The Sound of Silence: Mass Extinction and the Music of the World

I recently came across an article from The Guardian in 2012 detailing the work of scientist Bernie Krause, who has spent his life recording sounds of nature. Krause’s major finding is simple: the loss of biodiversity, from the depths of the reefs to the rain forests, can be clearly tracked by listening to audio recordings over a 40-year period. He reports that he now hears deafening silence in so many ecosystems that once teemed with life. The article detailed his book, The Great Animal Orchestra. I bought the book, compelled to read more, the cryptic words of Simon and Garfunkle’s Sound of Silence echoing in my ears. This blog post is a bit different than some of my others, in that it is simply a response, a real and human response, to the growing sound of silence upon our landscape.


In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

When I was a child and teen, I embraced dystopian science fiction. Authors like Ursula K. LeGuin, E.M. Forrester, Aldus Huxley, Marge Piercy, Suzette Hagen Elgin, and George Orwell enthralled me and horrified me with their tales of dark futures, where humanity was oppressed and the land stripped bare. But these were just stories, I’d think to myself. And growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they really did seem to be stories–we had plenty of resources, this was America’s heyday, when everything was booming. Of course we were were protecting the land as we grew and prospered, there were no costs to our progress…at least, that’s what we keep being told.  But these tales often made me wonder–what was the cost? And how quickly were we headed to a future, say, like what Marge Piercy describes in Oryx and Crake?  Perhaps faster than I realized.

When I was 14, I witnessed firsthand of the destruction of the ecosystem of my own beloved forest in the name of profit. I remember the deafening roar of the loggers’ machines as they pillaged that forest. I remember the eerie silence in the weeks following their departure, and the devastated landscape they left in their wake. Where a once-vibrant forest stood–and chirped, buzzed, skittered, and slithered–only silence remained.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

The silence of the forest after it has been logged, or the silence of the reef after it has been bleached, is only one kind of silence–there is another, just as tragic, in our own conversations as a culture and as a species. The silence that pervades us is a silence of fact, of truth, and of reality. We hear people talking without saying anything–the nightly news and national media do their best to continually report on nothing of substance, all day and all night long. When they attempt to address an issue of real substance, it is reported is a shallow husk of reality. The narrative we hear from those who speak loudly is that everything is fine and will continue to be fine, that mass extinctions don’t matter, that we can continue to pillage and plunder. Chris Hedges does a brilliant job in identifying these issues in his Empire of Illusion.

When people do hear about the work of scientists like Bernie Krause, they do not listen. They make excuses. They close off their ability to comprehend what is actually being said, or attack the credibility of science or or a scientist’s character in order to protect and preserve that their own internal mythologies. I think about the final comments of the authors of The Limits to Growth when they say that, despite the massive amount of evidence they compiled and presented, they weren’t heard at a regional, national, or international level. They, too, could not have conversations because the conversations were not able to be had. But they could talk and work locally, and that gave them hope. Still, so many others, also silenced.

And the silence is becoming institutionalized. And now, parts of the legislative branch in the USA are working to silence science. North Carolina passed a law in 2012 that effectively bans the use of scientific data in making predictions about sea level rise. Congress just this past year made it illegal for the Pentagon to address climate change and told them to ignore that it was occurring. Our very governments, those that are supposed to protect the people, are instead, protecting their own silence. And its not just our government–we, too, often turn away from the things we don’t want to hear, from the realities we face. We, too, offer silence.

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

Even as someone who has a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition, who teaches effective writing as my profession, I am at a loss about how to address the silence, how to engage in conversations that enact real change. I’ve certainly taken my best step at some analysis of the tools we could use to address humanity’s current predicament on my little corner of the web. Still, I don’t know how we can break the silence of a larger system where power and privilege control nearly all dialogue and discussion. I, too, like so many of you, feel silenced.


