Unseen environmental damage of music festivals

MUSIC festivals can be the time of a lifetime for many, but the clean up afterwards could extend past our lifetimes.

Inner Varnika, an electronic music festival, occurred on the Easter Weekend and was held just north of Camperdown in Country Victoria.

Typical of festival clean ups is the countless cigarettes butts, camping gear and aluminium cans that litter the ground.

Volunteer Jess Hall said they, “needed a week to clean up” and “it is almost impossible to find all the butts and nangs.”

Jess Hall, volunteer for the recycle patrol

Nangs, are canisters of nitrous oxide laughing gas that are used recreationally at music festivals to feel short term euphoria but can cause brain damage and heart failure.

Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas which is 298 times more polluting than carbon dioxide.

But they pose a special challenge as the “countless” aluminium canisters that are left over from a “nang out” are harder to spot than brightly coloured beverage cans.

According to Dr Joslin Moore, a grassland ecologist, “Non-biodegradables such as cigarette butts and aluminium can cause long term issues for grassland ecologies.”

After three days of partying the grassland had been trampled into mud. “This is typical of Victorian soils,” she said, “which are especially sensitive to being compacted.”

18195530_10212804209048171_1899141516_oA typical scene as festival-goers make a hasty exit

This kind of damage repairs by itself over time but with festivals coming back on a yearly or bi-yearly basis the damage can become permanent.

When the soil is saturated with inert material and metals like aluminium it can be unhealthy not only for plants but also for animal life.

Soil pollution can cause fatal poisoning, which is an issue for animals that graze over festival land during the majority of the year

Better Ewe than me

The unforeseen consequence of this hedonistic pleasure camp for teenagers and electronic music fans is a slow and painful death for the horses, cows, and sheep that live off this land.

Four rubbish tips of litter and camping gear left behind were filled by volunteers like Jess on the first day of the clean-up. The beginning a week long clean up.

A week may seem like a long time to be picking up litter – but it’s minuscule compared to upwards of 500 years it takes aluminium to decompose naturally.

We can only hope that by next year that festival organisers will allow more clean up time or hire more volunteers before they cause a wide spread environmental disaster in rural Victoria.

The Puffin (ix)

Something was enormous moving below. I could feel the vibrations in the water. Ropes of flesh began floating upwards. With every flash of lightning, red and bleeding they reached closer to us. Out of the darkness, where the limbs came from, a glowing red disc sizzled as it had just be taken out of a forge. But it floated closer and closer and the water bubbled and then I realised it was a giant eye gazing with fury. When the lighting struck again I saw it in full view, in the centre of the growing wave; I would have thought it a rotting corpse if not for the single eye that stared into mine. Its gaunt arms pulled everything it grabbed into its beak that gnashed with a mouth adorned with pin-like teeth. Every aspect of this terrible thing was stretched and elongated, as it had been flattened under the pressure of the sea.

Flat as a page – if it turned to the side it would have disappeared. But it was looking straight at me and snapped its beak at just as the puffin did when I pulled it from its cage. It tendrils broke through the surface of the water to either side of me, they swung in the air as if held by a blind swordsman. It mouth came closer and steam began to boil as the sulphurous bubbles of its breath exploded around. Staring downs the beast’s gullet I pondered my certainty that the puffin is indeed completely a bird.

My thoughts were interrupted by lightning that struck again, on the very nose of the beast. Again and again, it struck the beast. I nearly passed out from the putrid gas that rose, the only thing that has come close to that smell is the bursting of a bloated sea-corpse. Coincidentally a sea-corpse is what I believed I was about to become, the towering wave we had been ascending was tipping over. The wave crashed and I shut my eyes. Darkness, only darkness remained.
I’ve read much about the world, in libraries both decrepit and magnificent, since that terrible night and can only piece together one theory. It must have been Zeus striking down a vengeful Titan back into the depths, and it was merely a coincidence that I sat in the midst of their war. I dreamed that I was Zeus in the clouds looking down and striking those who displeased me. Then it occurred to me that this wasn’t a dream, it was death, and the afterlife is mostly comprised of wreaking revenge on all who wronged us, I was a karmic angel with a score to settle. But my wings burnt up in hatred I spat over the world and I was emblazed all over and I fell like Icarus, my limbs curled up involuntarily like a dying insect.

