Coming Back to the Village: Evolving From the Festival Culture to Land Stewardship

The resurgence of large scale transformational festivals and participatory events such as Burning Man in Nevada, Boom Festival in Portugal, Symbiosis Gathering in California, and the dozens if not hundreds of smaller festivals has created a new form of modern coming of age ritual for millions of people. Many young and older people find these festivals life-altering, ushering a period of growth in their lives. We experiment with old and new ways of living together, in these temporary spaces, finding our humanity in them. We experience communal living, freedom of expression, and acceptance of others as we dance through the night and enjoy exploring together through the days.

The nomenclature “Transformational” speaks to the make of these festivals which, most often, focus on community building, personal growth, spirituality, healthy lifestyles, and overall striving for a sustainable and even regenerative culture, by design. Most of these events — besides being a space for personal exploration, for dancing all night, and for art — also offer workshops around permaculture, land stewardship, sustainable practices, health and wellness practices, community building, and more.

The narrative emerging from these festivals and events looks at evolving the human experience into a more collaborative and resilient one. It uses the participatory nature of festivals to bring these ideas to the attendees, with the hope they will implement them in their lives back in the “default world.” Critics of these festivals maintain that they only create the illusion of transformation, however, and highlight how unsustainable the events actually are: the impact to the land from building the structures on it, the carbon footprint of the festival due to people driving to the land and using plastic and other single use objects, and the privilege required to even attend such events, even when hosted in a third world country.

The big question on the minds of both festival producers and participants is: Where do we go from here? How do we evolve from partying all night to actually creating change on a global level? This question was raised by the collaborative group creating the book Reinhabiting the Village: Co-Creating our Future. Over 60 grassroots leaders, artists, educators, visionaries, facilitators, event producers, permaculture experts, economic advisors, technology developers, indigenous elders, project managers, ecologists, media specialists, and social movement organizers shared their voices in this multimedia collaborative project that consists of a printed book, ebook, workbook, and a website featuring a resource hub.

The book features “voices from the village.” The more than 60 authors bring forward their best practices, share their experience, and offer models for a regenerative human culture.

The book is weaved through 12 themes aligning with Barbara Marx Hubbard’s wheel of co-creation: “What is a Village and how do we ReInhabit it? At the simplest level, a “Village” is a Place we belong to. Whether urban or rural, it is the place where we live, the land we share, it is the food we eat, it’s our watersheds, it is the ecosystem that we are a part of. A Village is also the People we are connected to, it is our children and elders, our families, our friends, our neighbors; it is the “WE” who share a “common unity,” a community of individuals who create a collective culture. It is the system by which we exchange and steward our resources and agree upon value as a means to ensuring our mutual survival.” – Excerpt From Jamaica Stevens, “Reinhabiting the Village.” (Check out the ReInhabiting the Village resource hub for projects and community near you, and to share your own!) One of the conversations that has emerged is how to not mistreat the land used for hosting these events.

The idea that every year a land is built on, visited by huge numbers of people for a short period of time, and then abandoned, has proven to be both unsustainable and harmful to the land. So what can be done? Over the past few years, land projects have started emerging as the next stage of festival evolution.

There are several great examples: Earlier this year, the Burning Man project bought the fly ranch property: 3,800 acres of land located twenty-one miles north of Gerlach in Washoe County, Nevada. This purchase answered the question: “How can we bring this beyond the event?” The first intention of buying the land is to become its stewards as the organization expands the culture beyond its annual event and amplifies “Burning Man’s cultural impact into the wider world beyond Black Rock City.” Another example of a land project comes from Boom Festival, which has been going strong since 1997. This festival, which focuses on permaculture in its festival land and only hosts their big 35,000 person event every second year, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy the land they are leasing: The time has come to take our reality to the next level: Let’s create a Permanent Free Culture Zone where our ideals for a new world such as freedom, peace, arts, environmentalism, free culture and love can be expressed on a daily basis while keeping Boom alive on the same location. We want to use the land to organize events for conscious lifestyles on a yearly basis, to develop permaculture projects for the reforestation of the land and for educational purposes. A third example of this evolution from festival to land stewardship is emerging in the Santa Barbara Lucidity Festival. This festival, whose motto is, “Leave it better than you found it,” focuses on permaculture, and hosts an Intro to Permaculture Design Certification course in the week preceding its event. This year, Lucidity Festival has announced its plan to create Lucidity University at Trillium. For 40 years, Trillium has ushered in transformation as a conscious community and wilderness education center.

The Lucid University is continuing this legacy, offering an invitation to join in this lush and protected valley in Southern Oregon.

They’ve launched their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to make that goal a reality, with rewards such as short introductory courses, longform immersive retreats, apprenticeships, certifications, online education, and even romantic getaways on the property.

The Lucid University offers immersive transformational education, organized into five curriculum tracks: As participants in the Reinhabiting the Village project, they are calling this experiment Foundations of a Living Learning Village, making it yet another example of a growing phenomenon within the global transformational culture.

There are many more examples of similar small and large initiatives popping up all over the map, such as Delphi Village in Nevada, and Numundo, which connects people who wish to volunteer in land projects globally as part of being eco-tourists.

There is also Regenvillages, which makes desirable off-grid capable neighborhoods comprised of power positive homes, renewable energy, water management, and waste-to-resource systems that are based upon on-going resiliency research, for thriving families and reduced burdens on local and national governments. All of these indicate the emergence of a global network of land projects, permaculture, and urban villages. We are finding our humanity in festivals, sharing resources and learning how to get back to the village. But beyond that, all of these experiences are teaching groups of people how to change their habits, evolve and expand to face the many challenges coming our way, and build a regenerative culture and resilient humanity. With it, a new human narrative is born — one that wishes to leave this planet Earth better than we found it. .

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