e127 halfway – towards what are you halfway?

Note: the podcast recording was improvised based on this script and therefore has additional material.

This 127th episode of the conscient podcast marks the halfway point of season 4, which, as you might recall, is called Sounding Modernity and explores what modernity might sound like, how it affects us and what we can do about it.. 


A heads up that this episode is 57 minutes in duration because it is part of the ‘afield’ series of framework radio in Estonia. 

The season began on January 1 with e101 tension:

(Beginning of e101)

I was thinking about the tensions in our lives and the art of finding balance points… So I went for a sound walk in Vancouver and came upon a piece of fishing line. I brought it home, strung it up and recorded myself plucking it…

(cross fade to the end of e101)

Listeners might recall that each episode this season ends with a question:

How do you feel now?

‘How do you feel now’ is actually at the heart of this project. How do one perceive the sounds of our modern world? What does it feel like to absorb these sounds into our bodies? How can we change the way we listen?  How can we move away from the madness of modernity? And if, tragically, we are unable to step away, at the very least, how can we help prepare future generations for what is coming? 

How can art help? 

How can listening help? 

Are we helpless?

(Silence then ocean sounds) 

I’ve received some interesting responses and reactions to the first 26 episodes and 6 blogs of the project so far, in various forms and channels, for example, this poem from artist and educator Carolina Duque (also known as Azul), submitted on January 3, 2023, about her experience with e101 tension :

I walked down the sea line of San Andrés Island, in the Caribbean, as I listened.
Felt the ten

I grew up on this island. I notice the shoreline getting smaller.
I notice the corals turning grey. I notice the buildings growing taller. The overlapping reggaeton and vallenato music from competing speakers.
I notice everything getting louder.
I notice the
Tens – ion.

I notice the menus saying fish is scarce.

I notice
In my lungs the tension. In my eyes the tension.
In my waves, in my feet.

The tension.

(Ocean sound fade out)

My response : 

I was reading Jenny Odell’s ‘How To Do Nothing’ book today and came upon this sentence that relates to your response. I quote: ‘I hold up bioregionalism as a model for how we might begin to think again about place’ (end of quote), which to me means that we need to be stewards of the land, wherever we are, in collaboration with all living beings. 

I documented almost all of the feedback I received from listeners in my monthly conscient blog on conscient.ca. I am grateful for these gifts of knowledge and insight. 

(e102 aesthetics)

Most episodes in this podcast are about the relationship between art and the ecological crisis. For example, in e102 aesthetics:

The problem with beauty is that it can distract us from reality. Sit with me, please, take a moment. Sit and listen…

I’ve also integrated soundscape compositions in and around the narrative, for example, from e103 heat:

(end of e103)

This thing is smart. Everything talks to each other. I would just leave it on auto and let it choose what it wants to do.  What does decarbonization sound like to you?

How do we decarbonize our lifestyles? One way is to rethink the way we use energy in day to day life, for example, in e110 – drain, I talk about water :

 (beginning of e110)

It goes down the drain (again) and into the sewer system to be processed and dumped into the Ottawa river, then it evaporates into the sky and it rains back into our lakes and rivers, bringing with it with many pollutants, and then is pumped into our homes, in our bodies and heated until… 

A friend, artist Maria Gomez, shared this response to e110 on March 6:

Only the water doesn’t stay in the Ottawa region, as it travels south in the moist of the clouds all the way to the Patagonia glaciers, and in ocean currents to Asia and its skies and then it travels up the Arctic… the water I bathe in contains my cells that are distributed around the world, and particles from the world touch me in the water.

