People from all walks of life enjoy listening to and playing music. We all relate to rhythm because our bodies are centered around our heartbeat, thus making rhythm and drumming affirmations of life. Junk Music’s use of reused materials makes the playing of music more accessible by eliminating the intimidation factor that arises when non-musicians are confronted with using a “real” musical instrument. Likewise, taking a piece of junk that once had a specific function — such as a cooking pot — and using it as an instrument of music-making is a real life example of reuse in action.

Building upon the observation that all people love music and expanding it to include the principle that we humans also share a concern for the health of our planet and the human race, I created and developed the Help Our Planet Environmental Education Initiative (HOP).

HOP has garnered awards of excellence from the United Nations, the Federal Republic of Mexico, and the State of Vermont.

HOP is designed to accommodate audiences of all ages, however, its primary objective is to inspire our youth to be active and diligent. It is today’s youth who will be the next driving force for climate initiatives, sustainability, social justice, and racial and gender equality. HOP is designed to integrate awareness of these issues into every thing they do and every action they perform, both personally and as a functioning member of their local and world communities.

It has been said we are all creatures of habit. Hence, it is obvious that many of today’s climate, sustainability, and social problems have been the result of our bad habits. The habits we did or did not learn have led to wasting water and electricity, littering, and inequality.

Enter the Enviro-Chant, the cornerstone of the HOP program.                                             

The Enviro-Chant is a short statement, fact, or phrase that suggests a habit-changing action that anyone can easily adopt into their daily routines in order to support a healthier planet.

Each Enviro-Chant is combined with a simple rhythm that is played – using sticks upon a reused material — in-synch with the chant. Not only does an Enviro-Chant offer participants a healthy, actionable change of habit that’s easy to remember (pairing a phrase with a beat makes that phrase more memorable than the phrase on its own), but as most people love music, chanting and drumming, it is also a fun, exciting way to create community through a shared beat.

As human inhabitants of planet earth, we all live and function in four distinct environments: Physical, Personal, Post-Pandemic and Cultural.
From each of these four environments, the HOP students will gather and identify specific issues in their particular community. The students then explore what solutions exist for each of these environmental issues and evaluate which issues can be mitigated through a behavior or habit change. They will then massage that behavior or habit change into its smallest, yet comprehensible fragment or sentence (the “action phrase”), and then weld it to a simple rhythm, thus creating an Enviro-Chant.

Below you will find rudimentary and more advanced Enviro-Chants. All students begin with the rudimentary and progress into more advanced environmental and musical scenarios. Generally, rudimentary chants are very short and offer a habit-changing scenario. More advanced chants can be rather lengthy, so we often divide the sections of the chant and the junk jammers into sections/teams and perform the chants in a round-like fashion.

Physical Environment (Air, Water, Soil, and Climate Change)

Rudimentary Level Enviro-Chants: We should ne-ver waste wa-ter / Walk, bike, or car pool / Fish eat plas-tic, we eat fish / Hot-ter sum-mers, warm-er win-ters /

More Advanced Level Enviro-Chants: By 2025, two thirds of the world will face wa-ter shor-ta-ges / Sev-en-ty per-cent of the earth is wa-ter, on-ly three per-cent is fresh, and one per-cent is drink-a-ble

Personal Environment (How we wish to be treated, and how we treat each other)

Rudimentary Level Enviro-Chants: Show re-spect, earn re-spect / Lis-ten first, talk sec-ond / Say no to bul-ly-ing / Show kind-ness ev-ery day

More Advanced Level Enviro-Chants: 

We need an eq-ui-ta-ble, sus-tain-able world / Re-spect for our-selves and each ot-her / Dig-ni-ty, free-dom and true de-moc-ra-cy for all / No pov-er-ty, or hun-ger / E-qual health care and jus-tice for all / and a world without op-pres-sion, con-flict or vi-o-lence /

We need to chal-lenge the be-liefs, and act-ions of our lea-ders / cha-llenge un-fair and in-ap-pro-pri-ate laws / and chal-lenge un-just social norms / Don’t judge — Listen closely — Speak with fairness — act with virtue /

Post-Pandemic Environment (coping, living, and advancing in our new world)

Rudimentary Level Enviro-Chants: Pa-tience, faith and calm-ness / Re-spect the rights of oth-ers / An ounce of pre-ven-tion, will give back a pound of cure/

More Advanced Level Enviro-Chants: In the post-pan-demic world, here’s what needs to change — Pov-er-ty, — Lack of ed-u-ca-tion —  Crime — Drug a-buse, —  De-pres-sion, —  Lone-li-ness — Fear — Safe food — Clean wa-ter, soil, and air, and man-dat-ed vac-cin-ations for all in-fec-tious dis-eas-es /

Cultural Environment (our actions, habits, rituals & customs, and beliefs)

Rudimentary Level Enviro-Chants: Cul-ture is our en-viron-ment / How we live, work, and play / Culture, the seed of sol-i-dar-ity

More Advanced Level Enviro-Chants: Tech-nol-ogy has wo-ven the world to-geth-er — yet there are still the gre-edy, those who place mo-ney ov-er hu-man-kind  / To-day, more than ev-er, we need a world com-mun-ity, har-mo-ny, every-where, every-one, glo-bal-ly/

In the classroom, a primary aim is to first teach the students about the real environmental issues and what we can do as individuals to improve the planet. The second aim is to garner the information they have learned and make a public presentation(s) to spread the word as to the importance and urgency of communicating accurate and possibly life-saving messages about the need to come together and make changes that set the planet and humanity on a more positive course.

It is also extremely important to communicate in a manner to which everyone can easily relate. This means performances in which the messages are simple, in correct vernacular, and emphasize life, fun, and enjoyment. The above Enviro-Chants serve the pedigogical side of the equation. I have learned through the years that the “life affirming” side of this experience lies within the spirit and soul of each individual performing. And that’s the reason this side of the equation can not be answered until I experience each participatory group. Only then will the shaping and orchestrating of the chants, the form and structure of the performance, the use of humor, joy, happiness, dancing and “the other spices” be added to make the performances come to life and edu-tain.

The Junkjam™ is the exclusive delivery system of HOP. Modeled after the traditional drum circle whose roots go back to the ancient Ghana and Aboriginal civilizations in which all people in the community come together to play music, and dance, The Junkjam™ focuses upon two areas —  1) the playing and chanting of selected Enviro-Chants and 2) improvisation to a steady beat.

This short BBC news segment demonstrates HOP in action.

Typically, Junkjams begin with a brief message regarding the background & relevance of the particular Enviro-Chant thats on deck. The ensemble then performs the Enviro-Chant some ten to twelve times. The repetitions create a calmingly familiar groove which also firmly establishes the message in the minds of both the performer and the listener. Once that cycle has been completed, we move onto a different Enviro-Chant and repeat the cycle. The average duration of one cycle (background and Enviro-Chant) is around two minutes. Therefore, a Junkjam that lasts 20 minutes would contain about ten Enviro-Chant cycles. Also, during the Junkjam, students may dance as they perform the Enviro-Chant, if they choose to do so. Most Junkjams end with a free-jam session for the ensemble as well as the audience. Please watch/listen to the free-jam from the Seoul Drum Festival: