World Environment Day 2015 – Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

Editor’s Note: Sue Barrett submitted this article in plenty of time for this to run before World Environment Day. All responsibility for its tardiness belongs to the editor. All rights and credit otherwise belong to Sue Barrett and this article appears with her permission.

by Sue Barrett

Rachel saw the changes in the coastline/

In the fish, in the wildlife, the forests and the trees/

She knew these were canaries in the coalmine/

She felt it in her body, in the air and in the seas/

Silent Spring, Silent Spring

(Pat Humphries/Sandy O, ‘Silent Spring’)

It’s almost thirty-five years to the day since American biologist and nature writer Rachel Carson was posthumously awarded the USA’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

According to the citation read out by President Jimmy Carter in early June 1980:

Never silent herself in the face of destructive trends, Rachel Carson fed a spring of awareness across America and beyond. A biologist with a gentle, clear voice, she welcomed her audiences to her love of the sea, while with an equally clear determined voice she warned Americans of the dangers human beings themselves pose for their own environment. Always concerned, always eloquent, she created a tide of environmental consciousness that has not ebbed.

The theme for World Environment Day that year was: A New Challenge for the New Decade: Development Without Destruction.

With World Environment Day coming up on Friday 5 June 2015, FolkBlog explored environmental matters with musicians ELENA HIGGINS and TASH TERRY (of Indigie Femme) (New Zealand/USA), CRAIG MINOWA (of Cloud Cult) (USA), JENNY BIDDLE (Australia), BERNIE KRAUSE (USA) and JODI MARTIN (Australia)…

INDIGIE FEMME (Elena Higgins & Tash Terry) (New Zealand/USA)

www.indigiefemme.com

Elena Higgins was born in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and raised in a pakeha (white) foster family, although regularly visiting her Samoan matrilineal aiga (family) and her Maori whanau (family). Elena moved to Australia in 1996 (where she worked as a school teacher and began performing her music, including at the National Folk Festival), then moved to the USA in 2006.

Tash Terry was raised on the Navajo Nation (Dinetah) in Arizona, USA – being born into the Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water) clan and made from the Bilagaana (French and Irish). Tash began playing acoustic guitar as a child and was educated at Navajo Community College and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She has been involved in Native Theater and is an interpreter in American Sign Language for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Cultures.

Indigie Femme was formed in November 2006, three months after Tash and Elena met in New Mexico. With music that spans world, Indigenous, Native American, Pacific Island, acoustic and folk, Indigie Femme sings of acceptance, tolerance, courage and passion. Indigie Femme’s fifth album, Justify, was released in April 2015.

Tell us about some of your earliest memories of the natural environment

[ELENA] I lived with my grandmother when I was three, in Poriroa Forest in New Zealand (which was then a logging town of pure virgin forest). My first memories are playing with cousins on a frozen creek and the ice breaking, walking in cow dung [manure], always being dirty and loving the freedom of the country.

[TASH] My earliest memories are being on Black Mesa, on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, watching my grandparents tend to livestock (sheep, cattle and horses), along with farming the land to maintain our survival. There has never been any electric poles, gas lines or water wells from man-made sources to dirty the air or the land, so the silence coupled with nature’s sounds was our music.

To what extent, and in which ways, did your family influence your awareness of the environment?

[ELENA] When I was growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, it seemed like a huge city however, in comparison to other cities around the world, it would have been considered a small country town. Auckland, like the whole country, was a spit away [short distance] from beaches, oceans, rivers, mountains, forests, rural country, farming lands, etc. So essentially I lived in the environment. I guess one blessing I had when growing up, or perhaps genetics, was respecting the land and environment. I am just the care taker of the land, entrusted to do my bit for the future generations. So the awareness was there when I growing up in it. It was a singular – I am the environment, the environment is me. There was no separation or divide of or from that.

[TASH] Having the awareness and teachings that our land is our true mother earth and our skies are true father sky and the necessary balance of the male and female energies within and without make the world go around. To walk on the earth with as much respect and consciousness with regard to waste and recycling is an individual responsibility.

How has your environmental awareness changed over time?

[ELENA] I am not sure if it is more cynical or really seeing it for how it is! As I have grown older and travelled, I continue to see exploitation of our mother earth and her resources. I can only conclude that this is because there is a lack of respect shown to our environment, to mother earth. Capitalists see that the environment as a commodity and investment. I see this action no differently to when the colonizers invaded the different continents throughout the world. They believed at that time, that they were entitled to raping and pillaging resources, stealing lands, killing native people, etc. In the dominant culture history books, it says they were entrusted by God (papal – Pope) and/or the King. I think having no connection to the land, there can be no respect. Perhaps this is why we continue on this path of destruction to our environments and mother earth, as there is no respect, as there is no connection.

[TASH] Ironically it has gone back to the original teachings. The challenge in this knowledge of the red road walk of life is the fact that I have assimilated, I drive a hybrid vehicle, I use electricity, I flush toilets and I am a consumer. At the end of the day I ask myself if I have been conscious in my walk knowing that I utilize technology as we know it today while reinforcing the knowledge from our ancestors.

What do you see as some of the key environmental issues facing us today and into the future?

[ELENA] Global warming is a hot topic! And our disconnection to our environment/mother earth. If we really cared for our environment/mother earth, I am pretty damn sure we would not be in the predicament we are today.

[TASH] We have immersed ourselves in consuming goods and we have not been very respectful to mother earth and father sky in our consumption practices. The mass industries drilling for mother earth’s minerals is creating an upset and imbalance in her natural process.

When and how did you become involved with music?