Truthfully, in reading and reflecting upon the research of Bernie Krause and others like him, I am struck by the enormity of the loss of life that is occurring, of the silence that remains behind. I think about the little things I am doing in my life, the things I talk about on this blog, and I know they aren’t enough. But the really truly difficult things, like better options for transportation and housing, are still out of my reach at this point, partially because of lack of resources and partially because of the laws themselves. I make excuses, like I just did, and wonder what the best way to actually move forward is. I question how I can even be part of the system at all. I get upset, and angry, and frustrated with myself for my lack of real response. I engage in internal dialogue with myself….and get tripped up at this point…because I’ve just written two paragraphs that say, I don’t know, and I have nothing more to offer. From the outside, all one would hear is my silence. Meanwhile, the broader echoes reverberate in Bernie Krause’s recordings and the silence grows with each extinction and tree felled.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence

All the while, we worship the the neon gods, bowing to them and honoring them with our time, energy, and passion. But the neon gods cannot grow our food; the neon gods cannot provide us with water, or shelter, or warmth. In fact, the neon gods provide us with nothing that we actually need to survive. But they can certainly fill our minds with distractions so that we can’t hear the growing silence. Perhaps its time we turn away from the neon gods long enough to start to listen and to understand, on multiple levels. Perhaps its time to break that silence.


  1. Hi there, just your your recent blog. So very powerful. Thank you for writing it. I hope people start to listen to the silence, and start questioning before it is far too late.

    Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2015 21:29:44 +0000 To:

    1. Thank you for the comment. You raise the issue of questioning–and I think this, in and of itself, is a great place for many to start. Asking the right questions can get one quite far!

  2. Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    A poignant call from the Sound of Silence … That we each step up to do whatever we can, wherever we are, with whatever we have: Now. That includes standing up to things like the TPP, which will decimate the environment at least as much as it will jobs and human rights. But doing what we can also includes the little things — bringing the sacred back into our lives, retuning ourselves with Nature, planting trees, growing our own food, celebrating and creating life, rather than just destoying and consuming. Many hands make light work — or at least, they summon possibilities beyond the silence.

    1. Thanks for the reblog–I love the celebration and creation of life as a response to this. Nice.

  3. Eco terrorism doesn’t need to be violent…… Ghandi’s revolutionary approach is viable….

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. I understand your frustration …… Remember, Eco-revolutionary tactics do not have to be violent…
    Ghandi proved that the only weapon necessary is commitment. Persistence is the key, every voice makes a difference. Thank you for posting…..

    1. Thank YOU celticfisherman! Sometimes I just fall into despair, when I read something like the research described in this post. Eco-revolution indeed! 🙂

  5. It feels synchronistic to read your post after having read a post on Brain Pickings about a book called “Why We Ignore the Obvious: The Psychology of Willful Blindness”. The Brain Pickings article also has a 14-minute TED Talk video of the book’s author discussing the topic embedded in the post.

    Here is the link in case anyone is interested in checking it out:

    This was a very poignant blog post; thank you for sharing your feelings and experiences with us, your readers 🙂


    1. OOh, nice resource. Thanks for posting it! I will definitely check it out.

  6. Reblogged this on Rebalancing Acts and commented:
    This is beautiful and poignant, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear “Sound of Silence” the same way again.

    1. I had that song stuck in my head for days until I finished this post. I know there are lots of interpretations to the lyrics of that song–but this seemed so fitting. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Reblogged this on Reiki Dawn and commented:
    This blog post was brought to my attention by Laura Bruno. It’s bitter sweetness clutches at my heart. Do we really want to hear complete silence where there was once the music of life.

    1. Thank you for the Reblog, Dawn!

  8. As a youngster, I watched huge, great flocks of migrating birds. The Red-winged Blackbirds would appear as a thick trail of smoke, MILES in length of numbers, and I could watch each vast flock pass for many minutes,…. and the sound was Beautiful!!!!

    The Ring-necked Pheasant brought bountiful autumn harvests in great numbers,…. and their cackling call was heard year around!!!

