EARTHDANCE 2004 - Altogether now for the business of peace
Article by STEVEN SHAYMAN
The Japan Times: October 10, 2004
(C) All rights reserved
-- Running a nonprofit organization with a global mission of promoting peace activities and
sustainability might seem noble but naive to the skeptical, but Chris Deckker takes his role
seriously as the founder of Earthdance. The Earthdance 2004 crowd joins in the simultaneous
worldwide "Prayer for Peace" at Black Oak Ranch, Calif.
Over the past eight years, Australian-born Deckker has shepherded Earthdance from its London
club-scene origins and established it as an annual worldwide musical and artistic event that
aims to harness idealism toward realizing concrete and tangible objectives.
Held this year over the weekend ahead of the United Nations International Day of Peace on Sept.
21, Earthdance 2004 encompassed 150 cities in 50 countries -- including many people who joined
in through a live Internet Webcast -- to raise awareness and funds for a range of charitable
Imbued with a focus and intensity befitting his background as a drummer (his band, Medicine
Drum, though currently on hold, has toured Japan many times), Deckker was this year overseeing
proceedings at Earthdance's Northern California "hub." That 6,000-person sellout three-day
festival was held at the Black Oak Ranch in bucolic Mendocino County, perhaps best known for
its wineries and generally laid-back lifestyle."Good rhythm is what this world needs a
lot of now, because good rhythm is the antidote for hate" -- Mickey Hart, Grateful Dead
and Planet Drum drummer
It was there, with love and peace wafting like a warm breeze through this sylvan setting, that
The Japan Times caught up with Deckker to discuss his vision and philosophy.
"This year, Earthdance ranges from very small parties in people's homes to big festivals
like this one here," he says."For example, in Melbourne, Australia, there's a 10,000-person
event; we heard news that Sydney has about 30,000 people at a free event in a city park sponsored
by a radio station that did a lot of promotion, which was amazing.
"But the beauty of Earthdance is that the size doesn't matter: It's just the fact that
you're participating; it's just being that one more person in the chain that creates the strength
of the chain. So people can actually participate from their living rooms and commit with their
friends together, and still be recognized as official promoters -- a sort of 'micro-to-the-macro,'
and we're all part of it.""If you get hundreds of thousands of people all brushing
their teeth at once with the intent to promote world peace: that'd be good too" -- Wavy
Though cynics would have a field day deriding all this as "hippy" thinking, there's
nothing airy-fairy about Deckker's mushrooming enterprise. Earthdance promoters worldwide must
satisfy a number of conditions, including a commitment to invest their own money to develop
and market their local Earthdance event. They also have to donate at least 50 percent of the
profits to local charities approved by the Earthdance Foundation -- NPOs that must operate in
one of five areas: environmental protection; peace; children's rights; urban youth; or indigenous
peoples. Those groups must also be given space at the event to display information, and time
to address festivalgoers.
In Earthdance's first three years after it was founded in 1997, it focused on supporting an
orphanage in Tibet. "But then," Deckker explains, "we got some calls from people
in Brazil who want to support the Amazon, and from South Africans who want to support children
with AIDS. So then we thought, as Earthdance expanded in subsequent years in organic fashion,
'Why don't we expand the charity concept to include our five major categories?' ""We're
not really protesting, we're not anti anything, we're actually saying that we are all one and
we can all relate" -- Earthdance founder Chris Deckker.
According to Deckker, notable results have included efforts by homeless people in Australia
to build domes to live in rather than the cardboard boxes they had been calling home. Earthdance
promoters have also been supporting the Aldeia Morro da Saudade indigenous group in Brazil;
the City Farm Permaculture in Australia; East Bali Poverty Group in Indonesia; the Ljubanci
Children's Orphanage in Macedonia; the Child Welfare Program-Nepal in the Netherlands; and the
National Autistic Society in Malaysia.
In Japan, several Earthdance events were held last month, ranging from a drum circle in Otsuki,
Yamanashi Prefecture, to large, weekend-spanning dance-oriented events in Nagoya, on Oonuki
Beach in Ooarai, Ibaraki Prefecture and at Hakodateyama ski resort in Shiga Prefecture. As well
as bidding to raise awareness, those events were in the business of raising money for beneficiaries
that included Rainforest Foundation Japan (Nettai Shinrin Hogo Dantai) and Tibet-Aid Japan (Tibetan
Snowlion Society and Nihon Kham Kikin).