[ELENA] I became involved in music and its scene 12 years ago as a result of a heart break and used music and song writing to heal. This lead me to travel and perform around Australia. At the time, I was living on the beautiful Magnetic Island, North Queensland. Then the attraction to the island was from families and backpackers – however development began and slowly the people and the island started to change. I wrote songs protesting development and its harm to the environment. The support from the island to record an album and tour was overwhelming, so I did. I recorded my first album, Rivers of the Soul, with many of the local island musicians in it. The driving force was to get the message out about what was happening in our beautiful environment, Magnetic Island. I found as I travelled and toured throughout Australia, development and environmental abuses were happening everywhere! When I was on the road I wanted to be at home. When I was at home, I thought I needed to be on the road, powering out the message. I was absolutely miserable. In 2005, I had three trips to Central and North Americas.

[TASH] I have always been involved in music to some degree, starting with the traditional Navajo drum with song and dance in the Navajo language at age three. I picked up a guitar at 12 years old and have not stopped since.

How did you come to form Indigie Femme?

[ELENA] In 2006, I moved to the USA to pursuit my music career and stumbled across Tash in Santa Fe, New Mexico in November that year. Our message in the music was the same, preservation and respect to mother earth, and empowerment to women and children. We amalgamated our solo careers and became “Indigie Femme” (indigenous women).

[TASH] After we were introduced and realized we both had very unique styles of playing and singing, we brought our creative processes together, and a few years into our journey – having travelled overseas a few times – a friend told us we were unique in our energies and spirits by merging the Southern (New Zealand) and Northern (Navajo) hemispheres together with our matrilineal lineages through songs.

Tell us about some of your songs/music that are about, or inspired by, the natural environment

[ELENA] Most of our songs have been inspired in and or by the natural environment.

[TASH] Our songs are heavily influenced by our traditional elders and are creatively and collaboratively organized into a unique indigenous world folk genre that is a sound of its own.

What other things do you write about?

[ELENA] Anything that comes through!

[TASH] We write about the power of women, the teachings of children, the lessons from nature, the compassion from heart break, and the power of love.

Tell us about some of these other songs/pieces of music

[TASH] A lot of the songs come through chants and the chants have a vibration and stories often tucked away and hidden deep in the heart, and these stories come to fruition through the chants and the chords follow suits and require collaborative editing to create full songs.

To what extent, and in which ways, does the natural environment affect your creativity?

[ELENA] It affects us both and individually greatly. Our environment/mother earth is EVERYTHING!

[TASH] Sometimes sitting under a tree or gazing through the window at the full moon or travelling on an airplane processing and looking through the small window at the clouds or just sitting by a flowing river is more than enough to inspire song.

Tell us about some of the things that you’ve done, are doing, or would like to do, to raise environmental awareness and/or to reduce your environmental footprint?

[ELENA] This is a continued process of awareness, respect and practice. Besides driving hybrid vehicles, we grow our own eatable plants, collect rain water to use, conserve power, water and other resources around the home, recycle – the list goes on. When Indigie Femme first started we were on the front line supporting multiple grassroots environmental organizations as we have so many songs in the theme/genre. We will just keep on doing our bit in this world to leave less of our carbon print for our future generations.

[TASH] Although we drive hybrid cars, we prefer to ride bikes or walk when possible. We also participate in environmental causes and support grassroots environmental organizations with our music.

Do you have some simple environmental tips to share?

[ELENA] If everyone does their bit, however big or small, it will make a HUGE difference. I think if everyone contributes in some/any way perhaps it will inspire people in their circles, and so on and so on.

[TASH] And we take our own bags into grocery stores.

On the music front, what’s been happening and what’s coming up?

[ELENA] We released our latest CD, Justify, in late April – so we will be on tour nationally and internationally. We have a non-profit we are very excited about which has been bringing community together through music – that has been a lot of FUN and has its own life and momentum.

[TASH] And we have just returned from a trip to Baltimore as part of an Indigenous Delegation to bring ceremony and prayer to a very upset city addressing police brutally and we are ready to go back to the East Coast to participate in a Women’s Festival. As always, we stay abreast with social media and have some music videos for people to view.

Apart from music, what other things are important in your life?

[ELENA] Being in the moment and enjoying what life brings.

[TASH] Communication is very important to me. I am a nationally certificated American Sign Language interpreter with a focus on Native American Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, and we have a non-profit, Indigenous Solutions, Inc, with a mission of supporting healthy living through arts and music.

Tell us what you will be doing on Friday 5 June 2015 – World Environment Day

[ELENA] I’m very excited as my sister, who has been teaching in Samoa for the last couple of years, will be en route home to New Zealand via the States. I can’t wait to show her off to the multiple circle we run in New Mexico.

[TASH] And we will be preparing for a White Mountain Apache elder who will be a special guest in Santa Fe at an event we a part of.

CRAIG MINOWA (of Cloud Cult) (USA)

www.cloudcult.com

Craig Minowa was born in Minnesota, USA and now lives on an organic farm in the north of the state. His music career began in high school, including being part of the bands, Counterpoint and Eden’s Ashes. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Craig has a degree in environmental science. On their marriage in 1998, Craig and his wife Connie both added Minowa (“moving voice”) to the end of their existing names. In addition to his work with the alt rock band Cloud Cult, Craig has written music for documentaries.

Cloud Cult started out as a solo studio project by Craig in 1995. After Cloud Cult developed into a touring band, its performances began being accompanied by live painting (and auctioning) of artwork by Connie Minowa and Scott West. Craig and Connie established Earthology (an environmental organisation, which now has 501c3 status) in 1999, followed by Earthology Records (which is “focused on helping to green the music industry”). The first official Cloud Cult album, Who Killed Puck? (2000) is a concept album that took four years to produce. Since the death of Craig and Connie’s two year old son Kaidin in 2002, Craig’s song writing has strongly reflected that loss. In 2008, Cloud Cult appeared in an animated commercial for Esurance, during the telecast of the Super Bowl – with Esurance, in return, funding part of the cost of “greening” the recording of Cloud Cult’s albums. In 2009, the Cloud Cult documentary, No One Said It Would Be Easy, was released. In 2014, Cloud Cult released the live acoustic album, Unplug – featuring Connie Minowa (live painting, vocals), Scott West (live painting, vocals), Arlen Peiffer (glockenspiel, percussion), Shawn Neary (trombone, banjo, glockenspiel, vocals), Daniel Zamzow (cello, percussion, vocals), Shannon Frid-Rubin (violin, vocals), Craig Minowa (lead vocals, guitar), Sarah Perbix (French horn, trumpet, piano, accordion, vocals), Jeff Johnson (audio & production engineer, tour manager) – and also toured Europe for the first time. Cloud Cult – Unplug: The Film was released in May 2015 and Cloud Cult has announced the coming release of a new full length album.