I responded:

It’s true that water travels in us, through us and beyond. The sound of water can be either pleasant or a signal of danger but either way we need to listen and understand the language of water…

Some episodes call upon quotes from previous episode such as photographer Joan Sullivan in e96 from season 3 which I used in e106 fire

(near the end of e106)

And it suddenly dawned on me that I, my hands, weren’t shaking up because of the cold, but because of an anger, you know, this deep, profound anger about our collective indifference in the face of climate breakdown. Wait, we’re just carrying on with our lives as if you know, la la la and nothing, nothing bad happening. So there was this sense of rage. I mean, like, honestly, it’s surprising how strong it’d be in a violent rage just sort of coming outta me. I wanted to scream, and I just, you know, took my camera and just moved it violently, right? Left up, down the, and almost, I suppose, it was almost like I was drowning in the water. You know, my arms are just doing everything. And I was holding down the shutter the whole time, you know, 20, 30, 40 photos at a time. And I did it over. And oh, I was just, I was just, I was just beside myself. And you know, you at some point, you just stop and you’re staring out at the river. And I just felt helpless. I just didn’t know what to do…

I hear you dear Joan. I also do not know what to do.

I also called upon climate activist and politician Anjali Appadurai from e23 in season 2 in e114 :

(middle section of e114 privilege)

Privilege can go back as far as you wanted to go back, right? And of course it’s so nuanced. It’s not every white guy has this much privilege, but you do have a privilege that goes back hundreds of years and I think one aspect of privilege, one that a lot of people leave out, is this economic aspect, right, of class and resources. And that is not often talked about in the climate conversation, but it’s a huge piece of it. Because when we talk about the extinction of our species, this extinction doesn’t happen overnight. It happens in a spectrum. Who are the last ones standing? Those with the most resources and who are the first ones to go? It’s those with the least, the most disenfranchised. So I don’t think you can talk about climate without talking about privilege ultimately. And I think it’s on each of us to unpack that for ourselves and to bring that into the conversation.

(field recording of natural soundscape from Florida)

The most ambitious episode so far has been e112 listening, which I presented as my keynote speech at the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) conference Listening Pasts – Listening Futures, in Florida. It actually runs for over 10 minutes so I broke my own rule here of having only 5 minute episodes but I decided to go with the flow when an episode needed more time. Why not? Here the final sequence from e112: 

(from the end of e112)

Conclusion 5 :  connect our efforts

Todd Dufresne, e19: ‘Whoever survives these experiences will have a renewed appreciation for nature, for the external world, and for the necessity of collectivism in the face of mass extinction.’

Asad Rehman, Green Dreamer podcast (e378) : ‘Our goal is to keep our ideas and policies alive for when the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable’. 

George Monbiot, tweet November 13, 2021 :  ‘We have no choice but to raise the scale of civil disobedience until we have built the greatest mass movement in history.’

My question to you is ‘how can listening help’?

During the performance I walked out of the room at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach around the building asking that same question :

How can listening help?

(Recording from live performance of my keynote) 

Each episode of this season has a different aesthetic, a different style, depending on my inspiration, mood and what I am learning or unlearning on any given week. 

For example, some episodes feature unedited field recordings, such as the subway in Montreal in e120 metro where I invite you, the listener, to sit with the sound and let it speak to you, as if the sound were a living entity, which, I think, it is.

(beginning of e120)

Sometimes we just have to stop and listen. Without passing judgement. Just listen…. Sometimes we just have to stop and listen.

Another example is the sound of freezing rain on a canopy of hard snow in a frozen forest in e122 quiet:

(middle of e122)

I suspect this one might seem a bit boring for some listeners because not much happens, but I enjoy listening to quiet spaces and tuning into more subtle sonic patterns and layers of sound and silence.

(end of e122)

When I launched Sounding Modernity in December 2022 I wrote that my intention was to :

Address some of the causes of this massive and violent overreach of planetary boundaries but also to explore how we can preserve some of modernity’s benefits, without the destruction.

In retrospect I realise this was a very ambitious goal but also pretentious and sometimes naive. I soon realized that failure was not only inevitable but necessary in order to experience boundaries and limitations.