I fell back down to Earth with a freezing shock and woke up on the iceberg. Or what has left of the iceberg anyway, I was lying half way in the sea, my right hand still death gripped upon the knife embedded in the ice and my left clutched the limp puffin. I would have climbed out of the water had I not felt like half a man, my ribs broken and I could barely flex my fingers. I shook the puffin with my weak hands and it squinted to look at me annoyed that I had woken it from its dream. Maybe it too had been dreaming of wreaking havoc on its puffin enemies, or the shark that had given it that scar above its eye. Or maybe it had been dreaming of punishing me. I questioned why I had kept it alive all this time, just to suffer. I looked around for answers but only a white fog surrounded us.
The iceberg was breaking away before my eyes, we must have been blown a great distance south in the storm. Once again my mind turned to killing the puffin, out of mercy this time, not for food. I knew its pain well. The adventures in children’s books never describe the agony the heroes must go. The prince battles the dragon but the story never speaks of his burns that take months to heals and the nights he wakes up screaming from nightmares.

Another point was the puffin’s body might sustain me for a couple more days, I could drink its blood as well.

I could go on and list every reason it was logical to kill that bird, but despite every reason and every obligation – I couldn’t take that birds life, it wasn’t mine to take. I threw the knife into the ocean and decided that Fortuna would be our murderer, I’d not dirty my hands. And just as that knife hit the water’s surface, a rope landed on my shoulder.
I gripped it and it went taunt, its end lay hidden in the mist.

The rope felt ordinary but I still shouted, “Are you heaven sent?”

“Are you daft?” A voice shouted back, the mist cleared and there stood, not a rope thrown by St Peter, but a ship. Its exterior black and charred though it looked as strong as Samson. The sailors beckoned to me and I tied the rope around my waist and I hugged the puffin to my chest. The pulled me up in silence when they saw my condition, some have said I looked like a corpse and they feared they had pulled a ghost up onto their ship.

That was the circumstance of how I first planted my feet on the deck of The Great Gnasher, which was then captained by the not so great Captain Cohen. My feet didn’t stand planted for long however, I passed out as soon as I felt something solid under my feet but was caught by a boy with blonde hair about my own age. The two dozen souls who kept the ship running also found time to nurse me back to health, two dozen souls that Gnasher had also rescued, who all had stories just as crazed and desperate as mine. The story of the blonde haired boy who caught me is especially strange and just as triumphant, it is the story of William Kidd.

That story is for another time though, I am yawning between words and my eyes feel dewy, salivating with a hunger for some sweet dreams. Time for bed, and if you feel like sleeping too I’ll meet you in the land of nod. Before you close your eyes to bliss, please heed this advice; make sure you are not sleeping on an iceberg!


<- Part 9 of 9

The Puffin (viii)

Wildernesses stretch out over the majority of the world, so I think it would be fair to refer to it as just one entire wilderness, as all wildernesses offer the same thing to young men, treasure and death. From all my travelling it has struck me that the wilderness is the world, and everything else – the small towns and cities, are mere oddities compared to the overwhelming stretching wilds. Call it sea, desert, or jungle; it was here before us and will be here after, without hesitation, its vines’ll grow over our roads, ruins and bones. Men and women who have become stranded in a wilderness know greater peace and horror than civilisation will ever be able to provide.

So it was, that I had been in a tranquil daze for much of my remaining days on the iceberg. But now that relief was beginning to fade. The Puffin gave out less food, its strength was failing as mine was, I had no solution to this. The waiting and silence ate away at me, just the warming sea ate away at my iceberg. If only I could float away with it, to evaporate and let my problems disappear into the mist.