Tell us about some of your earliest memories of the natural environment

As a kid, my happiest places were climbing in my favorite trees. And some of my most memorable early spiritual experiences were insights I found while roaming around in the woods. I felt a pretty close kinship to the animals and birds, whereas I felt pretty awkward around humans.

To what extent, and in which ways, did your family influence your awareness of the environment?

My dad grew up impoverished on a farm. So he was always really big into conservation for economic purposes, like recycling, reusing and not wasting anything.

How has your environmental awareness changed over time?

I had a long period of environmental advocacy where I worked for non-profits on changing laws and doing campaigns to pressure corporations to clean up their acts. I’ve since moved into a life where we focus a lot of our time and intention on greening our own lifestyles. I feel like focusing on personal solutions and helping similar ideas go viral can be a positive way to approach issues that can otherwise fall into a blame-game kind of scenario or feel too dark and overwhelming. The great mystic poet Rumi once said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

What do you see as some of the key environmental issues facing us today and into the future?

Climate change, overpopulation and nuclear proliferation are massive issues that ultimately come down to seven billion people making smart individual life choices.

When and how did you become involved with music?

My mom played music around us a lot as kids, and in my early teens I found it to be a tool that helped me communicate and express things in myself that I couldn’t otherwise get out.

Tell us about some of your songs/music that are about, or inspired by, the natural environment

I would say that the vast majority of the songs are inspired by the natural environment. Our recording studio and home are out in the woods, so when I am writing music, I am surrounded by and listening to the incoming messages of the natural environment around me.

What other things do you write about?

The quest for connecting to the Great Unknown. Trying to understand the meaning of it all and our purpose here, and pontificating on where it is we go when the body is all done.

Tell us about some of these other songs/pieces of music

I spend a lot of lyrical writing time trying to set my own egoic thoughts aside and trying to listen for messages from the energies all around us.

To what extent, and in which ways, does the natural environment affect your creativity?

All creativity comes from the natural energies of the universe, in my opinion. The whole physical universe is a thin layer of stuff that is generated by a massive ocean of undefined energy.

Tell us about some of the things that you’ve done, are doing, or would like to do, to raise environmental awareness and/or to reduce your environmental footprint?

We calculate how much green house gases we put out on tour and in the studio and plant enough trees to absorb it all. Our studio is totally solar powered. We manage organic gardens for a portion of our food supply. All of our merchandise is manufactured in the most environmentally friendly way we can find, including organic cotton and 100% postconsumer recycled content. We also have a non-profit environmental charity that we run that is focused on sustainable living.

Do you have some simple environmental tips to share?

Do thorough research into the products you buy and the companies you are buying them from. More people supporting green business practices will result in more businesses making decisions to run their companies in environmentally friendly ways.

Are there some books, films/documentaries, music, etc. about the natural environment that you would like to recommend?

Earth and the American Dream [documentary directed by Bill Couturié]

On the music front, what’s been happening and what’s coming up?

We just released a feature length documentary concert film called, Unplug. And we are now finishing up our new album.

Apart from music, what other things are important in your life?

Family, love, being a good person, getting back to the land, and the search for spiritual enlightenment.

JENNY BIDDLE (Australia)

www.jennybiddle.com

Jenny Biddle is an Australian singer/songwriter, who was born into a musical family. She grew up in Sydney, resided in Melbourne for a few years and now lives in beautiful rural Victoria. With a style that spans folk, alternative and country blues, Jenny plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and piano. In 2012, Jenny Biddle won the People’s Choice Award at the Tamworth Country Music Festival’s busking championship. She is also a multiple winner of the Rotary Club of Melbourne Park’s busking competition, Street Change – The Search for Melbourne’s Best Busker. Jenny’s song, ‘Our Darkest Day’, tells of the Victorian bushfires of Black Saturday 7 February 2009, which took the lives of nearly 200 people. In addition to her solo gigs, Jenny Biddle has supported a range of other performers, including Jen Cloher, Keays and Morris, Daryl Cotton and Jeff Lang. After using crowdfunding for her third studio album, Hero in Me (2013), Jenny wrote a blog about her experience. The 1st of May 2015 saw the release of Jenny Biddle’s double album, Live at Selby Folk Club.

Tell us about some of your earliest memories of the natural environment

I used to eat kangaroo poo as a toddler. Does that count? I have very fond memories of my family beach house. It’s a place called Sandon River, just south of Yamba on the North Coast of New South Wales, where the river meets the sea. There are sandy beaches, pebbly beaches, the heath, headlands, bush, an estuary, peace and quiet, dolphins, turtles, pelicans, dingos and kangaroos in the backyard. As a youngster, I used to mistake roo poo for chocolate balls…awkward. For me, the Sandon River is this pristine place of rest and recovery, and as a kid it was a place of adventure, imagination and roo poo.

To what extent, and in which ways, did your family influence your awareness of the environment?

Growing up with family/extended family at the beach house, the natural world was a huge part of our lives – us kids were taught to swim in the ocean and river, go surfing, fishing, canoeing, explore the heath, forage for shells, hike up headlands. Dad was always telling us about different plants, wildlife, and rock structures. My father used to be a geologist, and his father was into faceting gemstones, painting landscapes and breeding new types of orchards – so we’ve all grown up with a fascination for the natural world. This led me to study some geology in uni [university], for interest more than anything, and we got to travel – to New Zealand to explore the volcanoes and to dive on the Great Barrier Reef to assess different organisms of the reef. I joke about being a “rock star”, but it saddens me that I’ve pushed aside some of my geological passions in order to focus on music.

