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What is Earth Law and Why Does it Matter?

Archipelago Volcanic Mountain At Sea

When I first learned about Earth Law Center (ELC), I visited my dad shortly thereafter and had a bit of trouble explaining to my dad what exactly ELC did. Nature having rights didn’t make much sense to him, a retired NASA engineer — he likes facts and figures best. So, I gave him a hypothetical example.

As a kid, I remember having to hold my breath every time we drove by Onondaga Lake because all the chemicals dumped into the lake made it stink. It got so bad that fishing was banned in 1972. Local activists have since persuaded County and State governments to ban chemical and waste discharge -with the Lake being made a Superfund site in 1994. Clean up has progressed so well that 56 species of fish now live in the Lake (compared to 8 species in the 1970’s).

Me: So if Onondaga Lake had legal rights, none of the chemical and waste dumps could have happened.

Dad: Why?

Me: Dumping chemicals in the Lake would have been like dumping waste into your house.

Dad: Oh you mean they could have sued the dumpers? Or actually no one would dump waste into my house to begin with because they know they’d get into trouble.

Me: Yep, that’s exactly right.

Dad: Oh, that’s not a bad idea then.

So what is earth law exactly? Earth law, including rights of nature, builds on a long history of indigenous perspectives which: embrace nature, live within nature, and instead of holding themselves above nature — honor nature’s rules and ways of supporting life on earth as part of the cosmic order.

Moving beyond the human-centric point of view, earth law puts earth at the center — with all inhabitants of earth being considered, and seen as interconnected (including humans).

It means countries (like Ecuador and Bolivia) can amend their constitutions to recognize rights of nature. Then people like Richard Wheeler and Eleanor Huddle could sue on behalf of a river (the Vilcambamba in Ecuador) and have the court rule in favor of nature, citing the amended Constitution. It means rivers like the Whanganui (New Zealand), the Ganges and Yamuna (India) and the Atrato (Colombia) can now do the same since all were recognized as having legal rights in 2017.

Why does it matter? Current environmental protection can’t keep up with the pace of environmental destruction. Earth law paves a path to connect many different groups and interests working to protect nature, unifies activists and advocates towards a common tangible goal, and gives nature the same rights that corporations and humans have.

Earth law matters, because we need to halt and reverse the havoc we’ve wreaked on the planet. Earth Law provides a conceptual framework to help catalyze a global movement so we can protect and restore nature for future generations. Nature is the one thing we truly can’t live without.

Want to join the movement? Follow and share the news. Volunteer with a Rights of Nature organization near you. Donate and support specific legal initiatives that will secure rights of nature for oceans, lakes, rivers, coastal regions and municipalities. Email or visit us at to find which of our latest initiatives most engages you.

Photo by Yann Arthus Bertrand

Darlene May Lee is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, which works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. She works to build a force of advocates for nature's rights at the local, state, national, and international levels. Connect with Earth Law Center on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The Compost Pile Prayer

The Compost Pile Prayer 


Eternity in common parlance is either an infinite or an indeterminately long period of time. In classical philosophy, however, eternity is defined as what exists outside time.

Compost: The Key to Living Soil

Composting is the process by which raw organic materials are transformed, primarily by bacteria and fungi, into a stable, nutrient-rich substance known as “humus”. Humus is chemically complex, spongy, porous, and retains a high concentration of essential nutrients that are readily accessible to the roots of plants. Humus occurs naturally when plant and animal remains in marshes, forests, and grasslands break down over the span of centuries.

Humans can hasten this process by constructing piles of various organic materials, and providing adequate moisture and aeration. Replenishing our soils with mature compost (i.e. humus) is the best way of building long-term soil fertility and ensuring an abundant harvest.

Compost improves virtually all physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the soil. High-quality compost helps create healthy, living soil teeming with earthworms, microbes and a vast array of available nutrients that produce robust plants resistant to pests and diseases.

Compost-created humus provides plant roots with the proper combination of nutrients without overwhelming them with any particular one; something that frequently occurs with soluble chemical fertilizers. Compost also contains essential trace minerals that plants need. And it is an excellent way of recycling organic materials.