In a further Japan connection, this year Earthdance's first-ever Artist of Peace Award was bestowed
on the celebrated, U.S.-resident Japanese composer and musician Kitaro, in recognition of his
pioneering efforts in the electronic-ambient music realm to foster a spirit of harmony and peace.County
Sheriff Tony Craver
While Deckker is the higher-profile one, Earthdance cofounder and CEO Reavis Daniel Moore --
a veteran entertainment executive, artist manager and event producer -- operates more behind
the scenes. Not so far behind the scenes, though, that he was about to miss the Black Oak Ranch
festivities, where he is upfront when he explains that "the Earthdance Foundation raises
money via ticket sales and other initiatives specifically to do granting. But rather than the
[common U.S. 'concerned business'] idea of donating '5 percent for peace,' when Earthdance promoters
make money, they'll donate at least 50 percent of the profits to the cause of peace or to an
approved charitable organization.
"Our philosophy is at the core of our business practice, and that's there in the 'Prayer
for Peace,' the global Day of Peace. Earthdance represents not only something good we're doing,
but actually the heart of our business."
Moore models his business concept on the International Business Leaders' Forum, part of the
Prince's Trust charity in Britain. "They did a report whose title is also the slogan of
our company, and that is: 'The Business of Peace,' " Moore continues. "And the idea
was that businesses needed to have more involvement in the prevention and the resolution of
conflict -- among people, among nations, among tribes, among sects -- and that they should also
be advocates for social justice and a source of social investment and philanthropy."Wavy
Gravy (right) chews the fat with a Hog Farm friend.
Both Deckker and Moore see Earthdance only getting bigger, noting ongoing discussions to grow
the festival as part of an international eco-peace tour, with partners in Japan, England, the
United States and Australia.
The highlight and spiritual core of the Earthdance event, Deckker remarks, is "a simultaneous
dance-floor linkup, when every event across the world plays the 'Prayer for Peace.'
"Morning in the Australian rain forest, midnight in London, sunrise over the Himalayas
-- the 'Prayer for Peace' is a profound and powerful moment that unifies our intentions for
world peace and healing."The Everyone Orchestra featuring Steve Kimock on lead guitar (right)
After attending this year's Northern California Earthdance hub event, it's hard to disagree
-- or to be skeptical of the good intentions invested in Earthdance's "Prayer for Peace":
We are one global family All colors, all races One world united. We dance for peace and the
healing of our planet Earth Peace for all nations. Peace for our communities. And peace within
ourselves. As we join all dance floors across the world, Let us connect heart to heart. Through
our diversity we recognize unity. Through our compassion we recognize peace. Our love is the
power to transform our world Let us send it out Now.
At the Black Oak Ranch, a reading of the "Prayer for Peace" by Deckker was followed
by the exhilarating music of "Drums for Peace," featuring Grateful Dead drummer Mickey
Hart and his Planet Drum cohorts, including Brazilian veteran Airto Moriera, Indian tabla master
Zakir Hussain and Santana percussionist Karl Perazzo. Together, they led a Guinness World Record-setting
4,504 drummers regaling a large swath of Mendocino County in the world's largest drum circle.Santana's
Karl Perazzo (left) and Mickey Hart lead the drum circle.
In addition to a massive variety of small retail booths, there were also speakers' workshops
in which groups working for peace and planetary health could meet and discuss common goals;
an "Activist Alley" to learn about nonprofit organizations and eco-sustainable initiatives;
theatrical stilt-walkers; programs for kids; VJ-video jocks putting moving images to music;
other visual effects and animation film screenings; and "Paintings for Peace," in
which artists captured the energy of live music performances by creating spontaneous paintings
as bands played.
A little surprisingly, despite its large scale in a relatively rural area, Earthdance gets along
swimmingly with Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver, who says law-enforcement problems are
not an issue at Black Oak Ranch, also known as the Hog Farm, a collective whose most prominent
member is counterculture court jester Wavy Gravy.
"Well, the people are very hospitable," he says. "When I was campaigning, they
invited me up there and they put on a really nice dinner, and the house was just packed full
of people," he recalls. "And you know, they grilled me on this, that and something
else, and I told them about my political views, how I felt about various issues -- in particular,
police intervention in private lives, 'victimless' crimes, those kinds of things we talked about
at great length -- and I had their support."
In an implicit nod to the diversity of his constituents vis-a-vis the California state law permitting
marijuana use with a physician's OK, Craver says everybody in the county is entitled to a fair
"It's a matter of being aware of the fact that there are these diversities, that each perspective,
from each segment of the county, whether it has to do with grapes vs. timber, whether it has
to do with fishing vs. farming, whether it has to do with tourism vs. everything else; each
one of those is very important to somebody. We have to be sensitive to those needs."
For more information on Earthdance, visit earthdance.org
For more on Mendocino County, visit gomendo.com
The Japan Times: Oct. 10, 2004
(C) All rights reserved