How has your environmental awareness changed over time?

Moving out of home was a big turning point. It made me realise what CONSUMERS we are. Electricity, food, water, gas, petrol, waste, material things, etc. And those consumptions have their price – financially/environmentally. Although I already had respect for the natural world, once I moved out of home and was responsible for myself, I recognised the need to make choices that were in line with my values – including respect for the natural world. I began to consider my purchases, how much packaging a product has, eating local, buying second hand, reusing/recycling, composting, turning off lights/machines when not in use, etc. There’s always more we can do, but as I entered adulthood, I certainly began to take more responsibility for my footprint.

What do you see as some of the key environmental issues facing us today and into the future?

I see the broader issue facing the environment is our need for sustainable living…to work together and not destroy our only planet. I’m not on the climate change bandwagon; I believe the earth’s climate changes naturally, as it has done, shifting in and out of ice ages, but we humans certainly use and abuse our one and only planet. We need to work together to create sustainable living practises, or else our problems with pollution, desertification, species extinction, depleting of resources, even war over land/resources, and more, will continue to grow beyond reversible measures. It pains me to see diverse and fascinating habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests being broken and destroyed. You can’t get that stuff back! Awareness is a great start, followed by doing our own bit to reduce the problem.

When and how did you become involved with music?

Just as the family beach house was a great place to holiday in the natural world, it was also a place of music. We had many jam sessions on the ukuleles. I was four. It took off from there. Guitar, piano, harmonica, banjo, any instrument I could get my hands on. Music was my escape. It was a place where I could release my teenage angst, be creative, communicate, express. I always wanted to be a rock star. Hahh!! But I didn’t quite know how to make a living from music. So I went to uni to study to be a primary teacher. A four-year degree and two days casual teaching later I thought, “Nup, I’m gonna make this music thing work.” I’ve been an independent travelling musician for eight years now.

Tell us about some of your songs that are about, or inspired by, the natural environment, including ‘Our Darkest Day’

‘Our Darkest Day’ is about the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009. Gosh. This song just poured out of me as the nation cried for the victims of the Victorian bushfires. Australian climate can be so harsh, and all the parameters of that time just led to catastrophe. It’s a song of hope and of the power of mother nature.

‘Village by the Sea’ was written at the Sandon. I was stressed and caught up in uni studies and finally got to relax at the beach and this song came out: “Coming down the mountain I saw a different side of me. Every little stress inside my head is long left at sea. If I were as simple as the sand between my toes, I’m not sure that I’ll be coming home.” The natural world pulled me out of the whirl wind of academia, city stress, the rat race, enough to write this peaceful, poignant song.

Some eight years later, I moved to the country, against the opinions of my city-slickin’ friends and family. I’ve always felt this pull to live in the country. It’s where I need to be. Out with nature. And it’s terrific for creativity. I recently wrote a song called ‘Wandiligong’ where I currently live, in the beautiful Alpines in Victoria (“I’ll send my worries down the stream”).

What other things do you write about?

Sexuality, depression, love, gratitude, eating disorders, the rat race, hope, self-reflection, addiction.

Tell us about some of these other songs

‘Hero in Me’ (There’s a hero, deep inside of me/ Be my lady and your hero I’ll be) was my first real “coming out” song. I never really had the guts to sing about being gay ’til I wrote this song – rather I used to hide meaning in gender-neutral songs. Through song, I wanted to share a bit of my struggle growing up being gay, but wanted to do it in a light-hearted way, and a way that the broader audience could also enjoy. I also hope to inspire and encourage other people who might be going through a similar experience, and perhaps normalise homosexuality a bit. There’s an awkwardly witty video clip of this song on YouTube. Director Rebecca Greensill from Home & Away decided to put me in a lycra superman suit…lumps in all the wrong places…but a bit of fun! www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka9YZTqyk00

‘A Place in the Sky’ (I don’t like the way they lie/ I don’t like the way they climb/ It’s all snatching and grabbing to find the gold pot in the sky/ If I don’t start this snatching, I won’t be finding mine) is about the rat race. Growing up in the city there’s this urgency to get ahead. Everyone’s stepping on each other to get somewhere. No one wants to be left behind, whatever it takes. I felt like I saw glimpses of what life was like in high society, a place that seemed to require me to leave my integrity at the door if I wanted to take part, and I suddenly realised I didn’t really wanna get there.

‘With Me’ (All I need to know…/ is there someone on this ride with me) is about loneliness – it’s on the new double album, Live at Selby Folk Club. I wrote it down in Tasmania on tour when I was on my own in a deserted resort in a beautiful part of the Tamar Valley. The idea that we can have everything – a roof over our head, money, purpose, health, luxuries, etc. – but just feel this hole inside, a lack of real connection, an ache to share the journey with someone special. Lots of the time I stay with friends and family, but on this particular section on the tour, the loneliness hit home. Perhaps people will relate to that ache for deep connection, even if they’re not travelling musicians.

To what extent, and in which ways, does the natural environment affect your creativity?

The natural world plays a big part in my song writing. Thankfully I don’t need electronics to get it all happening! I wrote tunes like ‘Village by the Sea’ and ‘Freezing Time’ on the cliffs at the beach house. I now live in tiny village called Wandiligong. There I sit on a rock outside my place and sing to the trees, the birds, the sky, the mountains. I love that there’s no humans to hear me, critique me, or be bothered by the sound. I recently wrote a song called ‘Tailwind’ as I sat on the rock outside and imagined sending wishes to a long lost friend on the wind (Can I just send you my wishes on the tailwind of this summer breeze?). There’s something about being outside that just brings you back down to earth.

