Organising the Queer Spirit Festival involves a small percentage of visioning, magical workings, networking and getting together, a slightly larger percentage of meetings on skype, and a very large percentage of individual work, mostly on the computer. In the midst of emails, quotes, schedules, mailouts and event plans it is sometimes hard to remember why we are doing what we are doing – the vision and the ethos that are behind our actions, the meaning behind the creation, the reason for the name...
What are we doing it for? To provide a safe, vibrant, creative space for LGBT+ people, yes. But more than that, to provide a place for the spiritual, in all its many senses and meanings. And for many of us, 'spirit' is not something 'up there' but is the land, the earth which is our life, our home, our very selves.
And so, for many of us; to be spiritual is to be earth-connected. It is to honour and respect the earth, to raise energy for it, to give it our love and our strength. It is to support the earth, to work for its healing, to take action against those who are destroying it. And it is to try, in everything we do, to not be part of that destruction: to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. It is to find sustainable ways to use the earth's resources: to avoid, as much as is possible, the things that are causing the earth distress; causing climate change, causing destruction, causing pain. We want to stand up against the extraction of fossil fuels, against carbon emissions, against clear-cutting of forests, against the destruction of animals and their habitats.
The Queer Spirit Ethos states:
Respect for the earth.
To seek to use sustainable resources as far as possible, protect the earth from further harm and work for earth healing through magical/spiritual practice and through supporting environmental activism. To 'tread lightly on the earth' and to 'take nothing but memories and leave nothing but love'.
And it also states:
Respect for all humans and their choices and boundaries. To create a safe space free from all forms of abuse and coercion. To respect the principles of consent and ensure that they are implemented in all activities, workshops and areas.
But what happens when respect for humans and their choices conflicts with respect for the earth? Yes, we want to create a place that feels like home and where people can connect with the earth and with each other. Yes, it is easy to get excited when people want to join us from many places around the world. But...
But there’s the rub. How do we balance our desires to be together and to connect across the globe with our concerns about air travel and our commitment to making a low impact on the land? Personally, I know that I could not justify the environmental cost of air travel. But at the same time, how can I tell others what to do? Even within our organising team we have different opinions and different interpretations of spirit and of what spirit wants. And so I find myself at a loss as to what to say.
As always, I can only speak for myself. To me, committing to making a low environmental impact is not just about having a recycling point on site, although that is important and we hope everyone will join us in recycling their rubbish. It is not just about asking our cafes not to use paper plates or trying to sort out using solar power. It is also about the choices individuals make at our festival, and not just at our festival but on their way there.
So this is a plea, not necessarily from the whole festival or from the whole organising team, but from me, myself, Al Head. It is a plea to each and every one of you to be part of our ethos, not just on the festival site but as you think about coming to it. It is a plea for you to consider coming by train or by bus (yes I know it takes longer and is more expensive, its taking me two days to get to Sweden by train in May!). Or to consider car-sharing, or organising a minibus for a group of you to come together. Or perhaps even deciding not to come and organising something similar where you live. It is a plea to consider your use of mobile phones on site and whether you need them. If you do need them consider buying yourself a portable solar charger (the prices have dropped and the efficiency has gone up dramatically over the last few years and they are readily available from many sources).It is a plea to take as much rubbish and recycling off site as you can, and to sort the rest into our recycling centre. Please help us to leave this beautiful place as beautiful as we found it. Talk to the trees. Tread gently on the earth. Align yourself with the healing of the earth and the healing of its peoples, including ourselves. Have a wonderful time and grow love in your heart. And use that love to make changes, and to support our planet.
This is not me telling you what to do. This is me asking you to make this choice for yourselves, for the earth and for all of us. The way we live is impacting the earth more than we can possibly understand. We cannot continue to live the way we are living without making life on this planet unsustainable for countless species, including ourselves (if you want a really good account of this and our alternatives, see 'This Changes Everything' by Naomi Klein). How can we say we love the earth and then continue to destroy it? How can we love each other and destroy the land on which we all live? I believe that the choices we all make do make a difference, not only on the outer level but in ourselves. I know I fail and fail again to make the right choices or to find alternatives to the ways that this society imposes on me. But I try. And that is all any of us can do.
In love, always in love.