Listen up! A
re you a good listener? Let’s start with rhubarb. A few years ago a farm in Yorkshire posted a recording of their rhubarb shed online. The bursting buds and squelching mud are quite a surprise – a mixture of popcorn and beatboxing.
Tuning into the soundscape is an important way of reconnecting with the rest of the living planet – bird calls, the thrum of pollinators and running water to name but a few – but not all the sounds around us are therapeutic. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to environmental noise like road traffic and aircraft can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease and cognitive impairment among children.
In the following pages we visit several innovative projects exploring the use of sound (and absence of sound) to aid health and reconnect with Nature. David Orr writes about the role of music in environmental activism and we interview artist Jackie Morris, whose book The Lost Words, co-authored with Robert Macfarlane, is now finding expression in music. In Keynotes, Michelle Brenner discusses why quieting our inner noise is so important for good communication.
To mark this theme, we are also launching a second series of our popular Resurgence Voices podcast, and a special series of soundscapes called Resurgence Sounds. The first one features my particular favourite – the stream at the bottom of my allotment.
There are other voices that must be heard. Greta Thunberg and youth strikers for climate action have called a global climate strike on 20 September. We at Resurgence will be joining them. In preparation we are holding a banner-making workshop at our new Resurgence Centre. Details of this will be posted online. Extinction Rebellion are planning autumn actions and in New York the UN Climate Action Summit is calling for governments to present concrete plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Meanwhile, the UK prepares for Brexit.
In a world where debate (political and otherwise) all too often consists of shouting over opposing views, good listening skills are more important than ever. As Jane Goodall said: “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”
Whether it’s our view on how to tackle the climate crisis – or indeed what we think about rhubarb – attentive listening can change the way we see things.
Marianne Brown is editor of Resurgence & Ecologist.
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Resurgence & Ecologist is published by The Resurgence Trust, an educational charity. See inside back cover and our website www.resurgence.org for more information. Views expressed in these pages may not necessarily reflect those of the Trust.
Resurgence & Ecologist