Tell us about some of the things that you’ve done, are doing, or would like to do, to raise environmental awareness and/or to reduce your environmental footprint

I do a lot of driving for gigs/tours. I have a car with great fuel economy, but when this car has had its day, I’d like to get a hybrid car the recharges itself while driving. Amazing! But I think it’s also important not to just jump out and buy the next model of something, just because there’s a new and improved version and you’re bored of your old one. So my car is here to stay for the time being! I know technology is forever advancing, growing and adapting, but I dislike how companies, like a particular computer company, make a product with a certain power adaptor and all its accessories to match, then when the new model comes customers have also gotta upgrade all the accessories and adaptors because they no longer fit. Clever marketing and business skills, but not environmentally friendly. As a consumer, you’re kinda forced into it when your phone carks it [dies]. It’s hard not to get sucked into the ways of society. I too, have found myself with an iPod, iPad, a computer, a this and that…to keep up with work demands, social activities, and the way we relate to each other. ‘Tis food for thought. We are certainly a material world.

Do you have some simple environmental tips to share?

  • Don’t buy plastic bags to line bins – reuse and recycle

  • Buy local eggs/fruit/veg – the more people who buy local, the less demand there will be for mass production/transport/import/packaging/development of these items

  • Don’t lean towards buying products with loads of packaging

  • Second hand furniture/clothes. Donate to op-shops. Extend the life of material things.

  • Turn off lights/machines when you’re not using them

Are there some books, films/documentaries, music, etc. about the natural environment that you would like to recommend?

Rosie Burgess is a good one – she’s a fabulous Melbourne muso [musician], great guitar, harmonica, catchy songs. She writes about being aware of the environment, what we eat, how we live, etc.

I saw Wild recently. Amazing scenery. It’s interesting how the natural world can pull us back down to earth, get us thinking about what’s important in life. Somehow the natural world makes us face feelings and release them at the same time.

But alas, I haven’t been watching TV. I haven’t owned one for two years! HA!

On the music front, what’s been happening and what’s coming up?

I just released my 5th album, Live at Selby Folk Club. That’s been super exciting. It’s a double album of my original songs, banter, quirks, sing-a-longs and all. It’s wonderful to get back to the roots of the music – just me, my guitar and voice/harmonica and a live audience. And I’m about to head off to Ireland. I shall explore the music scene over there for a while, pop back to London/Edinburgh to have a sing too.

Apart from music, what other things are important in your life?

Love – I’ve fallen in love. I met Gwendolyn when I was busking in Edinburgh last year. I was strumming away and suddenly caught this gorgeous woman in the audience and thought “WHO IS THAT??!!” It was like our souls danced in the air. Love at first sight. She loves the great outdoors even more than I do and it’s fascinating to hear her rattle off the names of flora all over the place. She’s been over here in Oz [Australia] for a number of months, exploring my side for the world, and soon I’m off to stay on her side of the world for a few months. It’s exciting to be traveling to other parts of the globe as well. I reckon part of my manic pursuit of my music career has been a constructive way of dealing with loneliness. And now, at age 30, I’ve found my love. It’s a balancing act! Balancing Gwen’s career, my career, and which country we’ll live in. But it’s pretty damn wonderful!

Journal writing – journal writing is one of my favourite things. I often sit in cafes and write in my journal. Reflection, self-development, growth, learning are important to me.

Learning – in my music career, there are a lot of behind-the-scenes things that I love learning about – managing a website, graphics, recording, marketing, video editing, social media, touring, communications, etc. It’s a constant learning curve, and that’s important to me in my career path.

Photography – the autumn leaves are stunning in Bright [town in Victoria, Australia] at the moment. Photography is a no-pressure creative outlet for me. There’s no need to earn an income from it, so I do it when I want, experiment, make mistakes, all that. Autumn is gorgeous for photography.

Family and friends – time is the best thing you can give people. It pains me to be far away from my family, but I see them every few months.

As life changes, I’ve left behind some other things that I’ve enjoyed like soccer, geology, academia. But picked up new interests like learning Italian, guitar making, gardening.

Tell us what you will be doing on Friday 5 June 2015 – World Environment Day

I’ll be in Ireland! Hopefully camping. Exploring the landscape – people say it’s gorgeous scenery – and enjoying the great outdoors!

BERNIE KRAUSE (USA)

www.wildsanctuary.com

Bernie Krause is an American musician and naturalist, who was born in Detroit, Michigan. As a young child, Bernie played violin and studied classical composition, turning to guitar as a teenager. After leaving college, Bernie worked as a studio session musician in New York and Boston and joined The Weavers (occupying the position originally created by Pete Seeger). In the mid-1960s, when Bernie became interested in modular synthesisers, he moved to California, where he met Paul Beaver. Paul (born in Ohio) was a studio musician, a concert pipe organist and a creator of music/sound effects for films. Paul’s music credits over the years include recordings by The Monkees, The Byrds, The Electric Flag, Quincy Jones, Neil Diamond, Ravi Shankar, Don Everly and Styx (often playing Moog Synthesizer) and his film credits include Catch-22, The Graduate, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Bernie’s music credits include recordings by Van Morrison, John Mayall, Albert Hammond and Country Joe McDonald. In 1967, Bernie and Paul formed the music duo, Beaver and Krause. According to the Space Age Pop Music website, “Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause probably had more to do with introducing the synthesizer into rock music than anyone else”. Beaver and Krause released five albums, continued studio work and performed music/produced sound effects for both film (e.g. Rosemary’s Baby) and television (e.g. Bewitched). It was while working on Beaver and Krause’s first album, In a Wild Sanctuary (1968), that Bernie took a compact portable tape recorder around San Francisco and surrounds, including Muir Woods, recording natural sounds. In early 1975, Paul Beaver died from a brain aneurysm, after collapsing during a concert in Los Angeles. A short time later, Bernie Krause returned to university, undertaking a doctorate in creative arts, with an internship in marine bioacoustics, and began a new career – recording the sounds of creatures and environments around the world. Since then, Bernie has recorded over 15,000 species and more than 5,000 hours of natural ambience – with many of these recordings coming from habitats that are “now-compromised or vanished”. In 2012, Little, Brown and Company published Bernie’s book, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places. In 2014, in collaboration with UK composer Richard Blackford, The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival (UK) and a CD (performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which also includes Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals) was released by Nimbus Records. And in April 2015, the ballet Biophony, choreographed by the Alonzo King LINES Ballet ensemble, with score provided by Richard Blackford and Bernie Krause, and centered on Bernie’s creature and environment recordings, had its world premiere in San Francisco. Bernie Krause’s recent TED Global talk can be heard at: www.ted.com/talks/bernie_krause_the_voice_of_the_natural_world.html

