In October we attended the EcoAltea festival hosted by the town of Altea and the Miguel Hernandez University at their campus in Altea. This weekend event brings together people interested in a wide range of ecological and environmental issues and projects. The annual festival was established in 2008 with the motto of “Think locally – Act globally”.  

The main focus is a series of lectures and seminars on a range of topics addressing potential responses to the environmental and ecological challenges that we are all going to face in the immediate future. It is an opportunity for people and organisations running real projects to share ideas and knowledge. All of the projects featured are attempting to create alternative solutions and responses to the changes in our climate and natural environment. 

We attended several of the seminars including ones on the questionable renewable energy macro programmes currently underway in our region and the regeneration of degraded natural environments. The festival also included sessions on other subjects such as bio construction and permaculture. The individuals who gave the lectures and seminars were impressive both for their technical knowledge but also their determination to develop projects that sit outside of the current mainstream. Not all of the techniques being employed  by these projects will ultimately provide large scale tools for our future; however an open minded willingness to challenge existing ways of conducting our lives is going to be essential for all of us and the attendees at EcoAltea 2023 already have that!

In addition to the formal lectures and seminars the festival offered a large number of more informal events ranging from classes on traditional local reed basket weaving to meditation and dance. Many of these took place in the shady grass courtyards of the university campus and there was a buzz of activity with events occurring simultaneously on different levels of the open-air tiered site. One was able to wander around catching sight of numerous different groups; quite reminiscent of a freshers fair with a similar atmosphere of expectation and quiet excitement. The seed exchange was particularly popular with people seeking advice as well as free seeds. 

On an adjoining site, next to the impressive Altea Concert hall, there was a highly popular food court with stalls offering everything from artisanal beer and wine to mexican burritos and sweet crepes. One of the most popular stalls was the group from Elche selling freshly squeezed pomegranate juice! Next to the food court was a commercial trade area with stalls selling everything from handcrafted pendants to high tech solar power systems with the capability to track the path of the sun during the course of the day. 

There was also a presence by voluntary and campaigning groups. One of the most notable stalls was that of the famous Sea Shepherd organisation who campaign to preserve marine environments and wildlife; we saw them being interviewed by local radio during the day.  

The event was hugely popular with good attendance in all of the areas. It is clear that there is great interest in a wide range of matters relating to the natural environment and our relationship with it. It is also apparent that hidden away in our local countryside are large numbers of people engaged in projects seeking different ways to live their lives. It is encouraging to have seen so many people attending an event primarily focused on a clear eyed need to think hard about how we live our lives and find solutions to the constellation of issues about to engulf us. 

We have written previously about our concern that our own local council here in Gran Alacant seems oblivious to the need to start to prepare our community for the climate changes now occurring. (March 2023, ¨Greener Gran Alacant? A missed opportunity¨, January 2023, ¨Valencia, Leading by Example¨, November 2022, ¨Global Challenge. Local action?¨). 

There could be no greater contrast to the open minded spirit of EcoAltea than the constant concrete pouring that seems to excite the councillors of Santa Pola. One of our elected councillors has recently endorsed in social media that the “destruction of nature” is the inevitable result of “progress”: One has to ask if such a  crude view of “progress” is really appropriate in the current circumstances? Is urban greening really too much to ask for? How many new urbanisations and construction sites are one too many? What will Gran Alacant be like to live in by 2030?

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