce — the atmosphere didn’t match the overwhelming severity of the subject. Actually, it kind of felt like a party.
A party? Well, this wasn’t any old climate event. Most aren’t hosted by a seven-time Grammy winning, Gen Z mega pop star. But this one was; this one had Billie Eilish.
Yesterday’s wittily-named Overheated — a nod to Eilish’s song, a nod to what’s happening to the planet — was the second Eilish has hosted. The event has become a bubbling epicentre for the climate conversation to take place on a mainstream scale, and globally too — the eight-hour day was live-streamed to Eilish’s 48 million YouTube followers. Its message champions hope and action over despair and apathy.
“There is something specific about London,” says Maggie Baird, aka Eilish’s mum, over vegan burgers during the lunchtime break. “Billie’s first headlining show was in London at the Courtyard six years ago, so we feel a real home base here. As we’ve toured over the last few years, I’ve also always felt that London was ahead — you had a community that was very open and could be the centre of a global conversation.”
It’s a point of expertise for Baird, who’s the founder of Support + Feed, which aims to promote an equitable plant-based food system, and helped co-organised the event (it also helps keep Eilish’s tours as eco-friendly as possible). But today wasn’t about them.
“Billie really cares about climate change but doesn’t like to be put in the role of expert. She believes strongly in lending her platform, and in uplifting people who are literally devoting their lives to it,” explains Baird.
It’s a belief 29-year-old Bristol-based activist Tori Tsui, who appeared as part of a how to stop eco-anxiety panel, says has already massively elevated the movement. “Billie and her mum Maggie invited me to share the cover of Vogue with them back in January, and the impacts of that have been huge,” she explains from the viewing platform. “Climate change has made it into popular media, and it’s helped show people that it’s cool to care,”
As a veteran on the climate activism scene, Tsui is also quick to stress just how special Overheated is. “Because it was born out of the love of a family and how much they care about the planet, the event feels very authentic and from the heart,” she says. “We need this conversation to be mainstream and that’s what Billie is doing. I feel like she is setting the blueprint for how other artists can get involved too.”
Climate justice activist Dominique Palmer, part of a panel on dismantling perfectionism in favour of trying your best, agrees. “There’s a lot of people who want to take action and don’t know how, so there’s a lot to be harnessed here.
“It’s a great place for people to make friends and find out things they can be a part of. Usually, climate activism can seem really intimidating because it’s urgent, but this is a space that’s less intimidating to come into.”
And then, the top of the bill. Fresh from two back-to-back gigs — one headlining Reading Festival and one secret, 1500-capacity show at the Electric Ballroom — Eilish dropped in for a 10-minute conversation with her mum about the importance of sustainable clothing.
“I’ve never been interested in shopping at a regular store — I don’t really know how to do it,” she said of thrift shopping, revealing that she sourced her entire tour wardrobe by spending two hours in a thrift store. She also shared that knowing your signature style — in Eilish’s case, baggy jorts and a shirt — means it’s easier to thrift something you’ll wear again and again.
But that wasn’t all. Here’s what else we learned from eight hours in a roller rink, all in the name of saving the planet.
1. Eat at least one plant-based meal a day
Eating a strictly plant-based diet reduces a person’s carbon footprint by 78 per cent, according to the University of Oxford. That’s why Baird launched the Support + Feed Plant-Based Pledge last year. It’s pretty simple: just eat at least one plant-based meal every day for 30 days. But once you start, who says there’s any reason you should stop, right?
2. You have a washing machine, so use it
“I’ll re-wear sh** forever, like, I’ll just be wearing the same thing over again. I think it’s very silly when people don’t like that,” the What Was I Made For singer said during the intimate, on-stage chat with her mum. “You should re-wear your clothes. You know why? They’re cute. You like them, that’s why you bought them. You have a washing machine, you can wash them.”
3. “If I can’t dance, I can’t be part of your revolution”
A running theme throughout the day was the sense of injustice, that the burden of climate justice has fallen on young people’s shoulders — especially since they aren’t the ones to blame. That’s why many activists shared the importance of finding community and joy in the climate fight. Or as Dominique Palmer put it: “If I can’t dance, I can’t be part of your revolution.”
4. It’s better to have a million imperfect people doing what they can than a few perfect people
The basis of all climate activism starts with having good intentions. Don’t worry about getting it wrong, just show up and figure the rest out later.