    While I’ve heard many more Wood-ducks and Canadian Geese in recent decades,…. I’ve deeply missed the calling sounds of a great many other waterfowl. The Grey Wolf has returned, and I’ve heard and seen the return of the great ravens nearby,…. it’s oddly comforting.

    Still, it’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve seen or even heard a pheasant,…. and the quietness continues to grow deafening!!!!

    1. I remember those huge flocks of birds too. I haven’t seen anything like them in years–this year, I hardly saw any flocks at all. We do have lots of hawks (they like to eat my chickens, haha) and crows….but I do think the bird populations are in trouble. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Thank you for the reblog 🙂

  9. Take heart Willowcrow, there is no music without silence, and what appears to be ‘lost’ on one dimension reappears on a higher plane (we cannot ‘hear’ the dog-whistle but we know that it is there:). Your wonderful blog post brought to mind Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ (V) :

    “I do not know which to prefer,
    The beauty of inflections
    Or the beauty of innuendoes,
    The blackbird whistling
    Or just after.”

    1. Amazing what music teaches us! I’ll listen to that song once again :).

  10. Just give it the Atlass Shrug and go back to Paul’s Garden Of Eden.

  11. When you write a blog post, Willowcrow, I must admit out of all of the writers I follow you posts are the ones I really sit up and pay attention to. Wonderful writing always, and stunning perceptions. Often you put into stunning words my thoughts of the same moment.

    This time your passion is intense and heart flowing and essential to broadcast. The clearing of the woods, for example, was a reminder of my heartache when my childhood ‘den’ of woods was taken away for development when I was 9 years old, and I wondered where the animals went.

    As usual, I’m making reference to this post in my Almost Daily Blog. Many thanks xxx

    1. Thank you so much, WoodlandBard. Sometimes we just have to feel our way through things….I’ve had to re-learn this on the druid path, as my academic training tried to beat that out of me! :). That’s what I’m doing here…feeling my way through.

  12. Please keep speaking, and I will keep listening …
    Please know that your words are heard, and treasured.

    1. Thank you, Danae! That really made my day 🙂

  13. What you have identified here is the heart of the matter. I am so burnt out at the relentless destruction I have witnessed over 5 decades. Much of the writing I see leaves me feeling hollow. Your post is sad and beautiful. Thank you for writing something that makes me feel something again.

    1. Thank you, John. Perhaps part of our role in today’s society IS to feel something–so many do not. I realized that in the process of thinking about your comment. I think we are all burnt out, but its that numbness that I want to avoid.

  14. Wonderful post. But don’t despair because you haven’t yet achieved everything you want to achieve; despair is one of the tools of silence, and makes you think that your sounds are not heard. They are heard.

    You’ve done a lot, you’re doing more, and every little bit truly does help. Just keep on, bit by bit, as you can and when you can. Remember that nobody can do 100% instantly, but little by little and the mouse ate the cheese. 😉

    1. So true. I’ve posted that lesson before–the art of climbing the mountain. And you climb the mountain one step at a time, sometimes painful. Sometimes you fall back down…but you get up again :). And keep moving! Thanks Sara :).

      1. You’re welcome!

        Also, remember: never let the perfect become the enemy of the real. Beating yourself up for not having achieved perfection obscures your view of what you’ve actually achieved.

        1. Thanks Sara…you always know the right words to say! 🙂

  15. Thank you for speaking so beautifully and honestly. I fear for my grandchildren but one must have hope. Patrick

    1. Hope is critical, Patrick! Its hard not to get mired down in all of it, though….but we all must try :).

  16. You have a beautiful blog and I just want to say that I have been enjoying it immensely. There is so much useful information. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Brittany! 🙂

  17. Did you know Bernie did a wonderful TED talk on this topic? I listened to it a while ago, and every now and then I stop and think about it again. It makes me really appreciate the cacophony of nocturnal sounds I have outside my bedroom window (I live out in the countryside, in Australia).

