MAGAZINE

The ReInhabiting the Village Project Proves Change Can Start at Festivals

by Graham Berry | @Festival_Writer Tue October 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

It’s a feeling that’s hard to shake sometimes. You know the one I mean.: We gather, we celebrate with embraces, we dance like animals – but when we pack up Monday and head back to our lives, the electrifying sense of wonder we find in each other seems to fade. As we reenter a world teeming with war, disease and hunger, our festival bonds are often lost to the current of routine. It’s true that festivals nourish our cultural curiosities and make us aware of our very real global challenges, but where they often fall short is in producing real change that can address the many problems of today.

Fortuitously for us, amazing humans like Jamaica Stevens are tirelessly working to channel the love and creativity found at festivals in a positive, concrete direction. In her recent book, ReInhabiting the Village: CoCreating Our Future , she explains that festivals serve as vehicles for iterative experimentation so that we can, for a short time, come together to address a shared and deeply seated “need to come into greater harmony with all life on this planet.” 

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We caught up with Stevens to talk about the alternative festival movement and the road ahead that we all share, in which collaboration is key. As a six-year Burning Man veteran and a longtime organizer of festivals, Stevens is no stranger to teamwork. In fact, collaboration was an essential part of creating her book. “We had a seven person project team [with another] 60 contributing authors, 15 visionary artists and photographers, [help from] over 25 community partner groups and organizations, and crowd-funding with the support of over 400 backers,” she said. And that was just the first phase of the project!

Standing at a Crossroads

With such a massive outpouring of initial support, it's clear the need for massive change is on everyone's minds. The way Stevens sees it, “we are standing at a crossroads as a species. The generations alive on the planet today will determine the outcome for all generations to follow. Our backs are pressed against a wall so to speak and now is that catalytic moment to either shift or crumble. It’s not a choice about whether a shift is happening; it’s only a choice about how we respond to it.”

A big part of the alternative festival scene's allure is that, in these gatherings, we can learn, grow and become more aware of the challenges we share through shared connections and the workshops and programs the festivals offer. In this way these festivals realign our consciousness so that when we look to tomorrow we see a world full of hope and possibility. According to Stevens, this is a brilliant opportunity to “harvest the best and the brightest of human innovation and to leverage the immense wealth and intelligence available to us.” By doing this Stevens believes we can “begin implementing systems built in balance with nature, in service to our future,” in order to make all those hopeful wishes a reality.

Courtesy Of Reinhabiting The Village Project 2

The truly exciting part is that it’s not just talk – the festival community actually has solutions to many of the problems we face. By expanding that innovative group of solution-minded individuals to include scientists, activists and teachers outside the festival community the ReInhabiting the Village Project is poised to deliver powerful, lasting changes by highlighting the successes that are already being achieved.  For instance, “we have strategies to mitigate our climate and water issues, with examples and solutions for not only clean and renewable but free energy sources,” said Stevens. We also have “water retention [solutions to help people] in draught climates, alternative transportation options, etc. We have knowledge of… integrative forest management practices to remediate our soil. [We can] apply permaculture principles in urban and rural settings to create dynamic, abundant, and secure food systems. We have a new understanding of natural building and [ways to incorporate] appropriate technology.” 

There are numerous methods that, if employed, could facilitate change like never before seen in history. “And yet, what is required to implement these strategies at the massive level,” according to Stevens, “is a complete cultural and spiritual shift in humanity.” With colossal aspirations like these collaboration is a prerequisite to such success.

An Invitation to Join the Movement

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For all the challenges we face, tales of success are drifting to the surface. As a collection of these stories, the ReInhabiting the Village Project is growing. Those answering the call to action “have formed as this neo-nomadic community [that] follows these festivals from place to place.” For Stevens, “The ReInhabiting the Village movement is an invitation to ground these community connections, discover our purpose and gifts, to find those like-minded allies who share our passions in the festival world and beyond...to learn through interactive experiences, to participate in projects that are making a difference in the areas we care about, to be supported with guidance and informational offerings to start our own projects or community endeavors, to unify as a movement of decentralized bio-regional groups that shares similar values, and to provide a space to showcase our gifts, our organizations, [and] our contributions.”

Like the community it represents, the ReInhabiting the Village website is evolving into a hub where people can share these stories, connect with one another to create businesses, partnership, and support circles. In small but important ways these tools help individuals both in becoming more successful and in becoming more conscious about how our everyday decisions shape the world we live in. “At the heart of it, the ReInhabiting the Village Project is amplifying a new narrative for humanity,” said Stevens. “We are at the beginning of a new journey weaving our past and present into the possibilities for a thriving future.”

A New Human Journey

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Photo by: Art Gimbel

With speakers, workshops and initiatives at Envision, Enchanted Forest, Lucidity, Beloved, Symbiosis, Lightning In a Bottle and several others, the prevailing wisdom of the alternative festival scene points to a future that can sometimes be difficult to imagine. But that’s the wonder in all this; Stevens is actually collecting those stories of feats that are very much a reality. 

“Several festivals are beginning to approach sustainable water and waste strategies, composting toilets, natural building practices, solar and alternative energy applications, supporting local vendors and food suppliers serving healthy organic food, using reusable dishware and containers, providing healing temples and natural health products along with educational workshops and intergenerational programming, all while fostering local community engagement, featuring local artists, and boosting local economy with the influx of visitors to the area,” she explained. 

Courtesy Of Reinhabiting The Village Project 2

The ReInhabiting the Village Project shines a spotlight on a shared need for progressive change. “We are [all] longing for wholeness, for a sense of connection, of belonging, of a way to mark the passages of life and to break the spell of our current world,” confirms Stevens. Not all festivals want to take on these challenges – and that’s okay. But in simply coming together to explore our shared passions, we are reminded that we are not alone in our hopeful visions for the future. 

For many, ReInhabiting the Village will prove to be a refreshingly solution-oriented guide, while for others it will empower collaborative achievements. Still for some, it will be a gentle reminder that there is so much to do when we return from festival experiences. Festivals help us plant the seeds of community and change, but if we don’t put the work in, nothing will come to fruition.