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Vox Populi: Down The Lees’ Laura Lee Schulz Discusses the Climate Crisis

Post-noise rock outfit Down The Lees’ frontwoman Laura Lee Schulz joins us today for Vox Populi to discuss the climate crisis.



Down The Lees, photo by Ryan Wagner
Down The Lees, photo by Ryan Wagner

You’ll be really digging the dirt when you get to know Down The Lees. The Okanagan Valley, British Columbia-based band released their new EP Dirt earlier this month via Off White House Records. It’s a real achievement for the trio, a genre-bending exploration of the band’s musical tastes and influences. The post-noise-rock group is confidently and capably led by frontwoman Laura Lee Schulz. Schulz has been the focal point along the whole way, with Down The Lees originally starting as just a solo project for the talented singer and songwriter. Eventually, she expanded the scope of her creative endeavours and onboarded bassist Chris Carlson and drummer Andy Ashley.

Since their formation, the band has released a few albums, an EP, and several singles. Dirt is a dynamic release, expansive in its sound and ambitious in its goals. It’s a post-rock album with shoegaze textures, the energy of hardcore, and features traditional elements of alternative rock. Their sound features thunderous guitars, pulsating rhythms, and a solid foundation of traditional rock n’ roll. They have toured alongside Brutus, Chastity, Dead Bob, and Sisters of Mercy.

Laura Lee Schulz joins us today for a new edition of Vox Populi. We discuss the climate crisis, the situation’s urgency, and how she feels we can all chip in and contribute.

No matter what your political or ethical outlook, there are issues and topics that we are all passionate about. Some examples are climate change, human rights, poverty, military conflicts, prejudice, and economic disparity. With this in mind, what’s the issue or topic that you are most passionate about?

Laura Lee Schultz: “Climate disaster is the issue that resonates with me the most. It’s about the survival of our planet and all the life it supports. Climate change isn’t some distant threat; it’s happening right now, affecting everything from our weather patterns to our food supply. What gets me fired up about this issue is the fact that it touches every aspect of our lives. It’s about people losing their homes to floods and hurricanes, farmers struggling to grow crops in changing conditions, and entire communities facing the threat of displacement due to various extreme weather events.

“But what drives it home for me is the injustice of it all. The people least responsible for climate change are the ones bearing the brunt of its impacts. It’s communities in low-income areas, indigenous peoples, and marginalized groups who are suffering the most. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s so much we can do to address this crisis, from reducing our carbon footprint to advocating for policy change. And by coming together as a global community, we have the power to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.”

Why is this issue so important to you?

“This issue is personal to me because I live in a region that’s vulnerable to climate disaster. I live in the Okanagan Valley, an area known for its beautiful landscapes and vibrant communities. However, alongside its beauty, the valley has to deal with a recurring menace: wildfires. Every year, without fail, wildfires tear through our region, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. What’s alarming is the accelerating trend. These fires are starting earlier and earlier each year. Living in such a volatile environment has made me acutely aware of the urgent need to address climate change.

“The wildfires not only pose a direct threat to our homes, livelihoods, and safety but also disrupt our way of life. They shatter our communities, leaving behind scars that run deep. The impacts of these fires extend far beyond the immediate danger they pose. They affect our mental health, as we grapple with the constant fear of evacuation and the trauma of seeing our landscapes engulfed in flames. They strain our resources, as we mobilize firefighting efforts and support those displaced by the blazes. And they underscore the fragility of our ecosystems, as habitats are destroyed and biodiversity is lost.

“But perhaps what’s most disheartening is the feeling of helplessness that accompanies each fire season. Despite our best efforts to mitigate the risks, it often feels like we’re fighting a losing battle against forces beyond our control. It’s a stark reminder of the urgent need for action on a global scale to address the root causes of climate change.”

What do you see as the biggest contributing factors to the climate crisis?

“Fossil fuels and people’s complacency. Firstly, the reliance on fossil fuels for energy production and transportation is a major driver of climate change. Despite the known consequences, the continued extraction and consumption of fossil fuels persist due to their economic importance and interests in the industry.

“Additionally, people’s complacency plays a significant role in exacerbating the climate crisis. Many individuals, organizations, and governments have been slow to acknowledge the urgency of the situation or take meaningful action to address it. There’s a dangerous inertia and resistance to change, fueled by a lack of awareness, denialism, or a sense of helplessness in the face of such a monumental challenge.”

Down The Lees ‘Dirt’ photo by Mirabelle Van de Put

Down The Lees ‘Dirt’ photo by Mirabelle Van de Put

What are some ways you’ve contributed to the solutions to this issue?

“I’ve been doing my part to tackle climate disaster in a few ways that feel right to me. First off, I’m all about the music, so I’ve been writing songs that shine a light on the mess we’re making on our planet. One of my tracks, ‘DIRT,’ off my album, dives into the whole human impact on Mother Earth. It’s my way of getting people nodding along while they think about the environment.

“Then there are the rallies. I’ve been showing up and joining the crowd at climate rallies. I’ve also been involved in banner drops in our city to grab folks’ attention and get them talking about climate issues. But it’s not just about making noise; it’s about lending a hand where it counts. We have also teamed up with a local artist, Norah Bowman, to create some cool merch featuring her art. Most of the proceeds are going to BC Wildfire Recovery Fund to help out those who needed it most.”

What would be the simplest solution to this issue? Would you want to take this approach?

“The simplest solution to the issue of climate disaster would be a widespread transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. This would involve investing in technologies like solar, wind, etc. While this solution may seem straightforward in theory, it requires significant political will, financial investment, and collective action to implement on a global scale.

“Transitioning to renewable energy not only addresses the root cause of climate change but also offers numerous co-benefits, including cleaner air, job creation, and energy security. But I know that the climate crisis is far too complex for any one solution to solve entirely. We need an approach that blends mitigation, adaptation, community resilience, and social justice initiatives. Transitioning to renewable energy is vital, but it’s only part of the bigger picture in tackling climate disaster.”

If you could have everyone in the world hear you for one minute, what would you tell them about this topic?

“If I had the chance to address the entire world for one minute on the topic of climate disaster, I would urge everyone to recognize the urgency of the situation and the collective responsibility we all share in addressing it. I would emphasize that climate change is not a distant threat but a present reality with far-reaching consequences for our planet. I would encourage individuals to take action in whatever way they can, whether it’s reducing their carbon footprint, advocating for policy change, supporting renewable energy, or raising awareness within their communities.”

What musician or artist has been the most vocal about climate change?

“Off the top of my head, Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. They have been vocal about environmental issues for years. They have supported various environmental initiatives and organizations, and their music often touches on themes related to the environment and social justice. Much like I do.”

What are some actions that readers can take right now to contribute to tackling this issue?

“They can start by reducing their energy consumption in their daily lives. Simple steps like turning off lights and appliances when not in use. Also, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and opting for energy-saving appliances can make a significant difference. Also, conserve water! Turn your garden into a native plant, xeriscape garden. Get rid of that lawn that requires way too much water. By adopting practices such as reducing consumption, reusing items, recycling materials, and composting organic waste, individuals can help mitigate the environmental impact of their daily activities.

“Advocating for policy change is another important action readers can take. Moreover, educating themselves and others about climate change and its impacts is essential. By staying informed and sharing credible information with friends, family, and community members, individuals can raise awareness and inspire collective action. Getting involved in local initiatives, such as joining community groups or campaigns that work on climate change at the grassroots level, can also make a meaningful difference.”

If left unchecked, where do you see this issue heading in the years to come?

“Utter disaster. It is the biggest issue that we face that we are not facing.”

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