    I’m sure you’d enjoy it:

    And keep up the great writing!

    1. Thanks for the link, Dan! Its an amazing talk!

  18. Strong message. Thank you. The silence IS DEAFENING !!!!

  19. Great post. I try to stay positive when confronting this topic, but it can be hard. However I have been impressed by the efforts of many of the island nations in the South Pacific, which have had great success in promoting eco-tourism and coral replanting initiatives. There has also been a major successes in Yellowstone national park by supporting the reintroduction of large carnivores, they have managed to significantly restore the ecological balance there. This was driven by public pressure. So there is progress being made.

    1. Yeah, I think the best way to stay positive is to think about the positive things (which can be hard with so much negative swirling around us). Still, little victories matter :).

      1. Thanks for your reply. Oh yeah, small victories are symbolically so important. They raise the potentiality for ecological healing within the collective consciousness, and this in turn reinforces that co-creative potential within the Earth’s energy system, allowing it to manifest into our reality more rapidly.

  20. What a fabulous,thoughtful and timely critique. I believe you have put into words exactly how many,many people are feeling who want to do something to reverse the trend. Your article has made me think about the ways in which the average person can act, even on a small scale to make a difference.Brilliant !

    1. Thank you :)! I do think those individual actions add up…and the more we can live by example and share with others, the more positive change we can enact in the world!

  21. Thank you for this lovely, insightful post. I find myself wondering what Rachel Carson or Burt Schwartzchild would have made of the growing silence. We each do as we are able and trust that in the long run the silence will give way to song. Thank you for following my blog.

    1. Thank you, Michael, for your comment. I think the saddest thing is that so many don’t realize the silence is even here, nor that its growing. We each do as we are able, indeed!

  22. The Sound of Silence has been stuck in my mind for several days now, and I finally took a moment this afternoon to sit down and listen to it, and its relevance to our society today evoked a rush of the most sinister sentiments remembered from the bleakest of dystopian novels. I searched for Huxley and The Sound of Silence and found this wonderfully eloquent blog post of yours expressing almost all of my thoughts exactly, and giving me several more for consideration. While I’m beginning to feel that the freer days of the internet are near an end, it is lovely to still find such beautiful thoughts from someone on the other side of the world, and it’s truly a remarkable pleasure to find my own thoughts moved along by them.

    I’ve seen essays written on whose fear was most valid; Huxley’s or Orwell’s, but I think the frightening reality is that our society has taken a nose dive into embracing a symbiotic system of the two perfectly combined; access to so much information and distraction we don’t care, and surveilled to an extent we can’t fully understand, using vastly complicated systems that even people in IT often fail to completely grasp. Under those two conditions we have been robbed of our ability to think rationally and talk freely. Right now historians and publishers are in prison in countries that we’re supposed to consider beacons of freedom for questioning some accounts of WWII, and anyone simply glancing over that in a rare interest piece on some obscure news outlet might easily assume they were simply paranoid holocaust deniers. But they were professional historians and publishers, and right or wrong it’s their job to research our history and have their work published for others to affirm or counter as they see evidence for. Perhaps this seems irrelevant, but I think our loss of history, along with our inability to apply the long accepted maxim that the victors write the history, is at least in part responsible for our inability to have these discussions now. I think the loss of our history and what that means to us as people is a theme that is not discussed as much as it deserves to be when considering 1984. We’re blind to where we’re going if we can’t see where we’ve been, and not only that but we have no real context for where we are now. We’re in a limbo between realities – the one that’s promoted on news shows and papers and discussed in lifestyle magazines, and the harsh truth that few wish to fully face. I feel we’ve perhaps lost more than just our ability to discuss, I think we might have lost ourselves a little bit. How we articulate our thoughts is how I would like to think we define who we are, but we can’t truly define who we are with no grounded reality in which to base that internal dialogue. It becomes cluttered with doublespeak and newspeak and loses much of its substance.

