September 11th, the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, has me reflecting on increased ecological disasters and eco-literate music pedagogy. I listened to a radio program online, produced by the American Military University, discussing increased natural disasters, and how this affects the work of emergency managers. A lot of it is very specific to that career, and AMU is not a part of the military (though more than half of their graduates serve in the military). But this is very insightful for someone cultivating their ecological literacy. This is something we need to know about, especially since many of us are experiencing increased ecological disasters (there's currently flooding in Central, PA, though that's not unusual for this time of year: but more of the budget for response has already been spent).
During the 21st Century natural disasters, many of which are scientifically linked to the climate change crisis, are a very real experience for so many people. From my role as a music educator, I open up conversation about ecological disaster by listening to "Kanye West: 9.2.05," perhaps the most politically charged song from Ted Hearne's Katrina Ballads. In it, Hearne uses Kenye West's well-known "George Bush doesn't care about Black people" television comments. As a teacher trying to open discussions, I hope our distance from the Bush presidency allows students to feel comfortable discussing it, so we can talk about the crisis, response, racial and economic aspects, and politics of it freely and openly. Parallels can certainly be drawn to the current administration's response to Hurricane Maria, which I bring up near the end of conversation (after everybody is comfortable with talking).
Just as many people living elsewhere (I was teaching in Pittsburgh during the Katrina disaster) I experienced Katrina mediated by television. Hearne's composition begins with a longer section of West's discussion, followed by the powerful line repeated over and over. This repetition, for me, represents the way television (CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC) share information. They may share an iteration of a contextualized statement, where West's anger grows organically in an uncertain, human way. But then they reduce it to a single soundbite, which is repeated until the audience/news-viewer finds herself more politically certain--If she voted for Bush, she was likely to hear that quote and feel anger toward West, if she didn't she was likely to hear it and sympathize with West. This increased ratings, but also increases political division in a time when quality emergency response should not be a political position.
Though I don't deal with this aspect in the book, an eco-literate citizen needs to be able to make sense of natural disasters, natural disaster response, and how these events are politicized for ratings. Disaster response is going to be increasingly necessary, and funding for agencies that accomplish it are going to have to be an ever larger part of our taxes. At least for the foreseeable future. We have not done a good job of decreasing our waste, including CO2 emissions.
As a side note, you can rent my book on the Routledge website for $12.50, which is good for those of you concerned about price, but who want to read it on their mobile devices. Alternatively, I recommend people access it through their library.
Daniel J. Shevock