Tell us about some of your earliest memories of the natural environment

In the late ’30s, my parents had built a home on what was then the outskirts of Detroit. Previously farmland, there were still open fields surrounding us for as far as the eye could see. As a kid with undiagnosed ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) it was really difficult for me to get to sleep. But, in the spring and summer months of the year, when my parents opened the windows that overlooked those fields, the rich bird and insect evening sounds served as the ideal palliative. That was my first and fondest memory of natural soundscapes’ effect on my life.

To what extent, and in which ways, did your family influence your awareness of the environment?

My parents, strictly urban folks, were largely oblivious to the natural world. The unknown was a quite fearful and challenging to them, and they passed those feelings onto me in ways that were pretty deeply felt. Even though I had a few moments in my pre-teen and teen years where, outside the home, I was introduced to the wonders of wildness, it wasn’t until I was nearly 30 years old that I finally decided it was time to leave those fears behind and learn something about the living world beyond the city.

How has your environmental awareness changed over time?

I’ve written several books about that subject, the most recent titled The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places. But basically, I’ve learned that we don’t really know much of the ways in which living organisms interact with and depend on one another for survival. In my particular field, soundscape ecology, until very recently, we’ve had almost no language to describe the phenomena that we’re hearing. A large part of my work, expressed through my writings and live presentations is devoted to showing how those biophonies, the narratives of the natural world, are critical to our understanding of the living, wild world of which we are a formidable component.

What do you see as some of the key environmental issues facing us today and into the future?

The most important is protection of wildlife and still wild habitats because a close alliance with wildness will prove to be our salvation, if maintained and honoured, or our undoing if we fail.

When and how did you become involved with music?

With poor eyesight, my world has always been informed by sound. Because my parents knew no other avenue when I was growing up in the ’40s, music in all its historical forms of the time, was seen as my only hope for cogent expression.

Tell us about your music career

That story is pretty thoroughly covered in my book, Into A Wild Sanctuary. But, basically, I studied classical music from the time I was three and a half; guitar and other string instruments from my early teens; synthesizer from around 1966. After working on Apocalypse Now (and being fired 8 times) in the late ’70s, I quit my professional music career because I wanted to work and record outside. So I returned to university, and earned my PhD, embarking on a totally new career. Many of my colleagues and friends thought I had left music. But, actually, I re-discovered it; after all, it was the animals who originally taught us to dance and sing.

And tell us about your subsequent career, recording the sounds of creatures and environments

Again, that subject is covered thoroughly in several of my books. What I can say that is important is that listening to and engaging in the act of really paying attention to the biophonies in wild habitats relaxes me and makes me feel good. I do it because it cheers me up, reduces stress, significantly lowers my blood pressure, helps me sleep at night. Beyond that, I want to demystify the world of sound as we have come to know it…one which has come to be experienced as ephemeral, unknowable, unseeable, untouchable, and otherwise of little value in the culture.

In your book, The Great Animal Orchestra, you wrote about the natural soundscape that emerged in your garden, following the grounding of aircraft after the attacks on September 11 2001. What suggestions do you have for assisting people in understanding, appreciating and engaging with the environment, including its sounds?

First, find a place that’s relatively free of human noise (anthropophony). Second, shut the hell up! Three, take a deep breath and just let the world of living organisms express themselves and let you know what’s going on. They’ll certainly give you all the information you need. The language is easy to understand.

Are there some books, films/documentaries, music, etc. about the natural environment that you would like to recommend?

Aside from my own, which are contemporary expressions, I’d recommend Paul Shepard’s The Others: How Animals Made Us Human; R. Murray Schafer’s Tuning of the World; and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

In your professional life, what’s been happening and what’s coming up?

Lots of performances of the ballet and symphony this summer and next year, a new book titled Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes (Yale University Press), which will be released in September 2015, and a contemporary art natural soundscape exhibit scheduled to open on 7 December at the Fondation Cartier Museum in Paris.

Apart from music, what other things are important in your life?

Staying healthy. Keeping our cats, Barnacle and Seaweed, away from our resident mountain lion. And never going to a McDonald’s.

What you will be doing on Friday 5 June 2015 – World Environment Day?

Probably be in Paris, discussing my upcoming exhibit at the Fondation Cartier Museum.

JODI MARTIN (Australia)

www.jodimartin.com

Australian singer/songwriter Jodi Martin grew up on a farm near Ceduna, a small isolated coastal town in semi-arid South Australia. Travel 1900 km (1200 miles) to the west, across the Nullarbor Plain, and you come to Perth. Travel 800 km (500 miles) in the other direction and you come to Adelaide. To the north, there is the Great Victoria Desert and to the south, the Southern Ocean. Music has taken Jodi and her roots-based, contemporary folk music around Australia (including studying music production at Southern Cross University, Lismore) and across the world (touring and, at one point, living in Montreal, Canada). In addition to her solo career, Jodi Martin (who plays resonator guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandola, piano, organ, stomp box and body percussion) has opened for Richard Thompson, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Cockburn, The Frames, Jeff Lang and The Waifs. Kasey Chambers and the Dead Ringer Band recorded Jodi’s song, ‘Why’, on their ARIA Award winning album, Homefires. Jodi Martin currently lives in Adelaide, South Australia and 2015 sees the launch of her third studio album, Saltwater.

