FieldWork, Episode 4

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Welcome to FieldWork. I’m James Sidney.

The more conservationists I meet, the more impressed I am with their unique self-exploration. As we’ll soon hear in the moving words of Jennifer Henry, and the intriguing sound art of Darren Copeland, there seems an inexhaustible variety in the response to nature’s calling.

Take, for instance, Dave Vyse, a founding member of the Field and Stream Rescue Team. He helped create a whole new community focused on the rehabilitation of Ontario’s densely populated Halton Region. I met him following the conclusion of Field and Stream Rescue’s AGM, and asked about the challenges and satisfactions of looking after your own backyard. We spoke at the City Hall of Burlington, Ontario.

When we first started and had that first community cleanup in our neighbourhood back in 2001 there were really no expectations. The feedback from all the volunteers was, you know, “Can you come and do this in my neighbourhood?” So when we actually started to go through the not-for-profit process of becoming incorporated and a charitable organization there was a lot of work behind it. However, we felt that there was a need for that—becoming a credible, established type of organization within Burlington, and I think that’s what’s kept us close to the community for so long, is that we’ve got that tight knit with the city, we’ve got the tight knit with the conservation authority, we’ve worked with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans the Canadian Wildlife Service, and then all the other organizations. So they can actually lean on us and leverage us for our charitable status as well, and we found that was fairly important.

Trying to fight urbanization and trying to fight cities growing, we took a different stance, what we thought is, why don’t we work with the municipalities rather than work against them, let’s work with them and try to establish areas maybe when they’re developing streams and creeks, maybe thinking a little bit more about the environment tying in some corridors, maybe creating more green space. Unfortunately, money does talk and we do have a lot of urban sprawl especially where we live, in the GTA. However, most of the people within the municipalities are very sensitive to that, they live here as well, so they’re sensitive to how much we can leave back to the environment.

The ongoing challenge is finding volunteers. We seem to have too many organizations that are in need of volunteers and too many organizations that seem to spring up one year and are gone the next, and unfortunately that erodes our volunteer base. What I think, what always stands true is, we’re always here. So even if we see volunteers come and then go and then—they always seem to come back.

I think that through our efforts things have definitely become better. I think we’ve created quite a bit of awareness that these streams all flow in to the Great Lakes. A lot of them are treated as essentially as water runoff from the roads and, and storm sewers. And I don’t think a lot of people realized where the water was actually going off of the street. They started to see that, wow, you know the, all the Tim Horton’s cups and the cigarette butts all ends up in here, and all this flows into the Great Lakes.

I think one thing we’ve got to keep our eye on is maintaining a strong board, maintaining a strong volunteer base, and I think the rest will come. The rest will come. There’s lots of work to be done.

1. The province of Ontario is almost 1 million square kilometres in size.
2. Southern Ontario is home to 12 million people, and 35% of Canada’s total population.
3. Ontario is 66% forested, representing 2% of the world’s remaining forests.
4. Ontario has approximately 85 billion trees, a size equivalent to Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
5. While 81% of Ontario’s forests are on Crown Land, only 9% are within parks or protected areas.

Jennifer Henry is the Executive Director of KAIROS, an umbrella organization that unites Canadian churches and religious organizations to advocate for social change. KAIROS strives to be a prophetic voice in the public sphere, empowering the religious to live out their faith through action for justice and for peace.

I spoke with Jennifer at the KAIROS offices in Toronto, Ontario.

Faith communities believe that the impossible is possible. We hold to an incredible hope that things can be better that things must be better. I think we see our work as collaborating with God’s dream of justice. Because we know that what is intended for human beings, what’s intended for the Earth is well-being.

In the Bible in our sacred stories we have this notion of Jubilee. And it’s a notion that things get out of whack. Things become unequal, our relationship with the Earth is maybe not as we would want it to be. And so every fifty years you enact a Jubilee, where you essentially try to set things right. So you cancel debts that have been accumulated. You redistribute wealth. You rest the Earth in a profound way, and so it’s this notion of kind of a correction that needs to be done on a periodic basis to address the inequalities that have happened. And so the Jubilee movement lifted that idea off the pages and drew on it as kind of inspiration to propose that kind of global correction in the world at the time of the millennial change in 2000.

KAIROS is really committed to the work of indigenous rights, and to right relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada. And so the work right now is about giving urgency and momentum and attention to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ninety-four calls to action. One of the things about social justice work and trying to make systemic change and structural change is it takes a long time. It can take decades to bring about the kind of change that we’re looking for. And on the issue of indigenous rights in Canada, indigenous rights relations, the church has been at this for forty years. And we are beginning now to see a kind of opening in the country to actually a possible change towards that reconciled relationship. It is a KAIROS moment. There is a possibility an opening that we could be a different country than the one that we have been.

We’re not involved in partisan politics. But we are involved in policy change. At a grassroots level many people in the churches help with giving direct and charitable support to people. But the church has to also be about addressing the problems that created those situations in the first place. And so that means we have to actually address structures and systems, we have to be engaged in the public sphere in policy change. Actually trying to address the situation that got folks there in the first place. And I think that, that’s our job, and it’s a challenging job, but we need to be about getting to the root causes of the issues. And that’s what KAIROS does.

Darren Copeland is a sound artist and past president of CASE, the Canadian Association of Sound Ecologists. His widely exhibited works include live performance, sound installations, and fixed media compositions. He also curates a wide array of sound events in his role as Artistic Director of New Adventures in Sound Art, a presentation platform for experimental sound artists.

I spoke to him about his work and about the field of sound ecology at his home outside South River, Ontario.

I’m a sound artist. What I try to think of it is, is making art with sounds, rather than art with pictures. You could say it’s music, but I think that by calling it sound art rather than music puts to rest some expectations, that there’s no melody and that in my case that the focus is on the sounds of the environment and engaging with that as creative material. I like to think of it more as a practice of maybe, um maybe sculpting or something where you’re taking something that exists and you’re chiseling away a form out of it.

Sound ecology and acoustic ecology—are sort of the same term—they arose out of the research of the World Soundscape Project in the 70s. And although many of them had a background as musicians, their approach to the soundscape was, I guess from an ecological point of view, where they were studying the relationship of sounds between different organisms or how different organisms functioned from an acoustic point of view.

The field of sound ecology and acoustic ecology is an interdisciplinary fields, in fact. It’s comprised of not just composers, but also geographers, engineers, anybody who’s work involves sound, and who are interested in looking at the impact of sound, or the role of sound.

I think there’s the thing about, a kind of touristic view of listening, is that you encounter something new. All your defences and expectations of what’s supposed to happen go away, and you hear things new again.

The thing with environmental sounds in the soundscape is people hear them all the time, so they’re familiar with them. So it’s not like writing music with some complex harmony or something, where you’re creating sounds that people might be unaccustomed to. When I make a piece all with environmental sounds, then there is a recognition already there. People have memories, it might trigger memories, certain sounds. There is an immediate connection there. It’s just kind of awakening it, just bringing it to the surface, is all that I’m doing. And I think that by doing that, then you open the discussion or the awareness that there is more to the acoustic dimension in people’s experience than they give credit to.

It’s kind of about an openness to things, and a readiness. Readiness that sound will happen, always happen. And it’s not a question of whether you’re ready with your recorder to listen, it’s that you’re ready to listen. And that happens first.


Thank you for joining us on this edition of FieldWork. To find out when our next edition is released, please sign up for notifications at Until next time, I’m James Sidney. Thank you for watching.

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