DAVIS-While bands jammed, hippies danced and politicians pushed law changes, a group of aspiring UCSB festival planners took extensive mental notes at UC Davis’s long-running annual Whole Earth Festival.
Nearly 30,000 students and visitors descended upon the Northern California university for its 37th year of advocating environmental sustainability, green technology, nonviolence and a healthy party atmosphere. Among the throngs of people were 19 students from UCSB’s Sociology 194 class, which is planning the Chilla Vista festival slated for June 4 in Isla Vista.
Chilla Vista coordinator Jake Lehman, a third-year global studies major, said he learned about the Whole Earth Festival while doing research on other environmentally sound events. Like the Whole Earth Festival, he said Chilla Vista will focus on community involvement and environmentalism.
“We got great logistical experience,” Lehman said. “What it’s like in the intensity of the festival, managing various conflicts that arise. All the nonviolence training helped us understand how to deal with people. You don’t run – you skip. Running creates an atmosphere of intensity.”
Lehman said Chilla Vista members learned a lot at the festival, but he acknowledged that the two events will likely be very different.
“There’s a significant difference between the two respective communities,” Lehman said. “Theirs is on campus, but the majority of people that go aren’t students and they don’t have alcohol. Our festival is going to be comprised of mostly students and alcohol is going to be copiously consumed.”
In 1969, a group of graduate students studying under Jose Arguelles – a UC Davis art history professor – created the Whole Earth Festival. Arguelles, whose research aimed to unlock prophesies in the Mayan calendar, was known for sitting on a desk in front of the class with his eyes closed for 10 minutes, reciting a quote and playing the flute before beginning his lecture.
Musical performances, parades, demos, speakers and several workshops were featured at the Whole Earth Festival, all complementing this year’s theme, “Witness.” According to the festival’s website, the theme focuses on individuals’ and society’s role in the world, as well as their responsibilities to the earth.
“Witness life, witness the evolution of our species, witness the cycles of the earth and the cosmo-centricity, we play in the revolution that happens each day,” reads a description of the theme on the festival’s website.
UC Davis group Karma Patrol produces the festival every year with the help of 100 volunteers from all over California, said Tyler Hawkins, the group’s co-director. Planning for the festival began last November, he said.
“It’s mostly just university students that jump into it and try to make it happen.” Hawkins said. “Its purpose is to spread awareness of energy and art and our Mother Earth.”
Almost 100 businesses and organizations, ranging from Amnesty International to Jews for Jesus, were present to sell their goods or advocate their politics.
Michael Erickson, co-logistics director for the festival, said the vendors whose stalls lined the UC Davis quad funded the festival.
“The fact that we’re absolutely broke is one of the nice things about the festival,” Erickson said. “We do everything ourselves instead of hiring things out.”
Lynnette Shaw, a candidate for Lt. Governor of California, was one of the 13 speakers at the festival. Currently, Shaw said, she is working to modify California’s medical marijuana legislation in favor of those who find it useful for their ailments, and is fighting to release those jailed for marijuana-related offenses.
Shaw said she is disturbed that the state spends $1 billion per year enforcing current marijuana laws, but she is optimistic that citizens are ready for her proposed reforms, especially for medicinal purposes.
“Most of the police understand this is compassion,” she said. “[They] don’t want to bust sick people.”
Hawkins said event attendees produced only 240 pounds of trash at last year’s event. In keeping with the environmental consciousness the event advocates, members of the Karma Patrol sort through the waste, determining what can be recycled or composted.
Erickson said 97 percent of the waste is recycled.
“That’s just the technique,” Erickson said. “We don’t have a festival so we can compost everything in sight. The idea of the festival is to come together for a good time.”