Changing the tune

Today is the anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. In 2011, I was at the Banff Centre, part of a Carolyn McDade and friends recording project with about a hundred women from different places in Canada and the USA. As I headed to breakfast that morning, one of the women from our group was in tears. When I asked what was the matter, I learned that Jack was dead.

I was shocked, went to tell another woman, and the rest is a blur. I know that we honoured him and his work with a moment of silence in the recording studio. And I remember the women from the USA asking about Jack and listening to our stories about him as well as the history of the NDP, the CCF, and the Farm and Labour parties that preceded them.

On the day of his funeral we recorded “Now You Can Go On”, one of four songs Carolyn wrote based on the words of the poem, You, Standing There Reading This: Stop, by William Stafford. It was such a fitting song for that day.

Later, my USA roommate, Ginny, and I sat in our room in Lloyd Hall, crying, as we listened to Stephen Lewis deliver Jack’s eulogy. Everyone, from both north and south of the border, was deeply moved. That deeply emotional experience made its way into our recording. The CD, Widening Embrace, is more powerful as a result.

Happy International Women’s Day

In celebration of the IWD, Canadian Dimension magazine featured several feminist articles and art in the current issue.  Happily, the editor has uploaded my article to their website.  An excerpt:

Eco-feminist action in the 21st century

Bernadette L. Wagner

Canadian Dimension magazine, March/April 2008

In early June, 2007, I was one of seven Saskatchewan women who made their way to Boston to record the vocal tracks for an ecofeminist recording project, My Heart Is Moved. In all, 85 women from ten different bio-regions of North America — many of whom had never before met — gathered to sing songs based on the Earth Charter, a global peoples’ document on sustainable living. All who traveled to Boston brought with them the breath and life of their local communities, the voices of all those in their singing circles, the amazing preparation and intention of the local group into the focused work of rehearsals and recording. The experience was profound and continues to shape me, much as the songs continue to take shape in community.

The Roots of Ecofeminism

Attempting to trace the origin of the word “ecofeminism” yields confusion. There are those who consider Francois d’Eaubonne, a French feminist and author of Le Feminisme ou la Mort (Feminism or Death), published in 1974 and translated into English in 1989, the originator. Others credit Susan Griffin’s Women and Nature or Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology: The MetaEthics of Radical Feminism, both published in 1978, as laying significant groundwork for ecofeminism, even though neither woman used the term in those works. Still others suggest that it could have been used by indigenous peoples or Black Americans working in their communities. What becomes clear in sorting through the literature is that no one woman can be crowned as originator, especially when the intricacies of oral cultures and realities of class are brought into the discussion.

Still, all ecofeminists can point to the work of Rachel Carson and her studies of birds and lakes as a significant root of ecofeminism. “Chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world — the very nature of life,” she said in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. That book rocked all of North America and much of the world, resulting in a backlash from the chemical industry and the scientific community.

Read the full article.