The Role of Music in Environmental Education: Lessons from the Cod Fishery Crisis and the Dust Bowl Days

Doug Ramsey

Abstract


Music is a central feature of popular culture and thus can be a powerful force in the classroom. For decades, musicians lamented life in the fishery, first about the toughness of life on the sea, and later the collapse of the cod stocks. Similarly, folk musicians sang of a crisis in culture and environment on the Great Plains of North America during the 1930s. This paper uses lyrics and musical styles to illustrate the role of music in educating young people about ecosystem fragility and the cultural importance of rural resources. This paper begins with a description of the east coast fishery prior to, and following the announcement of the Northern Cod fishery moratorium in 1992. Following this, the trend towards migration of people from maritime to prairie Canada in search of employment is analysed through music. Using the 1930s “dust bowl days” as the historic starting point, music is then drawn from the 1930s to the 1990s to describe the ecological and cultural issues facing Great Plains farmers. The paper concludes that music not only provides a rich data source from which to draw, but that it is also a powerful tool for making connections to real life situations in the classroom.

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