Here’s a quote from the Gift of Failure teaching by the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures collective in my February blog :

We chose the word “gesture” for the title of our collective to underscore the fact that decolonization is impossible when our livelihoods are underwritten by colonial violence and unsustainability. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, our health systems and social security, and the technologies that allow us to write about this are all subsidized by expropriation, dispossession, destitution, genocides and ecocides. There is no way around it: we cannot bypass it, the only way is through. 

How we fail is important. It is actually in the moments when we fail that the deepest learning becomes possible and that is usually where we stumble upon something unexpected and extremely useful. Failing generatively requires both intellectual and relational rigour.

One of my favorite failures is e121 rumble where I impersonate a superhero, Dr Decibel, in Stanley Park in Vancouver.  It’s pretty hokey and raw but I like the way it explores storytelling and fantasy.

This is Dr. Decibel. Your sonic superhero on the unseated ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations otherwise known as…  Well, I think you know where I am. (plane passing by). You have a problem here people. The low frequencies are excessive : traffic, industry, ventilation. Layers and layers of rumble and I hate rumble. Rumbleeeee is not something that I enjoy, so I’m going to use my superpowers today to reduce the amount of rumble in your city. Ruuuuumble… (imitation of rumbling sounds)

(middle section of e118)

Another failed episode was e118 toilet about shit. My intention here was to comment upon composting, both literally and figuratively. Vanessa Andreotti talks eloquently about shit in her book Hospicing Modernity but instead of addressing the issue head on, I took the easy way out and produced an episode with the statement ‘where does your shit go’ accompanied by four recordings of toilets flushing, which does not directly address the issue, but it’s a start. And, to be honest, I was attracted by the rich sound of the toilet refilling and the silence that follows when it is full, waiting to flush, again and again, precious water in a wasteful cycle of flushing away our issues…

(beginning of e118 toilet)

(bell and breath) where does your shit go? (toilet flush 1)

On April 25 my dear father in law Robin Mathews passed away of pancreatic cancer. His illness was on mind throughout the first half of the project. I had the privilege of recording him reading his last poem, deeper into the forest, in February 2023, at his home in Vancouver, in one take. I published it 2 days before his passing in both audio and video format. Here is how e117 deeper into the forest ends: 

(end of e117)

You know the voices

And you know they cannot shape words

that will break the surface over your head.

Lights flash in the skies above, 

Dart through the water. 

But words do not form.

The surface above you,

Which you cannot break through.


In the darkness that moves toward you

As if a living creature

The voices fade away … or seem to fade away,

And you know the surface above your head

Will not break.

The voices beyond the surface 

Will grow distant and imperfect

And you, quite alone, will move deeper into the forest.

(sound of forest from Kitchener, Ontario) 

I received this comment from listener Cathie Poynter, a former student and friend of Robin’s, on May 8 about this episode:

This is so wonderful to hear, see, feel and read. Beautifully done, the poem, the paintings, the voice, all of the sounds. It is like reaching from beyond, to tell us where, and how to move through further into the depth of the forest: of reality, life, and death. I think it is very profound. It gives me hope that we all must go on this journey. He has captured the experience I feel of time and eternity.

I also wrote a one person play during this time called e111 traps, which explores some of the traps in our live :

(beginning of e111)

(bell, breath and occasional balloon sounds)

Me : Have you ever had the feeling that you were being observed?

Observer : I’m observing you. 

Me: Who are you and what are you observing? 

Observer: Ah, well, I’m a part of you and  I’m observing the traps that you tend to fall into.

Me:  Traps?

Observer : Do you remember the Facing Human Wrongs course you took during the summer of 2022?

Me: Ya.

Observer: The one about navigating paradoxes and complexities of social and global change and all those trappings along the way?

Me: Ya, I remember. Easier said than done, though.

Observer: Ya

Me: So. What are you observing? 