The ‘Cosmic Christ’

The Essence of the Cosmic Christ is simply the regenerative and reconciling aspect of the force of pure Being and the Soul Essence within each one of us. Hence in itself, it represents the unfolding energy of wholeness in human nature.

What do we mean by an individualized expression of the Cosmic Christ? The answer is simply that it represents an enlightened and self-realized expression of pure Being. However, such a level of enlightenment can only manifest in a purified and well-prepared vehicle, in which consciousness is awakened fully.

By “purified vehicle”, we mean the purified physical, psychic, and spiritual bodies in which the energy and characteristics of the Force of the Cosmic Christ become apparent. This Christic Force is an active and universal power house that functions through "human vehicles" forever. Hence, nothing gets lost, and the vehicle and characteristics of a Christ figure still continue functioning through all enlightened and realized human beings — the same principle is applied to all enlightened beings.

The Compost Pile Prayer

( i )

the eternal pile
soil in meta-cycle
deleted then replenished
piled then spread
soul nutrients cooked - pulled and extended
re-birthed in seeds
consumed by humans and animals
in One Nature Spirit forever


Go South: Hands in the dirt
Look East: Face in the rain
Move North: Shovel in the Snow
Run West: Crops in the Sun

( ii )

we are the soil
we are the seeds
we are the teeth and bones
we are the compost
we are the harvest end and beginning

Willi Paul is Principal of Willi Paul Studio and founder-publisher of MagazineHe contributes interviewsarticlesnew myths and workshops in the sustainability, permaculture, transition, sacred nature, new alchemy and mythology spaces. Connect with him on FacebookLinkedIn and, and read all Willi’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Get Food Smart TN Launched at TRC

Get Food Smart TN logo 

There was lots of excitement last week at the 28th Annual Tennessee Recycling Coalition Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. The theme, “Recycling Comes Full Circle”, was shown in the panels, breakout sessions, pre-conference workshop, and programs unveiled. Of the many things, the Office of Sustainable Practices (OSP) presented food waste as a problem, but one that we can all work together to overcome.

The conference started with a canning workshop, put together by Brook Powell, along with Jenny Jackson with Wilson County Co-Op, and Pamela Sites with Rutherford County Extension Service. The pre-conference workshop on reducing food waste and preserving food was held Sunday, August 13, 2017. It was a “hands on” workshop, where attendees learned time honored practices on how to can and freeze foods and then took home their canned and freezer goods. Squash pickles were prepared and canned and strawberries were prepared for freezing.

Canning and freezing books were also given to attendees so they could repeat the process at home. It was an informative and fun workshop, and a great way to meet other conference attendees. It also set the tone of the conference for people on how we are treating food.

OSP also made an exciting announcement at the luncheon on Monday, August 22nd, unveiling a new program, Get Food Smart TN. This is a statewide initiative with the mission to “promote using food wisely and enhancing the sustainability of Tennessee’s food resources.” Director Lori Munkeboe and Creative Services Consultant Ashley Cabrera with OSP presented the program, unveiled the logo, mission statement, and temporary webpage and discussed the work it took to launch the program. It has taken the hard work and partnership of OSP, Policy and Planning, and many others to make Get Food Smart possible.

In hopes of bringing the program to its full potential, OSP asked the audience at the conference to take a survey on how the Get Food Smart TN Recognition Program should be structured and to take a personal pledge on reducing food waste in their own homes.

We ask the same of you as well! We would like everyone’s input, since this is not just OSP’s program, but everyone’s program. Please take a few minutes to take our survey and personal pledge to Get Food Smart!

For more information and to see the support the program has received, go to and like us on Facebook (@getfoodsmarttn).

GFS TN presentation 6

Workshop 32

Workshop 30

Workshop 10

GFS TN presentation 3

GFS TN presentation 2

We ask the same of you as well! We would like everyone’s input, since this is not just OSP’s program, but everyone’s program. Please take a few minutes to take our survey and personal pledge to Get Food Smart!

