I read an interesting article this week in our local newspaper, The Ka’u Calendar, about problems associated with a “Rainbow Gathering” taking place at a beach near us. For those of you unfamiliar with Rainbow Gatherings, they are large informal festivals for “free spirited” types that often involve camping, drum circles and the like.
As much as the Rainbow Gatherers may have had good intentions, it seems as if they have actually been causing some significant damage to the local environment. The following is an excerpt from an open letter composed by a local community cleanup organization that was handed out to festival-goers:
“We know you do not intentionally mean to harm the environment and your goal to ‘be one with the earth’ is an admirable one. However, the truth of the matter is that you are damaging an area that is rich in natural and cultural resources – which puts you at odds with the earth, rather than as one with it.”
Apparently the campers have been using bleach for sanitation, improperly disposing of waste, and creating fires which have a potential to spread quickly in the dry and windy environment of the Ka’u Desert, which has been plagued by fires in recent years.
This story illustrates one of the most complicated problems of our modern age. Humans have expanded our reach to every corner of the earth, through all of “nature,” whether this means expanding our communities into areas that were previously thought of as “wilderness,” or permeating the environment at every level with industrial byproducts.
Though we may make efforts to go “back to nature,” we are very separated from the ways of life of our ancestors who had a closer relationship to the earth. We don’t pass down the knowledge and skill sets they once had that would allow us to create safe fires, or know what to do with our waste. While we can enjoy time in nature, most of us are habituated to having flushing toilets, garbage cans and furnaces.
In this sense then, we may find more success in going back to nature through a compromise of modern human ways of life and a respect for the natural world. We don’t have to give up all of our modern conveniences in order to feel connected with nature. Instead, taking a moderate approach can be much more rewarding. Finding a balance in your life between modern technology and the natural world will ultimately lead to greater progress, even if it isn’t ideal.