We are the earth intruders
We are the earth intruders,
Muddy with twigs and branches
Forgive this tribe
-Bjök, Earth Intruders
Right now, the Katowice Talks are happening. Any hope for global unity from the Paris Accords has been shattered since by right-wing governments and corporate greed. Some hope that Katowice can mend the damage done since 2015. Two hundred nations have sent delegates to Katowice, which is a coal-mining city in Poland. Recent reports on rising temperatures from human-caused global warming set the context for these talks. The damage happening is obvious. Divisions are clear. Brazil began by removing its offer to host the 2019 talks. And the U.S. restated its aim to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Certainly an ecologically literate citizen is knowledgeable about these talks; but that's not enough. What can we expect from our students? What do we need from them?
Greata Thunberg is a 15-year-old Swedish activist who has gone on a school strike, refusing to attend school until her nation reduces its carbon emissions in-line with the Paris agreement promises it made. She made a statement before Katowice: "We cannot go down this road of madness any more. It's just not an option." What can this mean for music educators? Perhaps making room, in music classrooms, for students to enact protest is a way for us to model Thunberg's courage.
Reflecting on the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting, music educator Brent Talbot writes: "Awareness of privilege, understanding how and where it operates, and recognition of one’s positionality and participation in it requires consistent attention. With this in mind, I dove further into the literature, analyzed news articles, watched documentaries, listened to many protest songs, and engaged in countless discussions with colleagues and friends who all challenged my thinking in different ways. Through a reflective process, I began to discover my voice—one that could be situated within a long history of many outraged voices who have spoken and are speaking on such matters."
Certainly music educators can begin with this type of process of self-education. Ecological yahoos are useless. Worse than useless in years defined by ecological disasters. By heatwaves, and hurricanes, and continent sized plastic gyres in the oceans. Damaging.
Similarly, music educators should open space for our students to cultivate an awareness of their positionality with regards to the ecological crises. It is through this recognition that students can recognize their power; and can be part of the solution. It requires attention, or as Paulo Freire called it, conscientization. They should be given opportunities to dive into the literature, including current news such as the Katowice Talks. Students can watch documentaries, such as DamNation, Chasing Ice, and Climate of Doubt. Teachers can have them analyze the film music, as well as understand and critique the arguments the documentaries pose. And students can sing songs from the long-list of environmental protest songs. They can challenge themselves, and us, and their communities to think differently; and they can find their voices, much like Greta Thunberg has found hers. When we allow space for our students to become change agents, however they see that, they will surprise us and act.