Envirofest seeks positive approach to sustainability

Envirofest is the only festival in Czechia focusing on environmental issues and awareness – and it is organised not by professional ecologists, but by ordinary people who want to motivate others to lead a more sustainable way of life. Through music, inspirational meetings and workshops, the festival aims to show that a sustainable lifestyle makes sense – and to make it mainstream.

Bečva | Photo: Jakub Troníček,  Czech Radio

Festival organiser Zbyněk Hanko is not a professional ecologist nor a dyed-in-the-wool activist – he is, first and foremost, a musician who sings in a men’s choir. But an environmental disaster that took place in Moravia three years ago persuaded him that he had to do something, and he was propelled into action.

“In September 2020, the river Bečva was poisoned, and no one owned up to it. I’m a member of a citizen’s group that stood up and decided to do something. Six months after the toxic leak, I organised an art auction to help regenerate the river, and a year after the disaster, we organised the first Envirofest.”

But Hanko started to feel that protesting against something left a vacuum – because if you only say what you don’t want, you don’t leave room for what you do want.

“We stood up and we said ‘No.’ But if I’m completely honest, saying ‘no’ isn’t really me, because it’s not an answer to the question ‘How?’” I don’t know who it was, but somebody said to me that it’s wise not to get into conflicts. It’s not worth it. So although I do say no, I think it makes more sense to ask the question, ‘how should we live on this planet?’ So our festival is intended to be somewhat educational, we want to create a pleasant atmosphere in beautiful surroundings and we want to open people’s minds, so they really think about how to be in this world.”

The Bečva River disaster | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

Jan Husák, another festival organiser, says his involvement with Envirofest also started from a place of anger over the toxic leak in the river Bečva.

“When the environmental disaster in the Bečva river occurred three years ago, I hoped that it would be investigated according to standard procedures, but slowly it became apparent that it was not like that. The whole thing seemed suspicious, so I started looking deeper into it and found out some terrible things. I was so angry that I started organising demonstrations.”

But, like Zbyněk Hanko, he got tired of anger and decided to focus on a more positive, hopeful approach to environmentalism.

“We organised many protests and demonstrations urging for a proper investigation of the disaster. But gradually I realised that only eliciting negative emotions is not the right way, but rather it’s better to connect it to some positive emotions, find some common ground and look for the way forward.”

The festival has taken place in a different location each year; this third edition was in Dolní Kounice near Brno. It aims to bring together people who care about the world around them, as well as locals and others who come simply for the music and other activities, but hopefully walk away with something more, says Hanko.

“We don’t venture to tell people how to live – we put on this festival so that people ask the question and search for the answer. We don’t know the answer either – so let’s look for answers together.”

The Bečva River disaster | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio
Authors: Anna Fodor , Markéta Ševčíková | Source: Český rozhlas Plus
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