I wished for something to happen, anything to break the unbearable boredom. A grinning djinn must have floated past just that moment, and granted my wish. My hands shook with fear as I saw the dark clouds congregate on the horizon, they flashed glares at me, planning my demise in deep grumbling thunder. Though my hands shook in fear, inside I was sunny and glad that change was coming at last, even if that change was from this life to the next.

The puffin must have sensed the tension in the water, it returned early from fishing and hid under my arm. We didn’t have time for the last meal – the clouds were already above. A light rain fell, I said a prayer for mercy for my Mother, who would have to live for herself — for myself, who would be judged at the Gates shortly — and for the Puffin, the last friend I would ever make. The rain fell harder and the waves breathed in and out faster. Each one growing twice the size of the last until we were surfing down a mountain of foam. Slipping off the ice I dug my knife into the surface and with my other hand gripped onto the puffin. My eyes closed involuntarily because of the sheer force of the wind, raindrops became thrown needles. For hours it seemed we clung on while the world collapsed around us.

In a false moment of peace, I made the mistake of opening my eyes. At that moment, were in the bottom of a trough between the waves. So high were the waves, so deep was this trough; that I saw the seafloor and all the inky black monsters that crawled and slithered in the darkness who looked back at me hungrily. Lower we sank towards the creatures, they’re pale mandible screaming in ecstasy for our sun-kissed flesh. We rose just as their black tentacles licked the bottom of my feet. All I could see was the pure hatred in their inhuman eyes as they realised they had been betrayed by the Great Above once again. Pulling my eyes away from theirs, looked up the slope of the mountainous wave that towered over us. Lighting struck behind it, illuminating it like some ghastly celestial lamp. All its contents became visible. Atlantean tragedies and comedies painted on broken murals swirled by, Egyptian chariots raced each other- skeleton hands still gripping the reins, these ancient wonders were only ever see by Moses, a puffin, and me. But behind these wonders lay a terror unlike any.

<- Part 8 of 9 ->

The Puffin (vii)

I’d like to say I hesitated out of mercy. But the real motivation was survival. As the sinews of my forearms flexed like the bowstring before the fatal release, the puffin felt its mortal life coming to an end and threw up its belly in fear. A school of small fish scattered out onto the ice, flopping and flapping, still alive. At first, I felt the fool because I had just fed the bird a worm the night before when he was perfectly capable of feeding himself. I felt less of a fool when I realised the potential of the bird’s retch. Vomit worth its weight in gold. I dropped the puffin and picked up the sloppy mess in my hands and breathed in the stink with pleasure. Before I dug into the regurgitated feast, which in my state of starvation I had no disgust for, I thanked the puffin and gave him a fish. I thanked the gods of the sea and threw them back a fish. I tucked the puffin under my arm and I put away the knife. We sat on the ice content for some hours.
The satisfaction faded away (as it always does) and I started to scheme and dream again. How would I repeat that feat? Would the puffin produce another dinner willingly? I decided that the threat of the knife would be enough. The next day I encouraged the puffin into the ocean with a few kind words and off he went hunting. I rested in the sun with no fear that the puffin would find any escape out here. Once it returned I again placed the knife at its throat and received some fish, but this time the serving was smaller. I saw the problem at once. It lay in the eyes of the puffin. His eyes twitched with a hidden confidence and I knew that it saw my threat as the empty bluff they were. The next day I knew that my dinner would be smaller, and the next even smaller, until the day I would be given a mere sardine. I needed another approach and quickly, my pants were falling off my waist now. My reflection off the waves seemed foreign to me, skin, bones and sunken cheeks. One positive was weighing less which was going to become useful now that my wayward iceberg vessel seemed to be destined for warmer seas, and with that – destined to sink and melt away. My destiny and the Puffin’s were yet a mystery, though I wagered they our stakes were held in the same pot. Little did we know that over the horizon our dice were about to be thrown for a final bet – all or nothing.


<- Part 7 of 9 ->