Observer : Well, what can I say? I notice that you’ve fallen into a trap called ‘exit fixation’ which is where people feel a strong urge to walk out on an existing commitment. For example, when someone realises that the path they are on is full of paradoxes, contradictions, and complicities. Often their first response is to find an immediate exit in hopes of a more fulfilling and/or more innocent alternative or maybe even  an ideal community with whom to continue this work. 

Me: Like an escape?

Observer: Ya, something like that

I’ve also had the privilege of receiving insightful feedback from listeners about the conscient podcast as a whole, such as this email on May 16 from a friend who asked to remain anonymous:

So grateful to have been able to listen and stay close to your work. It’s wonderful to witness, feel and sense into the different layers and movements over the course of the episode and throughout the arc of the season so far. It’s almost as if the story of Sounding Modernity is being stitched by the sounds, walks and episodes and shape-shifting it into this surprising creature (sometimes scary, sometimes funny, sometimes visible, sometimes fictional…). I wonder how else the story of Sounding Modernity will further weave itself (both in/out of control) as you continue to loosen even more of your grips on it, slowly and gently. I like how humor mixes with pain and poetry mixes with interviews, and ocean mixes with toilet shitty waters. The playful and surprising diversity is fun. It’s even clear that you are both struggling and having so much fun, which adds honesty and trust in wanting to go with you on the inquiry. As you approach the middle of your journey, what might be needed at this time to invite further and what might be ready to be released into new soils? May more sounds reveal/be revealed.

I responded:

Your point about how Sounding Modernity might unfold in/out of control is a good one as I approach the midpoint in the project on July 1. I’m coming to terms with its failings, surprises and unanticipated unlearnings. The isolation in particular has been bewildering.  I think I have already ‘lost my grip on it’, in a good way. I have essentially given up on it being a ‘exploration of the sounds of modernity’ – which was quite pretentious anyway – but rather, as you suggest, has become a portrait of my struggles and discoveries through the sounds of modernity. 

Let me expand a bit on that idea of isolation. I hoped this project might engage the arts community in dialogue with me and each other about these existential issues, which is why each episode ends with a question. It’s meant to be a prompt or an invitation but not a rhetorical enquiry. My expectation was that it might interest artists and others who are in a similar frame of mind as I am, you know, dealing with eco anxiety and eco grief and so on.

For example, on June 7, Jean-Marc Lamoureux wrote about episode e123 maps

When it comes to unknown possibilities for humanity, it is important to acknowledge that our knowledge and understanding of the world are limited. There are areas in science, technology, philosophy, and exploration that remain largely uncharted. New discoveries, innovations, and breakthroughs are possible in these domains and could unveil unforeseen possibilities. It is also important to note that the future is uncertain, and it is challenging to accurately predict what will unfold. Technological advancements, social and political changes, as well as unforeseen events, can all shape the future of humanity in unexpected ways. To address the uncertainty of the future and the challenges of the ecological crisis, it is crucial to foster an open, inclusive, and collaborative approach. Encouraging research, innovation, and exploration across relevant fields, as well as promoting sustainability, environmental conservation, and social justice, are essential. We must also recognize that the future of humanity is closely intertwined with our relationship with the Earth and the other living beings that inhabit it. Taking care of our planet and living in harmony with nature are vital. … Thank you for your attention and for engaging in deep reflection on these important questions.

I responded:

I agree that we need to keep a positive attitude and that there is much we do not know. I quote writer Rebecca Solnit in episode 19, who said ‘hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act’. My point in e123 was to share my stress (and distress?) about where we are at and where we might be going. … What concerns me most is our deep disconnection with nature, which has been in the works for centuries and is killing us all. … So, Jean-Marc, I don’t think innovation will help if it is built on a self-destructive model. … Certainly doomism does not help, but neither does naïve hope. …

So, it’s July 1st 2023 and I’m at the halfway point in this project. 26 episodes done with 25 to go.

What’s next?

Well, to be honest, and I admitted as much in e123 maps, I really don’t know. 

