Ecoacoustics and Ecomusicology

What are ecoacoustics? What is ecomusicology? These are some questions that I am sure not many people have even conceived. As an AVD Fellow creating an informational video about both of those topics, I should know the answers. But then again, most academics in both the music and ecology related fields are not completely sure what it is, or even how the two are connected. Ecomusicology, the study of ecoacoustics, is a relatively idea. But ecoacoustics have existed, in some form, for a very long time. Ecoacoustics are sounds inspired by nature, communicating the relationship between living things and the environment through sound. To do this, data is taken from the natural environment and translated into a musical process, thereby creating music of the environment.

As a freshman music major who is also interested in the environment, the job seemed to be quite suited for me. I knew that being a student at Furman University, a liberal arts college that supports the intellectual pursuits of its students, my conventional notions regarding every subject would be tested. I never assumed that as a classically trained musician, I would be studying the effect nature had on music and vice versa. Surprisingly, linking the two makes much more sense than I initially thought possible.

Music has been inspired by nature probably since the beginning of music; one of my favorite musical myths is the theme from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was stolen from some song birds. With countless other examples, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Ralph Vaughn William’s The Lark Ascending, there has been an obvious connection between music and nature, where nature usually inspires the creation of some fantastic music. We assume that nature cannot be affected by music in the conventional sense, but I’ve come to realize that may not be the case. Ecoacoustics mean to reflect the environment, sonifying nature and ecology into something that we can experience aurally. It is a new form a communication that composers are utilizing, making it harder to ignore the environmental problems our world is currently facing.

Music’s ability to communicate both ideas and emotion allows more contemporary composers to use it as a way to get people emotionally and mentally invested/aware of the looming ecological crisis. Ecoacoustics could play a vital role in the public’s future response to environmental issues. Imagine if people could hear the way the world was being negatively affected by humans; more people would know about negative human impact and do something to stop it! Granted, this is very ideological. But as a music student, I wouldn’t mind having an ecomusicology class as a course requirement. I could listen to and analyze some ground-breaking music while bridging the gap between the sciences and humanities together, like a true liberal arts college kid!

By Kate Stevens

Recycling at Furman

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The “3 R’s”. Every student learns these very early on, and recycling is engrained in our minds from that point forward. We know we should recycle, we’re aware of the benefits – the problem becomes the follow-through. Whether it’s lack of knowledge about local recycling programs, some things can be difficult to recycle, lack of close-by facilities, or sometimes just a harmless bit of laziness, I don’t know anyone that recycles as much as they think they should. This is exactly what those of us involved in recycling programs at Furman are trying to fix. There are, of course, many wonderful initiatives in place, but we’re always trying to think of how we can do better. Complacency is a bad habit to get into.

So how do we solve those issues? For starters, and what the bulk of my work thus far, is data collection. Simply being a student that spends a bulk of my time on campus has helped with that, along with both experimenting with bin placement and running my regular pick-up/clean-up routes. What do I see working? What doesn’t work? Are there any recycling locations that don’t get much activity? Are there any that seem to see too much activity? All these questions become important both to maximize our efficiency and to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle on campus. As I mentioned above, sometimes laziness comes into play – people may not walk an extra distance to recycle when a trash can is closer – so we look at all of these things in the hopes that given an equal choice between recycling and simply throwing something away, people can make the easy choice to recycle.

The other issue that I spoke about above that can hinder the amount people recycle is lack of knowledge about appropriate programs. I’ve already received a few e-mails from people on campus about this, “where can I recycle x, y, or z?”, and it’s our current focus to rectify this. How can we make sure everyone knows where they can recycle batteries, or old electronics, for example? It’s a very good question, and one that my advisor and I plan on spending the new few weeks figuring out.
All of these issues essentially revolve around one thing – ease-of-use. We can’t force people to recycle, but our hope is that if make it as easy as possible, and give people both proper knowledge and proper choices and facilities, that we’ll be able to vastly increase the amount of recycling that happens on campus.

Michael Mauney

Two Potential Problems

My work at the Shi Center has revealed some significant flaws within the world of sustainability. First off, the world of sustainability is political and the renewable energy market is dominated by government-enforced utility monopolies. Take South Carolina for an example. In early June, a bill was passed to raise South Carolina’s solar capacity for both residential and non-residential institutions. Everyone that had anything to do with politics in this state cheered and felt that a victory had been won. By examining the details of the bill, I have seen that this act does nothing more than provide a drop of water into a bucket for sustainability measures. The state kept the control of energy-generating systems out of the hands of the consumer and in the hands of the utilities, while still limiting the power that these systems can produce. Now I do not blame utilities for being so intrusive in legislation, they are the result of failed planning of an outdated business plan, which has difficulty catering to both renewable and non-renewable energy sources that are created either from facilities or residential homes. The utility companies are then forced to buy the energy produced from residential/non-residential areas by the government. Consequently, it is not economical for either the consumer or the utility to go “green”.

My other problem I noticed is the idea that it is not in the best interest of most people to practice sustainable measures. The companies who claim to be carbon neutral are not truly carbon neutral because buy their offset from other sources since that’s the most feasible way to do so. There are few companies actually achieve true carbon neutrality. The only organization that I have found that made it in their best interest to be sustainable is Wal-Mart, a company that has been subjected to criticism about their “environmental friendliness”. Wal-Mart has the most Mega Watts of solar installed than any other company in the United States and they were one of the first companies to go out of their way and request that their manufactures use eco-friendly boxes. Their criticism came from a woman named Stacey Mitchell who basically explained that Wal-Mart donated to free market groups around the country so they can monopolize solar energy. I am sorry to upset her “ingenious” calculations, but is it so strange that Wal-Mart would donate money to a group that advocates for free markets, considering that a free market is where a company like Wal-Mart thrives the most? The groups advocating for free markets oppose government subsidies for sustainability measures because these subsidies come out of the taxpayer’s pockets. Solar energy will never become popular because of anything the government will do for the consumers; instead, solar energy will become popular when solar is mass-produce for an affordable price. I will hope that other companies around the world will look to Wal-Mart as an environmentally friendly role model.

