Sustainable Music


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Salon April 9: Folk Knowledge, Environment and Sustainability

 On April 9 at 11 a.m. US eastern daylight time, Mary Hufford, Katey Borland and I will co-host an internet "salon" on folk knowledge, environment and sustainability. The salon, sponsored by the American Folklore Society Fellows, is open to those who attended the March 10 Webinar on Heritage, Folklore, and the Public Sphere:

To participate in the April 9 salon, one must pre-register here. Our  salon is a follow-up to my presentation on that topic for the AFS last March 10, which may be viewed here, beginning at 1 hour, six minutes, and thirty seconds in: Mary Hufford introduces me and I speak for ten minutes on this topic. If you prefer a transcript, in my previous blog entry I printed a draft which was identical to what I presented in the Webinar. I feel fortunate to have two outstanding salon co-hosts in Mary and Katey, each bringing their perspectives on the topic to the salon. Nonetheless, the idea for the salon is for us to host a discussion, not to present our ideas only. Several hundred people attended the Webinar; we look forward to hosting many of you on April 9 at 11 a.m. e.d.t. for a stimulating discussion. We want to hear what you think.

Environmental sustainability has been around in one form or another for more than a century but it has taken on a new urgency in our era of climate change. Cultural sustainability is a comparatively new topic. I began speaking about it to the American Folklore Society in 2006, drawing on sustainability discourses in ecology and also in economics (i.e., sustainable development). Modernization and development have taken a toll on the environment. Is sustainable development the answer? The United Nations thinks so. Or is sustainable development, like sustainable growth, an oxymoron? What is the place of culture, especially traditional expressive culture, such as folk and Indigenous knowledges, in public policy that emphasizes sustainable economic development?  Here is the description of the salon:

This salon will consider how public folklore and heritage programs can foster the sustainability of the natural environment and development of society as a whole.  How do cultural and environmental sustainability differ?  What difference does that make for folklore research and practice?  Querying assumptions bundled into sustainability frameworks, we will explore emerging models for culturally-driven sustainability. How do these models bear on the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? What opportunities does the U.N.’s IPBES program represent for public folklore?  What are the most productive questions that folklorists are exploring with communities to arrive at models for sustainable development?  


  1. Fascinating. I am indebted to you for astute observations on several matters. The lobster fisherman describing how he enjoyed the lifting of the fog reminds me of how much I enjoyed the mornings I spent milking cows when I was growing up in Tennessee.

    My brother once visited a sheep farm in France where a farmer milked 80 sheep each day for use in making the specialty cheeses France produces. Their government considers this production very important and protects the tradition. By contrast, American support of family farms evaporated in the Clinton years and our county saw a decrease of dairy farms, from 112 in 1991 to 6 today. That makes over a hundred fewer families enjoying the feel of a spring morning in Tennessee when the air is clean and fresh and the world feels perfect.

  2. Thanks, Roy. I know what you mean. The fog I've experienced in East Tennessee is gentler than the ocean fog off East Penobscot Bay. There's no better word I can think of to describe the difference. Occasionally, as the morning goes well along and the sun has burnt off the fog from the land hereabouts, the ocean fog lingers. We call it sea smoke.