Does the Nature Connection Movement need a Soundtrack?

What did Arab Spring, Civil Rights, and the Union movement have in common? You guessed it – Music!

All successful social movements that I have studied had a soundtrack; that is, music that played a key role in spreading the message beyond the core constituency, engaging and inspiring people that would not have otherwise been involved.  This is one of the main points of Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, a film documenting music’s role (e.g., unity, motivation, communication) in overturning Apartheid.

As reported by MSNBC, rap played a pivotal role in the 2011 Libya, Tunisia and Egypt uprisings:

[Rappers] are pushing the boundaries of freedom of expression across the Middle East. The rappers have even been credited with helping to spark the so-called Arab Spring uprisings that deposed three long-serving dictators and rocked several other regimes.

The significant factor is youth: 60 percent people in the Arab world are aged under 30. Rap popularized calls for reform and the Internet spread that message like wildfire.

Recall how the “Yes We Can” music video (24 million views and counting) buoyed Obama and the movement he spurred for hope and change on the 2008 campaign trail.  Late last year when the Occupy Movement was faltering, a New York Times article pointed out that one of the movement’s downfalls could be the lack of an anthem.

Implications for the Nature Connection Movement

I recently attended the Grassroots Gathering of  Children & Nature Network (C&NN).

Vision: A world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives.

Mission:  The Children & Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership.

As reported on their site, members of the network connected 3,000,000 kids with nature in 2011:

The 2011 Children & Nature Network (C&NN) survey of grassroots leaders of regional, statewide and provincial campaigns shows a three-fold increase in the number of children and youth getting outdoors in nature from 2009 to 2011—from one million to three million annually.

I also participated in their Equity & Nature Roundtable, leading an ongoing conversation of how to make being in nature cool.  As reported in my previous blog post, one of the concepts was to leverage “Media, arts, entertainment, celebrities,” including music, music videos, personalities and shows.  YSA, for example, partners with Miley Cyrus on the Get Your Good On campaign to help kids “do good” in their communities.

Started in 2009 by YSA and Miley Cyrus, Get Ur Good On™ is an online network for youth to support each other in their missions to do “good” in their communities. Featuring celebrity involvement, multimedia platforms, and grants and awards, it’s the place for youth to learn, implement, and share innovative solutions to global issues.

Another example, in 2009, Jason Mraz performed a Tribute to his hit song I’m Yours as Outdoors on Sesame Street.  I imagine that the song helped make getting outdoor even more attractive for the Sesame Street audience (pre-schoolers; ages 3-5). It probably also made nature, Jason Mraz, and/or Sesame Street cooler for many of the twelve million people (mostly 35-45 year old adults and 25-35 year old women in the US, Canada and Singapore) who have seen the video to date; likes outnumber dislikes by a factor a fifteen.

Interestingly, the languished for a nine months before its first referral by the popular Sesame Street video What I Am.

I recently posted to C&NN Connect, the network’s online community and asked the leaders in the Nature Connection movement some hard questions:

  1. Does the Nature Connection movement need a soundtrack?
  2. If so, what types of music will be most effective and where would we want to them placed?
  3. What is the network’s role in creating the conditions for the appropriate Nature advocacy music to emerge?

Here’s some thoughts from my social enterprise, BALANCE:

  • The popular refrain that “we are what we eat” seems reasonable on a physical level. Awfully reasonable when we are eating junk and beautifully reasonable when we are eating whole, organic foods. On the cultural level, however, one might say we are our music. We are what we listen to. We are what we learn the lyrics of. We are what we sing in the shower or in the car.Unfortunately, most popular songs glorify things that are making us unhealthy as individuals and as a culture.
  • Music, in its various forms including audio, performances and videos, is our most viral communication platform.
  • If we want to deeply engage youth, we need to meet kids where they are at, which – with respect to music – is Youtube and the radio especially Disney Radio.

What do you think: Does the Nature Connection Movement need a Soundtrack?

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