For more information and to see the support the program has received, go to and like us on Facebook (@getfoodsmarttn).

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

An Ecotourism Mini-Stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan


Cheese at Zingerman’s Creamery

It’s not just about the vibrant, local, farm-to-table culinary scene, though plentiful food and drinks were the focus on my recent visit to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan. Sure, backpacks are everywhere, but in this case, they’re worn by students attending the University of Michigan and used to carry books and notepads around campus – not camping gear.

But with rolling farmlands an easy bicycle trip out of town, the Huron River meandering through downtown, the 700-acre University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, and a vibrant arts scene, these can beckon an ecotraveler who doesn’t require wilderness to be in nature. With all the tree-lined streets and green spaces, Ann Arbor justly earns its moniker as “tree town”. And for many ecotravelers, cultural attractions and activities are as important as natural ones.

Get Active Outdoors

The Argo Canoe Livery will happily put you in a canoe, kayak or inner tubes on the Huron River, perhaps to shoot the Argo Cascades on a run between Argo to Gallup Park. Or stay dry and hike through the acres of gardens and natural preserves of the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Be advised, strolling through the “Diag” on the main campus, or through the magnificent Law Quad, may make some pine nostalgically for campus life.

You don’t have to go far out of town (less than 20 miles) to get to the 11,000-acre Pinckney Recreation Area, with miles of mountain bike or horseback trails, hiking trails, plentiful lakes to fish, rustic cabins to rent or remote primitive camping sites in the backcountry to pitch a tent.  You can event stay in a yurt. If that’s not enough, cross over to the adjacent 20,000-acre Waterloo Recreation Area, largest state park in lower Michigan.

You can even exercise as you pedal and drink. Have a laugh, share some cheer, and zig-zag through the streets with High Five Pedal Tours while the sound of music festively plays from the speakers on the bar-on-wheels vehicle. One bell, pedal; two pedals, stop. Leave the driving to the guide, who steers you where you want to go. Local beers, wines or coffee from local roasters are often featured, along with customized tours that can include special stops at some of the many bookstores in town.

Savor Farm to Table Feasts

As I wrote earlier, where Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti most reflect the essence of ecotourism is in the communities’ approach to farm-to-table cuisine. The cornucopia of flavors served up at the many restaurants are as diverse as the cultivars of tomatoes you might find at the farmers’ market. The restaurants seem to satisfy every ethnic food craving, from Korean to Turkish.

Forget that this four-season climate includes lots of cold and snow.  There are serious foodies here, probably more on a first name basis with their farmers than they are with their doctors. The Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market in Kerrytown is year round (and outside) every Saturday morning, where you can elbow alongside chefs who pick up their ingredients for the week. From small batch, cottage food products to whatever is at peak ripeness, in abundance. In early June, that can mean nettles, bouquets of peonies, radish and lettuce, and strawberries -- even tomatoes from farmers who know how to fool nature with their hot-house hoop greenhouses. Every day of the week you can pick up local produce, eggs, meats, baked goods, dairy and artisan products from over 140 local farms that supply the Argus Farm Stop, where the producers set the prices!

Be Artistic

Traditional arts are, in fact, mingled in with the culinary arts.  In Ann Arbor, trying your hand as an artist is easy at the Yourist Gallery and Studio where you can take pottery classes taught by local artists.

“I started the studio with me wanting to make pots,” explains owner and artist Kay Yourist. “Then I started teaching. It’s helped me to develop as an artist.” Her gallery offers monthly classes where you throw a pot and get to keep the finished piece, too. Appointments can also be made for individual workshops, again, with a piece you create included. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that there’s a group of annual art fairs that are so large that they spread out along numerous streets throughout the city to accommodate the more than 1,000 exhibitors; the combined event featuring four art fairs attracts over a half a million attendees.

Reflecting the vibrant culinary scene, cooking classes abound.  You can learn the finer points of making cheeses from chief cheese maker and a managing partner of Zingerman’s Creamery, Aubrey Thomason. “What we make are lactic processed cheeses,” Thomason explains to our small group as we watch her work her magic making mozzarella. “They’re soft fresh cheeses or mold ripened cheeses.” After the class, our group had a chance to try nearly twenty varieties of the cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses they’ve built quite a following for, each made in small batches with traditional methods. Or head over to Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars for one of their hands-on cooking classes.

