Heavy Metal Environmental Education: Part 3 of 3


In the last two parts of this series, we looked at metal music as a strategy for cultivating a sense of empathy and connection to a place. When it comes to cultivating a sense of empathy for a place, we looked at Freeman Tilden’s six principles of interpretation.

1. Interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described
to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.
Interpretation should be personal to the audience.

Great- so now what?

We have a theory of education, a target audience, and a cultural lens in which to interpret our surroundings. Next… the substance!

It’s mid-August. The cool nights of June have given way to the warm, dry, cricket-enriched nights of late summer. A second round of plants have gradually shifted the roadside scenery from flowering weeds to waist-high grasses, the ground gets crustier, and daylight wanes enough noticeably interrupt the lingering golden evenings.

Hot August days also have a characteristic sound that rings out over the everyday chatter of beeping crosswalks and backyard trampoline springs. This is the time for cicadas. All around the world, the harsh, unforgiving buzz of cicadas also brings with it an intrepid chorus. While some may find it lacking in any sort of musicality and shut their windows, others welcome its siren as a nostalgic part of the season, perhaps even appreciating the valor and strength it takes to reach such volumes.

Cicadas are essentially nature’s heavy metal. Have a listen here.

swamp cicada

Cicadas are insects with life cycles of two to 17 years. While there are many species, they all are deposited by the adults as eggs into a tree or underground. The strategy here is to place them where they’ll have something to feed on when the eggs hatch (fluids of tree roots or branches). Starting from an egg, the cicada metamorphoses into a larva, then into a crawling nymph, then alas into an adult, flying cicada. A valuable part of the food chain, cicadas rely on reproducing in large numbers for their survival, while consequently nourishing many other birds and mammals with a food source.

The males call loudly in order to find a mate before they perish. How do they sing out, you ask? Much like a metal singer… using specific techniques with body parts best suited for the task.


With this image from CicadaMania, we see the tymbals which are found in the abdomen. Muscles rapidly pull the tymbals in and out, while the mostly hollow abdomen resonates the sound.

While cicadas are at times very numerous, they don’t bring terror to your garden plants. Instead of eating, they actually drink the fluid from a tree’s xylem, which contains a number of amino acids and minerals. The labium is what the cicada uses to pierce bark and drink this tree sap. This also resembles a metal singer, requiring lots of liquids to function and be healthy!

Next time you’re on a dewy morning run in August, try leaving the headphones home and instead listen to the cicadas rev-up the day. During the quiet moments of the outdoor barnyard wedding, think of the cicada as a +1, formally attending to teach us how to expand our tastes and preferences to those of another. To find beauty and passion in the grinding, stern chords of life.

In closing, we all discover the music of nature in our own meaningful own way. These unique perspectives of nature that we create are an exciting, fascinating part of the field of conservation, but they’re also integral to human identity. If we’re going to make some improvements in our world, and create a new culture that doesn’t destroy it in order to live in it, we’re going to need some creativity in this regard. 



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