    My greatest disappointment in life is to have realised how long I accepted such contradictory and distorted values and practices as normal, and it’s taken a couple of years to come to terms with my own personal impact on the planet and how I’ve been as guilty as the rest of Western society in unthinkingly living a lifestyle which is in no real way deserved, fair or sustainable. I’ve been privileged in some ways in my upbringing, in having a lot of excellent books introduced to me at an early age and having parents who studied my whole childhood, and so I think it has been easier for me to return to some kind of sanity(for want of better phrasing). My biggest fear when I think about what this means for us as a society, species and even planet is what we can expect now that overpopulation is an indisputable issue, and now that we’re beginning to see in plain light just what atrocities our governments are willing to commit upon civilians. While we can perhaps excuse ourselves a little and say we have been led astray by masterful marketing that borders on professional propaganda, and news shows that are designed to mislead and influence, we have also been told by scientists too numerous and from too many fields to even begin listing, about the consequences of our personal every day actions; from hair spray, to styrofoam, to gas to drive a couple of blocks to the store, to sweatshops, to child labor, and we’ve seen the pictures of animals dying in oil spills and landfills, and of children broken into pieces in wars for resources, and extinct and endangered animal and plant populations. We’ve been told those things, and society has largely done nothing to change their lifestyles accordingly and has instead whipped themselves even further into a consuming frenzy. So my fear, as cynical and perhaps paranoid as it may sound, is what would those in power consider the ethical thing to do. Or perhaps more acutely, because my own reactions and feeling must be at least some reflection of humanity at large, what would I do? If the world is overpopulated to the point of unsustainability, and society at large has chosen to ignore that message, or perhaps, has been unable to process that message in any meaningful way, is the most ethical thing to do to find drastic ways of population reduction, or to allow humanity to run it’s course unchecked and blind into a dark abyss of complete destruction from which there might be no return? I’d like there to be a better option, but the only option I can think of is for the vast majority of consumer societies to change their way of life drastically and for us to heed our birth rate ourselves, and that seems impossible so long as these conversations remain impossible to have with most people. Do you have other, perhaps more optimistic, thoughts about this?

    If you’ve made it this far, thank you very much for taking the time to read. The world feels like it is both getting larger in how much we have access to online, and yet also smaller in how few people can be found with which to express these sentiments. Thank you for providing something of an oasis in this vast neon desert of silence. You have an avid follower.

    1. Jessica,

      Thanks for your comment and thoughts. I think the two areas where we’ve been robbed: the ability to think rationally and the ability to think freely–are so critical, and yet so missing.

      I am a writing professor, and a bit part of a job of any writing professor is to teach students how to write rationally and think freely :). I see what you are describing all the time with my students–they are literally awash in information, yet know nothing; the meaningful, important questions are too much work to consider; and the cell phone and cute cat photos are more important than the questions that humans have grappled through the centuries.

      I’ve also watched my colleagues in other institutions be forcefully removed from their positions illegally because their findings happened to contradict the dominating narrative–for example, several oceanographers in Louisiana who had tenure (which is supposed to give one the academic freedom to pursue and publish on any area, regardless of its controversial nature) were fired from their jobs after showing that the Deepwater Oil Spill had not been cleaned up (despite BP and the US Government saying it had).

      You also mentioned how upset you are that you’ve accepted the contradictory and distorted values for so long. I think that coming to a new understanding is a process, and it can be a very isolating one. Its like trying to move upstream against a strong current pushing you in the other direction. I’ve gone far enough along this process now that I have little in common with many of my fellow Americans–and that, in and of itself, is really quite difficult. Yet, I don’t really feel I have another choice! John Michael Greer wrote a fantastic book a few years ago called “Not the Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, and the Myth of Progress.” In this book, he describes the psychological conditioning we all have faced with regards to our culture–like how the psychology of previous investment, the myth of progress, and so on have tremendous hold upon us. He describes the stages of grief we must go through in letting these things go. That book really helped me quite a bit. That, and surrounding myself with people who aren’t “drinking the koolaid” :).

      And I think that what is missing, in general, is compassion. Its like the rationalist mindset has gone so far to one side that we can rationalize any behavior we want. In the US right now, we have these horrible events where African American men are being shot and killed by police for no reason. The question that keeps being asked by our media is whether or not the police were within their legal justification to do so. But the real question that isn’t asked is is this moral? Is it right? Yet nobody seems to ask those questions on a national level, and we keep looking to the laws (which aren’t right) to see if these atrocities are legally motivated.

      And you ask the question about consumer societies and how we must change, find ways to reduce the population and so on.

      I have many thoughts, not so optimistic. When I look at where we are, in consumer-based society, and the excess…and thinking about where we are heading, it just saddens me. My own personal response has been to transition to lower-carbon producing and lower-fossil fuel consuming lifestyles: which is NOT easy in a system designed to make you keep consuming (the lawn is the poster child of this problem, of course). The problem we really face is that there is, in the words of my favorite punk band, Bad Religion, an “arid torpor of inaction” surrounding these issues on most higher levels of government. So, I do what I can, and I teach as many others as I can do to the same (one of the purposes of the blog).

      One of the challenges that I face, at least here in the states, is that Americans are now extremely lazy, many are physically in very poor shape, and a lot of activities that allow one to be more sustainable are simply not possible or desired. Growing one’s own food without the use of fossil fuels takes hard work. People want you to do it for them. They would love a front yard garden, but they don’t want to do the work of it.

      I think I’m rambling now…haha! Thank you for the wonderful comment 🙂

      1. It’s very kind of you to take the time to reply. Don’t write it off as rambling at all, even jokingly, because in all honesty, your comment and blog feel like something of a lifeline today,

        Because of your position I’m curious now as to how much value you would give today’s university degrees in the humanities. If so many of us have strayed from being capable of the critical thinking required to really study literature, history, philosophy or writing, how successfully do you see these courses as being in actually getting through to students? I’m asking this as a politer way of enquiring about your success rate in winning over popularity from the fairly stiff competition of cats doing some pretty damn cute things.

        It is upsetting to see the kind of corruption that has researchers fired at work close to home. They’re not isolated incidents, and I’ve seen a little in my work which made me quite uncomfortable, and more so in seeing how quickly people who consider themselves a good members of society can do something quite unethical for the smallest of motivations without blinking an eye.

        I have added Micheal Greer’s book to my to-read list, below a couple of the authors you mentioned in your blog that I had not come yet read. You sum it up well by saying the experience is isolating. I’m just shy of 30, and hail from the somewhat culturally isolated New Zealand. It’s become almost impossible for me to relate in any way to most of my old school friends, and in the past 8 years I’ve spent in Europe, very rare to find new ones I can really talk to to surround myself with. I have read a bit about the police shootings in the US, mostly by Greenwald, and I will add here that one of the things that I enjoyed about your writing was that you sounded like a slightly more whimsical and poetic Greenwald, whose writing and clarity impresses me hugely, and the comparison to whom is one of the highest compliments I can think of.

        Compassion, or lack thereof, may indeed be at the heart of our problems. It feels like it’s become normal to restrict it to smaller and smaller groups, and the shootings in the US and the racism I see in Europe seem like they must be a direct result of that. A similar incident to the African American shootings happened in Brussels earlier this year after the attacks in Paris, where police shot suspected terrorists in their apartment. They were heralded as champions, and the people were too busy chanting “Je suis Charlie!” to ask whether or not police shooting Muslim suspects and kind of asking questions later was the mark of a sane or just society. Coming from New Zealand, the ironies of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the subsequent racism and violence that has become more rampant than ever in Europe since, have been especially overwhelming to me, and while I know the intentions of everyone holding their pens up proudly in solidarity for “freedom of speech” and moving flikr photographs is probably well intentioned, I just want to slap them. New Zealand has followed the US into mass surveillance and blinked less of an eye than even the Americans, and have been quick to stir up a frenzy of fear over terrorism. Friends at school who wrote well and excelled in class and who I thought to be very open minded people were suddenly saying to me NZ could be next and ISIS was evil and everywhere, and France is setting an example of the right to freedom of speech. The horrifying punch line being that the last foreign terrorist attack on NZ was by the French when they sunk two Greenpeace ships for protesting their nuclear tests in NZ waters, just a few short decades ago but apparently lost in the fogs of fickle memories. I must still be on stage 2. Any suggestions on who I should try bargaining with when I get over this?

