Water issues are in the news everywhere. Floods, droughts, aquifer depletion, and contamination effecting many parts of the world right now. In our global economy, floods and droughts far away can effect us at home wherever we are. In the US, a great majority of fruits and vegetables are grown in California so that a drought there literally effects the economy and food supply of the entire country. California has always been a global leader in technology, innovation, and film/media. It is a place where creative ideas often get a spotlight and influence trends around the planet. That’s why it is no surprise that in California, a music festival would boldly and beautifully address a crisis of this proportion creatively from many angles.
California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list goes on and on). Some of this is due to climate and soil. No other state, or even a combination of states, can match California’s output per acre. Read more here.
The festival, Lightning in a Bottle, takes place along the central coast at Lake San Antonio Recreation Area. The lake, once a thriving resort and tourist get-away, is now completely dried up. By choosing this site, the festival producers are addressing the negative impacts the drought has had on the local tourist economy by bringing 20,000 visitors into the area. The Do Lab has a magical way of bringing color and vibrancy even to this brown and relatively barren landscape, as you will see in some of these pictures.
The festival may well be considered a conference because it is not only about music, dancing and revelry – it is filled with informational workshops, classes, film screenings, yoga and more. I felt like I was in high school as I studied my program and filled my day running from stage to stage, eager to be inspired with new things to think about. There were numerous workshops about permaculture and water. Rainwater harvesting, water treatment, graywater re-use, drinking water, water management and sustainable agriculture were a few of the topics covered by various experts in the field. Of course every evening was filled with exploring immersive art, giant sculptures, playgrounds for adults, world-class music, organic munchies, herbal elixirs, and dancing under the stars with friends old and new.
My favorite place in the festival was called The Village. Modeled after a tribal village with multiple stages, workshop areas, a beautiful altar, and ceremonial fire. Many cultural acts, folk dancers, native elders, families and artists young and old gathered here each day to re-imagine and experience community living. Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty of Wholly H20 spoke about understanding our relationship with water, and appropriate drought responses. Wholly H2O is a catalyst for sustainable, localized water management in California.
Justin Veris was another very interesting presenter discussing water. He captured me as he started his talk reminding his audience that each of us are mostly made of water, and to be disconnected from the element of water is a form of disconnection with our own selves. Using the metaphor of water as a reflection when it is still, we can only reflect within ourselves if we take the time to be still. Luckily, I was able to sit with him afterwards and collect some quotes from his talk:
“Improving the quality of our water, improves the quality of our life. Through updating our water treatment methods we can have a huge beneficial effect on the substance that makes up a majority of our bodies. This could potentially have huge health benefits and savings for our health care system. Our current systems for drinking water and waste water are in most cases using very old infrastructure, some of it dating back before World War II. Besides the age of this infrastructure, the design concepts used to create it are mechanistic rather than biological. What this has done is created systems for drinking water that are plagued with bacterial issues which then require us to treat the bacteria (today we use mostly chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia) our current treatment methods of using biocides then has a negative effect on the trillions of bacterial cells in our body. This approach is dated at best and possibly irresponsible given that there are now better treatment methods available. I believe that a grassroots educational movement about water is the best approach to change our old systems and create new quality standards.”
– Justin Veris at Lightning in a Bottle
These are not the only ways that the festival took a creative approach to the impending water situation. They brought in a few of the founding members of Unify.org, myself included, who specialize in hosting globally synchronized meditations. Unify, a nonprofit organization, has an international network of community organizers having hosted a global meditation with Deepak Chopra which broke the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest meditation. Focalizing all the energy and intention of the festival into a ceremony/prayer/meditation honoring water was somehow revolutionary, innovative, and ancient in its expression. People have gathered upon the land to honor each other, the seasons, and the elements for millennia and the transformational festival culture is now fusing this concept with all the spectacular creativity and technology of our modern world.
We paraded to the site with a giant goddess puppet named Ma Ua O Nalani, which means Mother Rain from the Heavens in the Hawaiian language. Representatives from many cultures convened in a circle accompanied by heavenly music which you can hear in this beautifully produced video that shows highlights from the ceremony. There is substantial evidence that collective meditation has positive impacts on the greater community. Even if this ceremony didn’t bring rain clouds it did bring a deep peace, feelings of connectedness, and reverence – all things that are often hard to find in our fast-paced modern world.
“Ma Ua O Nalani – Mother Rain from the Heavens”
Perhaps water issues including droughts and floods can help humans wake up to our deeper relationship with water, the environment, and ourselves. With the drought in California, perhaps there will be responses that include permaculture and sustainable practices around water and farming that can be modeled to the world. I do believe that obstacles can be opportunities if you look at them with the right attitude. Hats off to Lightning in a Bottle for addressing these important concepts in a playful, inspiring, and creative way.