Benjamin Longnecker

Final reporting year

This is my senior year and also the third year that I’ll be working on Furman’s campus assessments the greenhouse gas assessment (GHG report) and the Sustainability Tracking,  Assessment, and Rating System (STARS).  Although its strange to say this is my last year of reporting for Furman, I’m quite excited about this years reporting.  Previously, years that we submitted both STARS and a GHG report had two fellows to work on the job.  This year we have three students working on the projects and me helping guide anyone who doesn’t understand any aspects of the process.  Having the extra hands working for the project both means we should be able to finish a little earlier than usual, and that we’ll be able to do more once we’ve finished.

Ordinarily after submitting the reports to The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and to the The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) the fellow will still have a little work left to do.  We still have to decipher any changes in the emissions, try our best to understand whether the emissions factors that the calculator uses have changed, a policy has changed, or the specific action which causes emissions has actually become more efficient.  Collecting and presenting all of this information is crucial so that people understand how we’re making progress on campus and what changes have been successful.  Lastly the fellow must write a brief report detailing how the assessment was done so any new fellows will be able to understand and follow their work.

Only after all of this is done can a fellow begin to work on one of the most interesting aspects of the position.  Plans forward, possible improvements to look into, changes other schools have made which could be replicated at Furman.  All of these are also part of what a fellow can do and it gives the fellow a real chance to look for meaningful changes with real impacts that Furman could make.  With so many fellows working towards assessment this year I really look forward to having more time for looking at these possibilities.  Even more importantly for me, we have more opinions and perspectives when looking at the future and possibilities for Furman.  Although the work has only just begun, I look forward to one more year of good reporting full of interesting information and number crunching.  Having a group of younger fellows start this work too just makes it more interesting and I hope that they enjoy this coming year’s work as well.

Kris Hajny

2014-2015 Sustainability Outreach and Engagment Fellowship

Welcome to The Green Scene! As the newly hired Communication and Campus Engagement Fellows at the Shi Center for Sustainability, it is our job to manage outreach for sustainability on Furman’s campus. We are in charge of this blog, other social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, other communication on campus, and advertising our events. Our passion for sustainability and enthusiasm for generating engagement on campus are our motivation for doing what we do.

For the 2014-2015 school year, we hope to engage the campus by:

  1. Promoting recycling on campus
  2. Creating awareness of the campus’s energy consumption
  3. Teaching students the importance of eating local and helping them do it on a college budget

These three goals will be what we focus on throughout the year. We hope to host different events, campaigns, and projects to get the word out on campus. We look forward to working with Furman’s campus throughout the year!


Anna Leger and Victoria Wornom

Rachel Martin on Spring Composting

Spring is in the air! Plants are sprouting, the air is warmer and the compost is turning. As the assistant compost manager at the Furman Farm, my job is to manage the seven composting stations on the farm and a few larger piles off campus. With constant management, the compost is robust and healthy –aiding the newly planted seedlings with rich nutrients.

Seeing plants burst out of the ground full of color and life is not a trivial experience. As someone who had never gardened before taking this position or had really seen spring (native Floridian), I am constantly amazed at the ferocity of life in the tiny seedlings. Seeing real spring up close, especially in a garden setting, demonstrates the renewal of spring. I am fortunate to work in such a beautiful setting.


Success Begins With An Idea

As the Communications fellow at the Shi Center, it is my responsibility to promote events on campus such as CLPs that involve environmental or sustainable causes. This semester, I have worked closely with other student fellows to plan for Earth Week as well as help advocated for the Community Conservation Corps as they are representing Furman University in the Climate Leadership Awards for 2014. I have also been editing and arranging the word press blog to make it as assessable as possible to students and professors. Lastly, I have been preparing my presentation for my position here for Furman Engaged on April 11th.

Earth Week this year took a lot of planning but went very well when the week finally came. Each day there was a different theme regarding keeping the earth healthy and many talks and events were offered in light of this awareness. Monday was Electricity Day, and all the lights were turned off in the Dining hall for one hour to raise awareness of how much energy is consumed on a daily basis on campus. On tuesday, Transportation Day, a group of students got together and held a “bike parade” in which they rode their bikes around campus to show how students can help keep the air healthier by not driving to their classes. Wednesday was Water Day and a water taste test was held comparing bottled water and tap water. On thursday it was Trash Day and all of Furman’s trash left from food was piled up outside of the Dining Hall to provide a visual demonstration of how much Furman students waste in food on a daily basis.

On Student Involvement Day, Friday, we simply asked that all students be quick to recycle and turn off lights when they were not using them. When Earth Day on Saturday, March 29th came, we were more than ready to provide people with more information about the Shi Center and sustainable practices at the vendor fair in the Trone Center in the afternoon before the Water Walk. There were vendors from Greenville and Traveler’s Rest with homemade jam, coffee, and more to sell to students. Over-all the week was a success and brought in many new-commers who were interested in sustainability.

The Community Conservation Corps is doing well in the competition, but more votes are always appreciated! I have been posting relentlessly on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter trying to get people to vote for them in the Climate Leadership Award. In addition to this, I have had much success with advocating for the Shi Center and what we do here as a team. I have been working on designing posters to hang up promoting fellowship opportunities as well as continually posting about new events and articles written in the sustainability field. Over-all my work here is coming to a close and I am happy to say I have enjoyed every moment of it!