The music scene is thriving, too.  For near daily live bluegrass and folk music in an intimate setting, I headed to The Ark where Mark Lavengood Bluegrass Bonanza plucked, strummed and sung a near perfect ending to the day.

Shop Local

When it comes to picking up a little gift, Ann Arbor has a buy local, buy Michigan spin. The VinBar features a great selection of Michigan wines from Black Star Farms, Good Harbor Vineyards and Mawby. The Kerrytown Market & Shops offers yarns at Spun and unique oils and vinegars at Fustini’s. Just up the street, enjoy a cup of tea or partake in a full tea service from among the world’s best teas at the Tea Haus; let them guide your journey and explore teas from black to green to oolong to white. Of course, leave plenty of time to taste your way through Zingerman’s Delicatessen with their spectacular selection of breads, olive oils, cheeses and meats.

Sleep in Green Lodging

Ann Arbor has a few eco-lodging options. The Sheraton Ann Arbor is a TripAdvisor Silver Green Leader, with four EV charging stations, low flow showers, sinks and toilets in every room, and widespread use of energy efficient lighting. Guests can even op out of having their room cleaned during their stay and receive a Make a Green Choice voucher for food or beverages as thanks for doing so each night.

The Burnt Toast Inn, with eight rooms split between two properties, offer seasonal, mostly organic breakfasts featuring local foods from Crust Bakery, Calder’s Dairy and The Grainery. There’s an AirBnB option that will allow you to see what living in a net zero energy and net zero water home is all about (if you don’t already do so). The Grocoff’s energy-efficient renovation of a 1901 Victorian family home features an 8.1 kW PV array, Geothermal heating and cooling, EV chargers and sustainable landscaping.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, “9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living”. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

A Conversation with Permaculturist and Mythologist Willi Paul

Willi Paul Interview 

 What have you been building for 7 years?

The website Metaphors abound: Social template; a spiritual reservoir; a cocoon. A source book of eco-alchemy and new archetypes. Questions. Tons of questions. Perhaps an extended family? The new mythology.

Your work with sound is weird. What is the goal?

Shake up reality and make text poetry audio and frantic. I like the joist from a sound sample to a new metaphor and message. I deploy sounds to penetrate and explore the fuzzy under belly between our conscious and the subconscious. Sounds empower and entwine the emerging archetypes of our time. Sound forces are largely misunderstood and under-utilized in our post-radio, pre-packaged file streaming Sonos.

Why do you insist on calling this the "Chaos Era?"

What would you call it? The rich eat, the poor are starving; the military boys can't wait to drop their expensive bombs on North Korea; there is a cartoon President in the White House. Do you believe in climate change (yet)? Here come the hurricanes. There goes your shoreline.

Do you think people really want to know about the new mythology! Do you think that they really understand the old one?

I admit that this program of mine is a tough sell at times. My holistic, post-Campbellian connections and permaculture / transition / Nature integrations are complex. Given that many of the old guard mythologists are happy to stick with the old myths, and their colleagues, discussion and change are slow to come.

What makes mythology so important? Why not just answer one of those State Farm interview emails and sell insurance?

We need to co-write new universal family rituals, eco-traditions and urban stories that teach us new values and ways to live together. Part of the warning for the Chaos Era is that we do not have these new myths and we are drowning in corporate taglines, silly songs from Nashville and Napa yoga vacations.

Your distaste for super heroes and the endless stream of "mythic cartoons" from a re-tread-heavy Hollywood is a key theme in your new mythology. Why?

The super-powered struggles from the Superman and Wonder Woman commercial entertainment sector just do not rise to the level of mythic teaching. Too much tits and ass, too many profit-based sequels; far too little imagination and global relevance.

Why is the community now a better hero force than the individual?

In a word, corruption. Money and frame have crumpled the individual to posters and talk shows, all for profit. I say we by-pass the movie stars and lieutenant generals and empower the whole neighborhood or town to be the example. Really, what do we have to lose?