(e123 maps section of scrunching piece of paper)

So these are the five elements on my map: mitigation, adaptation, tipping point line, survival and recovery, but the problem is that I’m wrong. The map is wrong.  The truth is that I don’t know.  There are endless possibilities and dimensions that I’m not yet able to conceive or understand and yet sometimes, somehow, I can feel them. So I’m done with drawing maps and speculating with thoughts and ideas. Instead, I’m going to listen to the intelligence of my body, to the intelligence of non-human beings around me, to other forms of knowledge and beings that are emerging, and see where that takes me. 

I thought of erasing it all and returning the funds to the Canada Council and becoming a monk or a hermit.

I expressed this sadness and grief at the end of my June blog as follows: 

I was reminded today of the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures collective’s SMDA Compass teaching about how to walk a tightrope between desperate hope and reckless hopelessness. It’s a fine line … but these days I’ve fallen into a deep cavern of hopelessness but not (yet) recklessly.

Speaking of erasure, I notice recently that Catherine Ingram, the brilliant buddhist scholar and philosopher who has deeply influenced my learning journey, wrote on her website, in reference to her seminal essay, Facing Extinction, that:

I wrote the long-form essay ‘Facing Extinction’ in early 2019.  Over these past years I have occasionally been able to update the information and perspectives contained therein. However, I am finding that the speed with which the data is changing and the pressing issues that we are immediately facing, such as the exponential rise of artificial intelligence and transhumanism, have made some of this essay obsolete.  I have thus decided to remove it.

Her statement reminded of this prescient quote from Facing Extinction that I used in episode 19 :

(middle of e19 reality)

Love, what else is there to do now?  Here we are, some of the last humans who will experience this beautiful planet since Homo sapiens began their journey some 200,000 years ago. Now, in facing extinction of our species, you may wonder if there is any point in going on.  

Catherine, you’re right that love is what we must do, and be. It might be all we can do, and be. 

So where do we go from here? 

Is there any point going on?

(long silence)

What do you think? 

More importantly…

(end of e101 tension)

How do you feel now?

After quite a bit of thought, I decided to finish what I started, every Sunday, through to episode 153 on December 31st and see what happens. 

What can I learn and unlearn? 

What can I slow down or undo? 

I’m actually quite excited about part 2 of this project. In particular I want to explore the idea of inviting listeners differently and releasing materials into new soils.

Thankfully, I don’t have to do this work alone. I have the privilege of working with a number of great collaborators, including content advisors Azul Carolina Duque and Flora Aldridge, translator Carole Beaulieu, communications advisor Jessica Ruano,  web designer Ayesha Barmania and countless friends and colleagues who provide feedback and support. Thank you for your input and trust. 

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from an episode in development. 

Thanks for listening and take care.

(crows in city with rumble + various nature field recordings)


I am grateful and accountable to the earth and the human labour that provided me with the privilege of producing this episode. (including all the toxic materials and extractive processes behind the computers, recorders, transportation and infrastructure that make this podcast possible).

My gesture of reciprocity for this episode is to Living Dharma.





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Responses to “e127 halfway – towards what are you halfway?”

  1. Naser Avatar

    Thank you so much Claude for this “middle” reflection.
    I listened to it while walking and was moved by this full journey over the last 6 months.

    Blessed months ahead!

    1. Claude Schryer Avatar

      Thanks Naser. This midpoint, or halfway, feel like a turning point in my journey, where I will ’sit with my trouble’ (Haraway) and try to feel my way through the issues (my mind being mostly corrupted by modernity). I’m finding inspiration in this report: Moving With Storms : Climate and Nature Emergency Catalyst Program (https://pwias.ubc.ca/climate-and-nature-emergency/moving-with-storms-not-your-typicalreport/)

  2. […] published 5 episodes in July including e127 halfway, a 57’ program for framework radio that will also be broadcast on the framework radio network in […]