Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.
What is Newkind?
A festival that embodies the global change we all want to see
A festival that embodies the global change we all want to see
NEW: Discovered recently or now for the first time; not existing before. Unknown. Beginning in a transformed way.
KIND: A group of people or things having similar characteristics, related to kin. The original sense was “nature, the natural order,” also “innate character, form, or condition. Kind-hearted, tender-hearted, warm-hearted, LOVING.”
Newkind Festival is a completely volunteer-run, zero-waste, vegan, solar powered, off-grid, drug-and-alcohol-free event held at Marion Bay in Tasmania, with the pristine natural landscape as the backdrop.
It was like a school-camp for change-makers, spanning five days of master classes, workshops, panels and keynote speeches. We slept in tipis made of bamboo and recycled plastic billboard material. I carried reusable crockery with me everywhere. It was a practical exercise in seeing how disposable our culture has become. Inherent in the message of the festival was the question: “How do we become better versions of ourselves in a time of enormous transition in the world?” I was touched by the coming together of so many openhearted individuals willing to communicate their deep sense of symbiosis.
At the end of last year, I attended a four-day journey to Heron Island Research Centre in the Barrier Reef, hosted by the Climate Council and frontline climate scientist, Professor Tim Flannery. According to the 2018 United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have 11 years to change our ways and avoid cataclysmic damage to the planet and ourselves. I was struck by the fact that we need a global transition to renewable energy and sustainable practices, as well as a transition from a carbon-emitting to a carbon-sequestering economy. So when the organisers at Newkind asked me to come along and moderate panel discussions and introduce inspiring thinkers, artists, inventors, leaders and activists, I felt the opportunity was there for me to respond, to learn and to support others in making meaningful change.
I never pictured myself as someone who could speak knowledgeably on things as complex and controversial as climate change, alternative models of education, systemic violence or the refugee crisis. But there I was, standing in front of a big crowd, introducing journalist and Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, over a Skype call from Manus Island. The gravity of this moment, inside all of us baring witness to his story, felt hugely historic. Moderating and hosting at Newkind helped me to learn about my own fear. I had a realisation: Maybe I don’t have to be the person with enormous intellect or all the solutions. Maybe I could approach this with curiosity and a desire to understand. I am inspired by the rise of courageous young people across the world, like 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg—voices that have been the catalyst for mass student action in the face of climate change. Recently, Thunberg said: “We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis… if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then… we should change the system itself.” The young people I met at Newkind, like Aboriginal activist Tasha Matthews, who is part of Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, are cut from the same cloth as Thunberg: gutsy, brave, educated truth tellers and freedom fighters. My mentor and dear friend Helena Norberg–Hodge said in a keynote: “Our arms have become so long that we can’t see our hands and we’re slapping ourselves in the face.” Her words cut through to us in that space, I could feel her strength and her harsh honesty alongside the energy of contagious passion and a willingness to “be the change” that epitomised the ethos of Newkind. People like Helena represent a generation of doers who have spent a lifetime designing solutions to address the health of the planet and also the social, economic, spiritual, artistic and even cultural bankruptcies that have come to define the human experience.
Newkind gave me a sense of empowerment to step into my own energy of leadership. I feel I’m still a baby with so much yet to do and learn, but holding space at Newkind helped me to take some kind of clueless courage from my instincts, from inside my heart, and act on honouring this profound experience of transformation we are in—this personal and planetary rite of passage. I believe I am one of many who are asking the same questions: if not me, then who? And if not now, then when?
I met people at Newkind who gave me hope for solution-based thinking, models investigating the possibilities to transform, evolve and make amazing things happen. The more I want to run from the overwhelming questions and grief, the more I feel the need to lean into discomfort and fear and the unknown.
With its cold showers and compost toilets, and the pressure to stand in front of people and lead, Newkind shook me out of my comfort zone. We could see first-hand what goes into making the world turn, with all its energy-consuming systems and things we have come to rely on that are actually harming us. Do we really need that new pair of shoes made from materials that harm the environment in unthinkable ways, and made by someone on the other side of the world who is probably not earning a fair wage? I think it’s so important to have dignity and solidarity in our decision-making at the moment. With resilience and compassion, we can say YES and help inspire fresh innovation and discovery in each other.
Nature also has much to teach us. My mum read me the story of the pearl when I was growing up. When the oyster, resting deep in the ocean, has a tiny piece of sand enter its shell, its soft tissues respond to the gritty intruder over time. Slowly the oyster improvises—it grows and manifests something sentiently beautiful. Could this be a poetic analogy for our current time? How do we invite these challenges to be seen and heard in a meaningful way? We can welcome the issues we’re trying to resolve in a humane and creative way, and re-design our systems so that change feels possible. Moreover, collectively we can turn the “intruding sand” into something yet to be defined, something we all have a right in co-creating. Touching base with our inner symbiosis, it is some kind of mystical initiation for humanity to turn into and emerge as something beautiful—in fact, I believe we’re already doing it now.