        I understand what you mean about circumstance trapping so many people into the cycle of the consumer lifestyle in the cities. I’ve experienced the problem myself, and am relieved to be moving to a farm soon, where the changes I want to make are much more viable. But it’s certainly not an opportunity many people born in cities get, and I guess that also adds to the problem of dialogue. So long as there is no easy way for their lifestyle to change, there can’t be any easy way for them to look at the truth and take on the burden for which they have no means to tackle.

        I had never thought about lawns in that way before by the way. NZ has more land than people, and in Belgium front lawns are rare to non-existent in the cities, but the idea that a house should have a wide front lawn is one that is fairly well rooted in my mind now that I think about it. I spent a lot of my childhood in my grandparents’ vegetable gardens, and it seems like that should have more of an influence over what I see when I imagine a house and garden, but it’s a lawn. It’s strange that a concept I’ve probably seen more on TV than in my personal life should have more of an impact in my mind. That’s almost frighteningly insidious.

        When your rebellious side is taking a rest, let me return what I took for a listening recommendation and enjoyed, and suggest listening to Time Has Told Me by Nick Drake, as you have been a troubled cure for a troubled mind this grey Belgian afternoon. Ramble back if you feel at all inclined, but I can see from your other comments that your words are highly valued and must surely be in high demand. =)

        1. Hi Jessica!

          As a learning researcher, I know that degrees, even the humanities, can only be valuable and meaningful if they are valued–like any other thing we are learning, if we don’t value the material, we lose it. This is part of why general education curriculum is failing so badly now: its not that history and philosophy and physics aren’t relevant to us: they are. Its that students are extremely vocationally driven, meaning that only that which directly–to them–relates to their chosen profession is of value (I think this article is behind a paywall, but a lot of the research I do on learning examines “transfer of learning” or what students take with them; this is an article that examines what I’m saying here:

          So this is all to say that I think all fields have something to teach us; all fields, especially those in the humanities, teach us how to be deep and critical thinkers which is SORELY needed, but that material falls on deaf ears for those not willing to hear. I see this every year in first-year composition classes: we give students a 2500 year old tried and tested rhetorical toolkit right from Aristotle; it teaches them how to be effective communicators also to critically analyze how they are being persuaded. We teach them logical fallacies, like bandwagon appeals and false binaries, that go to the heart of some of the ridiculous arguments prevalent in culture. And yet, most couldn’t care less. They are too busy sneaking onto their cell phones…sigh. Getting them to care is really, really hard work.

          I’m so, so sorry to hear about what is happening in NZ. I wouldn’t wish this police/surveillance state we have here in the US upon anyone. I remember here after 9/11, I spoke to an older friend, in her 50’s at the time, and she told me that she didn’t care what they did to us as long as we were safe. So many people have that attitude…and its such a tragedy. And now we have a real mess on our hands, we certainly aren’t any safer, and most of the bill of rights that our country began with has been violated and is ineffective. Back in the founding days of the USA, Ben Franklin wrote “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I have come to think of that as a mantra, despite the fact that it mostly falls on deaf ears today :(.

          I’m excited to hear that you are moving to a farm–may you be healed and regenerated with the soil and the plants! They are amazing.

          I am listening to your recommendation now–thank you so much for the Nick Drake suggestion! And by all means, this is an interesting conversation and I’m happy to continue it when I’m back from my retreat next week! 🙂

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