Commentary

On Earth Day music, and seasonal tunes

Ron Martino shares the many songs of nature and how you can share yours 

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship with an appreciation for our surroundings and the well-being of future generations. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

"nature sings its songs too"

Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi,” released during the headiness of the first Earth Day, ranks among the top anthems of the 1970s environmental movement.

With lyrics such as “They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum,” and, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” it rebuked what humans were doing to nature in the interest of what was popularly deemed to be progress.

Federal highway funds seem to offer no end in sight to our impulse to bulldoze more, as highways are expanded in a broken-record habit to pave over nature. Indeed, sometimes It may seem that all we can do in the face of this unstoppable wave of global urbanization is to sing the blues.

But nature sings its songs too. Whale song echoes over vast volumes of ocean waters. Bees sing their vibrations and dance to share their directions to find flowers. Those songs and the rhythms of annual migrations of birds and herds across continents show how closely entwined nature is to music. Music serves as a medium of communication to celebrate, invoke, or accompany aspects from the cycle of life.

In Native American culture, the music is closely connected to and even intertwined with nature. It is an integral part of spiritual, social, moral and cultural events. Its most traditional instruments are voices, drums, and flutes; and all created sound, melody, and song serve a specific purpose. Traditionally, their music was brought to life through inspiration, participation, and imitation.

“Songs come from creation itself,” and “songs come from the earth. We are merely vessels through which it can flow and come forth and give joy and give culture, and show us traditions,” explained Whirling Cloud Woman from the Ute peoples.

Humanity as a whole is now writing different songs about Earth and its climate challenges, songs in which individual citizens and governmental officials worldwide play new scores together. And here in Greater Newburyport, expanded rail trails, better walk-ability, edible public plantings and pollinator meadows sound sweet in every neighborhood.

Along the Merrimack River, the sound that comes from the singing birds, the flowing water, and kids laughing lets us forget our worries for awhile and reflect on what is good in life, including being lucky enough to have nature so close at hand. Just like in ‘Annie’s Song’ by John Denver, with lines like “you fill up my senses like a night in a forest, like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain,” we are so lucky to live where we do.

Yet there is bad news and we have a lot to do for the healing of Earth’s ills, and we all worry about it.

a “band” of environment and climate allies

But take heart — we can work on it together. Ecological science is helping urban planners think more creatively about nature-informed design. And such as improvisation in jazz, sometimes the most beautiful music comes in the moment and in collaboration with fellow band members. Here in Greater Newburyport, ACES has formed a “band” of environment and climate allies who continue to practice together week after week in hopes that the music deep in the rhythms of the natural world can be harmoniously channeled into meaningful stewardship actions.

Whatever your instrument — your voice, your pen, or your checkbook — please join the band and ACES this earth month and sing your own song for nature. And, save the date of Friday, April 22, from 1 to 4 p.m. for an Earth Day Climate Justice celebration being organized by the First Religious Society Unitarian Universalist, an ACES ally on the waterfront. We hope to see you there!

This column was coordinated by ACES Youth member Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, send an email to ACESNewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES visit www.aces.alliance.org.

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about the author
Ron Martino

After a career in Marketing for science and high tech based corporations, Ron is a member of the Marketing Communications Team of the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards (ACES) where he often focuses on our communication strategies both in traditional and social media.

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