A songbird chirps noisily from behind the drying garigue spanning across L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa.

We want to impact the island with a new way of living, building a community while not abusing nature

It is an altogether different tweet to the sort the 15 young men and women painting in the shrubbery nearby are accustomed to and they briefly stop to admire the chirrup. But time is of the essence and a minute later the young volunteers pick up their paintbrushes and get back to work, organising Malta’s first ecological festival.

Just days away from its start – June 8 – preparations for the three-day Community Eco-Gathering are in full swing.

Some volunteers have been tasked with preparing signage; others are coming up with innovative art made up of recycled goods; in the corner, a group of volunteers are ironing out logistical hiccups.

The gathering seeks to encourage ecological and sustainable living while raising funds for Malta’s permaculture research foundation, which is struggling to keep its head above water following funding cuts earlier this year.

Alcohol-free, with smoking only permitted in designated areas and mobile phone use discouraged, the gathering is likely to differ considerably from most other local events.

Only 150 three-day tickets are being sold, although day passes are also available. Those who attend can pitch a tent within the gathering space and attend workshops on permaculture, meditation, yoga or, for the more adventurous, try out the “conscious sexuality” workshop.

Six specially-constructed fire pits will fulfil cooking and heating requirements and also serve as communal meeting points.

“We want to impact the island with a new way of living, building a community while not abusing nature. There are hundreds of eco-communities across Europe and we’re hoping to emulate them,” said Ed Hamilton of NGO Why Not?

Mr Hamilton is one of the gathering’s key organisers. “There’s an immense amount of work to get done but everyone’s been extremely helpful. You can see people from all generations eager to contribute and make a difference.”

He had high praise for Mellieħa’s local council – which will be contributing a 9,000-litre water bowser to the gathering – and its mayor, Robert Cutajar.

Mr Cutajar said he hoped the eco-gathering would help educate people about sustainable and environmentally-friendly camping.

“L-Aħrax is Malta’s only regulated camping area and the local council is all in favour of people making use of it. But camping need not mean littering or destroying trees. People need to understand this.”

Mr Hamilton hoped the eco-gathering would pave the way for participants to undertake more significant lifestyle changes.

“We want to show there are different ways of living by being respectful and aware of the consequences of our lifestyle choices. We want to incentivise people to continue making change happen.”

Those interested in participating can join the conversation on the community eco-gathering Facebook page.


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