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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Role of Music in the Transition Towards a Culture of Sustainability

Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 3.0 license

Music has a critical role to play in the transition towards a culture of sustainability. Music is essential to human survival and human development. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not an ‘add on;’ instead, it is the life-blood of culture and individual and collective identity and strengthens our bio-culture.  Participatory music, in particular, may play a critical role in enabling human survival to climate change. Its ability to draw upon and illicit deep levels of both verbal and non-verbal imagery, symbols, emotions and social-knowledge-structures make it a vitalizing element for our current journey towards sustainability. Renewing our bio-culture is essential to connecting and living well together. To empower sustainability, we – researchers, program managers, activists, engineers, and others engaged with practical sustain-abilities – need to actively create music as an integral component of those practices from which a sustainable culture can emerge.

This paper first lifts up some of the rapidly growing literature concerning the cultural shift necessary to survive climate change and the role that art and music play in culture.  I then offer a case study from my own work in creating music to empower sustainability and my reflections and lessons learned from this experience.  Finally, based on the theoretical framework and my own experience, I encourage sustainability practitioners to engage in experiments with participatory music.

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