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.”

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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

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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.

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