How can you claim that permaculture is about farming with Nature and then catapult it to a higher consciousness with new symbols, archetypes and traditions?

I love a good paradox. I mean that the promise of permaculture lies in with its agricultural mandate but in its community focus and new values. Both are only projections at present and will require a huge change in planetary consciousness.

How much Nature are you actually experiencing each day? Is the landscaping regime in front of your condo building fulfilling this need?

I trek into the trees in the hills above my town everyday with my headphones. We cruise the local reservoir on weekends. I am on Mother Nature's side. She weaves her songs of whale love and mountain glow in web sites and coffee table picture books. I collect images and save them for my work. But do I take Nature for granted now? Good question.

Burlingame? Do you actually practice what you preach in your town? What problems and solutions have you worked on there in the name of "localization?"

I came to the Peninsula from Oakland. Two very different psyches; worlds. I think it's easy to criticize a place like Burlingame with its rampant commercialism, bi-polar shopping districts, and lack of diversity, to name a few complaints. I just weighed in on the Broadway Ave. re-design squabble on and I have called-out the City on several pedestrian issues and the investigated the pending California Ave roundabout project. Burlingame is not destined to be a permaculture oasis.

How are you like your father?

He instilled his integrity and common-sense motto in me early and supported my Eagle Scout experience. He was always supportive in my manic-depressive years, never giving up on me. My father and I love Nature and traveling. To this day, I have a buck in my wallet, per his charge. We both love to smile and say hello to strangers and neighbors alike!

You were raised in the Episcopal pew then migrated to the Quakers post-collage. What did you learn from both?

I learned how to get through a boring and unenlightening routine at Church and to enjoy just the opposite at the Friend's Meeting House!

Another idea that you are developing is "Perm-Tech." What is the product, the message, the solution, the vision?

This is a new hybrid concept of mine. I understand that permaculture has tools (i.e. - rakes to bulldozers) but could benefit from a melding of green tech, regenerative agriculture and Nature design. Enter Sun2Soil, a nutria-membrane that I am testing for local community gardens and food forests. Perm-Tech brings in more hands and ideas through appropriate technologies. This is one dream of mine.

You are willing to try new things and fail. How do you look at risk? Outcomes?

Because I have a wondrous tool set and global communication platform in, I often throw ideas against the "iWall" and see who comes 'round. I value risk, evaluation and failure very much - both are ingrained in my experiences and values.

How can you tell if something is sacred? Can you share it?

I look for others to show this quality; this is primary. Sacred relates to trust. I know that Nature is sacred and that it can be shared with others. I want some part of my work in mythology to be sacred to the world community.

If social media is less about community building and more about pornography and sales data and venting, why do you do it so much?

Social media certainly feeds my ego and fantasies for change at times and offers a cursory level of status and teaching. Often the combination of "Facebook and G+" seem to be a pretend community.

Basically, you believe that Capitalism is sending the earth and its "customers" to a horrible death if left unchallenged. Can permaculture help prevent the pending global crash?

I see permaculture as a promising but fractured, top-down movement with little taste for hard-core politics or rebellion. As always, key changes ahead will be value-based and spiritual. Are the survivalists on the right course? Best take care of your family and neighbors first and plant a garden, quick.

Willi Paul is Principal of Willi Paul Studio and founder-publisher of MagazineHe contributes interviewsarticlesnew myths and workshops in the sustainability, permaculture, transition, sacred nature, new alchemy and mythology spaces. Connect with him on FacebookLinkedIn and Read all of Willi’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Seeds on Ice: Svalgard Global Seed Vault and Saving Honeybees


A few weeks ago I heard a wonderful interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross of National Public Radio. She interviewed Dr. Cary Fowler, who is known as the "father" of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. His vision to create a repository of seeds such that they could be preserved and routinely released and propagated to keep biodiversity alive, is legendary.

Interestingly, he mentioned that sometimes he receives hate mail and has had his life threatened as some folks think he might be trying to hoard the seeds. But he reiterates time and again, that the purpose of the seed vault is to preserve them and share them for now and future generations.