Tell us about some of your earliest memories of the natural environment

Most of my childhood memories are intricately tied to the natural environment…the sparse mallee scrub and beautiful desert beaches of my home. My brother, sisters and I were often outside helping our parents with farm jobs and when we were playing we loved being outside as well – light brown dust on our bare feet, spending hours on end in the scrub building cubbies [cubby houses] and playing games of the imagination…eating bush tucker [food].

Camping was something we did a lot as a family – around our local area and sometimes on longer trips. We did a couple of big trips, camping all the way up through Australia’s Centre, from Ceduna to Darwin when I was a kid and I remember the stillness of the red sand mornings eating muesli outside with the sun just coming up.

My song ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ was inspired by my first ever camping trip at seven months old to the Birdsville Races, with my parents and some other families.

To what extent, and in which ways, did your family influence your awareness of the environment?

Growing up on a farm, my parents gave us a love for nature and the way it all works together. Our livelihood relied on whether the rain came at the right times, as to whether the wheat crop would grow or not.

Mum and Dad talked about the different kinds of birds, animals and plants around us and their relationships to one another. We earned pocket money by picking trailer loads of noxious weeds that were threatening other plants. Our whole family, little kids included, planted a mini-forest of Eucalypt trees over several years.

Both work and play meant that we were outside a lot – camping or having “bush cricket” barbecues in the bush or fishing trips in the tinnie [dinghy/small boat].

A lot of our food came from our garden, our meat came from our own sheep, milk came from our goat or cow, cream came off the top of the milk, butter came from churning the cream and bread came from us kids collecting wheat from the 40 gallon drum of wheat down in the cellar, which we had already seen grow and helped harvest, and then grinding it into flour, so Mum could make bread.

If it didn’t rain, there was no crop. It was always very obvious how interconnected everything was. As a three year old, I remember being fascinated walking behind the calloused dusty feet of permaculture pioneer Bill Mollison. Constantly inventing and experimenting, and caring deeply about handing down a healthy family farm, Dad explored sustainable farming options. Despite the extra challenge of lower yields, the dry “marginal” climate, and limited, expensive transport options from a farm as remote as ours, Dad and Mum built new machinery and practices and set up biodynamic farming operations when I was a teenager. This included whole family trips to Victoria to learn about the process – and I had to field curious questions from the surfer/relief teacher at my high school about my Dad planting crops in sync with the moon!

Above all, the most precious thing Mum and Dad taught me was how important it is to really think things through. They taught us to observe what’s happening in nature and explore why. They taught us that as humans we are part of, and intrinsically connected to, nature. We look after nature and nature looks after us.

How has your environmental awareness changed over time??

Fundamentally, my awareness of the natural world has not changed a great deal over time. I think it all starts with the relationship you form with the natural world as a child.

I am very lucky that, thanks to my parents, I had a positive relationship with nature – and with people within that – established as a child, so my love and respect for nature builds on that foundation as I go on. The natural world I see around me, and how life works so effortlessly and ingeniously, blows my mind.

I have greater awareness now of how much we have damaged and continue to damage our own environment and life source – at our peril. I also have greater awareness of the complexity of social and psychological factors that impact our ability to change this kamikaze tendency.

What do you see as some of the key environmental issues facing us today and into the future?

There are environmental issues all around us. But the issue of climate change is the issue that impacts on everything else. It is a big one, and can seem daunting – but it also offers a simple, clear target. Cap CO2 levels. Stop burning more fossil fuels. It’s a really clear benchmark and in its clarity can be a great place for people to start.

We can all take direct, meaningful action. People don’t realize how powerful we actually are – for example if we not only “change our lightbulbs” but also change our electricity providers to support clean energy, we make a real difference. In Australia, check out GetUp’s “Join the Switch” campaign, and internationally 350.org (www.350.org) has been leading the way in the USA.

Looking at things holistically, I see another key issue is the tendency for people who do care, to feel overwhelmed and powerless in the face of the scale of the issues. Community is so important and empowering here – a key to overcoming the “overwhelm” is to actively connect with a community working together for change.

I think at the most basic level, it’s all about relationships. If people feel disconnected from themselves, and I believe many of us do, then we will feel disconnected from others and our environment. Healing this emotional connection is what motivates me to keep writing and playing my music.

It may sound idealistic, but really the principles for what people need to flourish are pretty simple and not expensive. We need a real relationship and understanding of ourselves within nature, including the many people growing up in urban environments. And we need real relationship with ourselves and the people around us. We need to seriously invest time, energy and resources into this. We need to understand at a deep level, that the whole thing is interconnected and the “environment” is not some charity external to us.

Imagine a whole generation of children who are given the love and attention that they actually need to feel secure in themselves – who grow up playing in nature and building a genuine relationship with the living world around them. Imagine all taxes from alcohol alone being invested into helping people relate to each other and themselves better.

If we’re serious about turning our destructive relationship with nature around – and our future depends on it – then we need to invest, not only in practical environmental actions, but also in the emotional wellbeing of ourselves and our children and our relationship with each other and nature.

When and how did you become involved with music?

I started writing songs when I was about four. I would often ask my Mum who her favourite singer was and she would consistently reply that she didn’t have favourite singers, she had favourite songs. I think that inspired me, because somewhere there I decided I wanted to be a great songwriter when I grew up! Also, Dad used to make up humorous little story songs to make us laugh as he walked around the farm. I’m sure this inspired me too. Meeting Kasey Chambers’ family when I was 16, and doing work experience in a recording studio, made me realize that people had jobs making music. I decided as a teenager that as well as learning the art of songwriting, I wanted to dedicate my life to connecting people with themselves and their feelings through songs.