He also mentioned that he had received a snarky remark as it relates to pollinators. The person who contacted him said something along the lines, "why save the seeds without saving the pollinators first."

And Dr. Fowles responded by saying, "Well, I thought I would save that for you to do." And he is so right! Not any single individual can save the whole world. But individual peoples, can work together to create and save great things.

What I found even more interesting is that Dr. Fowles mentioned the bee genetic repository that is in the works by Dr. Steve Sheppard and Dr. Brandon Hopkins at Washington State University. Dr. Hopkins is the leading expert on cryopreservation of honey bee drone semen and his efforts will live beyond his own lifetime.

I am so very proud to know both Dr. Sheppard and Dr. Hopkins and to be working alongside them to help preserve, conserve and share healthy honey bee stock with American beekeepers and beyond.

As my research under their tutelage develops, I will keep ME News readers posted....though we are in a pollinator crisis, the future is hopeful. Here is a link to more info about the Seeds on Ice book by Dr. Cary Fowler. And here are some links to several articles and a slide show in which I share information about "Bees as Seeds"- which discusses the quest and process to find, select, and share quality honey bee stock lines that are naturally resistant to pests and diseases; and that are adaptable to varying climates.

Bees and the AgroEcosystem [PDF]

Gathering Liquid Starlight from Many Flowers

SeedBroadcast Journal

Melanie M. Kirby is a professional apiculturist, honeybee breeder and consilience researcher based in New Mexico. She considers herself to be a seed saver — with the bees as the seeds — by finding and sharing quality stock lines with beekeepers around the nation and globe. In her spare time, Melanie makes honey wine and exquisite medicinal hive products and beeswax arts. Connect with Melanie at Zia Queen Bees and Rocky Mountain Survivor Queen Bee Cooperative. Read all of Melanie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Environmentally Festive: The ‘Beloved’ Way to Mitigate the Environmental Impact of Festivals


Right now we are in the heart of festival season. You might be reading this article in your home or office, but somewhere not too far away, people are festivaling.

People in Wisconsin are tossing cow dung around in the "Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival." In Austin, they are doing Lord knows at Eeyore's Birthday Party Festival. And from the sounds of the Underwater Music Festival in the Florida Keys, some people are dancing the drowning fish dance (oh you know the move, you put your hands on your ears and pretend like they're gills).

And as millions of people from all over the world are uniting with their tribes to commune, learn, and celebrate their common goals and ground — there is an environmental dark side to these human gatherings.

Cue scary music: From the millions of plane tickets bought to attend festivals, to the emissions from millions cars, to all the human and non-organic waste produced from a summer’s worth of festivals — we run into the classic clash of our current times — how do you consciously plan or consciously attend a festival without comprising your commitments to Mother Earth?

How Beloved Answers the Environmental Question

The environmental question is especially stirring if you work on a festival like Beloved near Tidewater, Oregon. The ostensible purpose of this gathering is to raise consciousness of its attendees. So Beloved is held to and holds itself to a high environmental standard. That leads to some great top to bottom implementation of practices that are a plus for the earth.

Elliot Rasenick is the founder of Beloved. As the festival enters its tenth year this summer, his festival has adopted an environmentally realistic set of policies, goals, and procedures.

"You have to be realistic and thorough, putting the environment at every level," Elliot says. Beloved works to maximizes environmental learning opportunities for attendees in conjunction with reducing environmental impact. Beloved looks at the real impacts it will have on the environment, works to minimizes those, and sees the festival as a classroom. For all attendees, there is exposure to some really cool environmental practices.

It's an environmental "practice" because it's never perfect. But a festival that has a mindset capable of leading its attendees to green lifestyle choice? That should be worth some Facebook hearts! A festival getting this type of  green buy-in could cause its attendees to produce less waste during the festival than they otherwise would have at home. And this deserves some more Facebook likes and hearts.

I caught up with Elliot from Beloved to discuss what he's doing to make a better festival for the environment. His perspective, insights, and policies are applicable to anyone planning and attending festival or large scale human gathering.

Environmental Guidelines for Festivals

Be Honest About Your Festival's Environmental Impact

“There is a core dishonesty many festivals have about the true impact they have on the environment," Elliot says. "If we are to truly do the best we can in working with the environmental problems Beloved creates, we first need to outline all of the impacts our festival has on the environment and then work from there to mitigate these."  And don't even get Elliot started about the tremendous dishonesty at the heart of GMO corn compostable products some events use to toot their green horn.

Eliminate Single-Use Petroleum Products

One of the ways Beloved has worked to reduce its impact is to work with its food vendors to implement a program that uses reusable dishes and utensils. This program has the impact of a reduction of of tens of thousands of single-use plastic plates and utensils which would otherwise end up in a landfill.

See Your Festival as a Model for Cities

We can create the solutions we wish to see in the world within our festivals. Running a festival is like being mayor to a large city — festivals are models of cities. Elliot says it's important to "Grasp how choices that humans make impact the environment [on this scale]."

When asking the general question, "How can we do better as human beings in cities?" we can implement solutions on a city's scale within our festival. Festivals aren't playing around here. They have the opportunity to prove something on the grandeur human scale. Diligent counties across the country ought to take note of the festivals finding working solutions to the problems they too face.

Think of Festivals as Classrooms to Teach Environmental Living

Beloved is aware of the opportunity of having the full attention of some 3,000 attendees over four days. They have a huge educational opportunity on their hands that they want to see played right. One of the ways Beloved does this is with its 5-stream waste management system that puts the food waste compost on site and front and center.

Experience is the best teacher. Beloved wants waste to be not just something you get out of site, but something its attendees understand. There is no better place to teach this lesson then on the toilet. "We're shitting in freshwater and using the forest to clean ourselves, when we should be shitting in the forest and using clean water to clean ourselves," Elliot says, making me hope my editor at Mother Earth allows this quote to hit print.  "These are usable materials that need to remain usable materials – and this festival is an opportunity for us to educate the population about this reality."

Currently 70% of all human waste is going into compost toilets and being put to a useful purpose. By 2018, Elliot plans to work with the county to bring this number up to 100%.

Environmental Consciousness Encouraged at All Levels

At Beloved, environmental consciousness has been handed down to all levels. From the grounds crew, to purchasing department, to the management team — everyone is looking at how they can do things environmentally better.

Keep Your Festival in Nature

Beloved occupies a patch of land near Tidewater, Oregon which was clear-cut 25 years ago. So part of the responsibility that Elliot feels his festival has to this land is to return it to its natural state. "My dream is not just a festival that mitigates its negative impacts, but one that is regenerative to the land it holds.

Eliot sees his festival as being part of a natural environment (as opposed to paving over paradise to put up a parking lot).

What Attendees Can Do to be Environmentally Friendly Festies

Elliot hopes that if they didn't realize it already, everyone who attends Beloved will leave  "grasp[ing] that choices humans make affect the environment." He wants them to get out of a single use mentally and see that all it takes is shifting our mindset and our actions will automatically follow. He wants them to think about borrowing a tent instead of buying a cheap Walmart one and abandoning it. He hopes they'll carpool, use ride-share sites, and take public transportation rather than riding solo in their SUV.

Beloved's attendees tend to think along similar lines — how to maximize the best we can do in any circumstance — this is being a conscious human being. I'd venture to say it's a lot easier to move your body freely on the dance floor knowing you're doing the best you can for yourself and your world. Beloved as a festival provides its attendees with this inner smile.

And these guidelines and considerations are valuable for any festival or any festival goer who has that space in their heart for the planet. Let the band play, the dance begin, and may the earth smile at the efforts we've made on her behalf.

Luke Maguire Armstrong has worked in development everywhere from Guatemala, to Kenya, Uganda, and the Bronx. He lectures on topics ranging from human trafficking, economics, philosophy, creative writing, and international affairs. He is the author of the intrepidly acclaimed travel anthology The Nomad’s NomadFollow him @LukeSpartacus and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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