Tell us about some of your songs that are about, or inspired by, the natural environment

On my first album, Water and Wood, there’s a song called ‘The Wagtail’, inspired by the willy wagtail, an Australian bird that has always been significant in my life. The lyrics are inspired by the journey of a close friend of mine, healing from the damage of abuse.

There is a song on my new album, Saltwater, called ‘Criminal’, which addresses the way we think about nature. I wrote it with Arlo Guthrie and the night before we wrote it, Arlo’s wife Jackie made the comment, “What’s going on? It’s like we’re turning Mother Nature into a Criminal!”.

Saltwater’s lead single, ‘Saltwater in My Hair’, is about the healing power of the ocean and spending time there with family and friends.

What other things do you write about?

I write songs about getting to know myself better, and how things work – for example, on the new album, ‘We’re All A Bit Screwed Up’ and ‘Things Are Gonna Change’. Relationships and connection are important themes along with issues I feel strongly about as I go through the journey of life. I want to help people connect with and process their feelings, as well as think about things that are important. I believe that by being honest about my own feelings and experiences in my songs, this enables other people to connect to their own feelings and experiences, and helps them process them too.

Tell us about some of these other songs, including ‘Malpa Wiru’?

We’re All A Bit Screwed Up’ is a song that’s very important and personal to me. It’s about my commitment to keeping an open, loving heart even through the times I may get hurt by other people. It acknowledges that we all get damaged along the way by things in our lives, and people’s own hurt is often the cause of their hurtful behaviour towards others. Somewhere the damage cycle has to stop, and I would like to be part of that solution.

I love the song ‘Malpa Wiru’, translated from Pitjantjatjara as “Good Friends’. It’s a song that I had the privilege to co-write with students at Ernabella Anangu School in Central Australia. It’s a simple song about friendship and football, and I love how the lyrics bring to life the connection and joy of living in Community. I also love that it’s a song that people seem to relate to wherever I’ve sung it all over Australia.

Tell us about some of the things that you’ve done, are doing, or would like to do, to raise environmental awareness and/or to reduce your environmental footprint

I try to stay focused on doing little things in my own life that can create a solution and also looking at things like divestment and connecting with the broader community to address the bigger picture and avoid “overwhelm”. Packaging is a big frustration to me, seeing how difficult it can be for people to avoid copious amounts of packaging when they buy anything, including food.

I love going to the markets and buying the week’s worth of fresh, seasonal and ideally locally grown fruit and vegies, and getting the whole lot home with zero plastic. I love eating whole food and feeling the positive impact on my body and going for weeks with next to no plastic packaging at all.

I avoid buying bottled water wherever possible too, and using renewable water in my own flask. Having grown up in the desert, protecting our precious water sources is an environmental issue I’ve always felt a strong connection to.

Do you have some simple environmental tips to share?

As I mentioned, I love the fresh, whole, local focus – it feels awesome to be part of that. It’s always about a combo of personal change plus the bigger picture. Making changes in my own life is important, and equally important is to stay connected with others who are getting out there and spreading the word, and feeling part of something bigger, inspiring and hopeful.

For example, in my own life, I change my light globes, and then reaching further into the bigger picture, I change my power company.

We can all help through divestment, and supporting people who are working solidly on rolling out practical solutions and awareness – organisations like GetUp and 350.org.

We can support local farmers markets AND, for those in Australia, support Buy Australian campaigns. We can connect with our local community garden – it feels so good. It’s a great feeling to shop more like my beautiful Nanna used to – stocking up my dry goods from the bulk wholefoods store in reusable jars and bringing it home in reusable hessian carry bags, and seeing how much plastic I DON’T use at all in a week! That alone makes me feel closer to nature and happier.

We will naturally use less stuff BECAUSE we are getting so connected in our community that we don’t need to distract ourselves from loneliness or boredom anymore. Our addiction to over-consumption becomes obsolete. And so on. 

Are there some books, films/documentaries, music, etc. about the natural environment that you would like to recommend??

The Economics of Happiness (www.localfutures.org) is a great film on what’s wrong with our current economic system. It’s an inspiring look at the “relocalising” that we can all start to do – to change it for the better.

Transition Towns (www.transitionnetwork.org) is a popular model for how to get there which has some pretty cool ideas.

And check out The Story of Stuff, (www.storyofstuff.org). They’re making brilliant infographics/cartoons that highlight how consumerism is ultimately individualistic and lonely – and the answers for both a healthier planet and happier humans are found when we’re part of a community. 

Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth is an insightful economist’s perspective on the big picture issues of CO2. Tim addresses the tension between selfishness and care for others, and between novelty and tradition. He calls them the four quadrants of the human heart, and it’s an inspiring take on economics and possibility:

www.ted.com/talks/tim_jackson_s_economic_reality_check

On the music front, what’s been happening and what’s coming up?

I am so excited to be launching my new album, Saltwater, this year, which I co-wrote on a very special songwriting road trip with Arlo Guthrie in the States. We launched the new album at Port Fairy Folk Festival in March, and I am just about to start getting it out there in earnest. Stay tuned to www.jodimartin.com for updates…

I am excited to be back on tour, and connecting with people again. I feel this is where I can contribute best, to connect people with their feelings, with each other, and with the land, through the magic of music, story and songs.

Tell us what you will be doing on Friday 5 June 2015 – World Environment Day

For the four weeks surrounding World Environment Day, I will be joining my friend Pete to facilitate songwriting workshops on a tropical island in Arnhem Land [in Australia’s Northern Territory], with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal kids in community schools on Groote Eylandt. It is such a privilege, buzz and honour for me to hear what the kids are passionate about, what they want to write about and to help them in allowing music to connect with their feelings and to give them a voice.

SUE BARRETT is an Australian music writer.

World Environment Day (www.unep.org/wed) – which is the United Nations’ “principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment” – takes place each year on the 5th of June.

© 2015

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