As I have written before, Atheopaganism is a forward-looking religious path. We envision a time when humanity lives in balance with the natural systems of the biosphere and when all people are treated fairly and equally in human society.
Those are tall orders, but that’s what a vision is for, right?
Especially in these times, it is clear that we have far to go to approach these visionary goals. And so as we create our “microcosms” of human society in our Pagan circles, it is that much more important that we model for ourselves and others the world we hope to create.
In my experience, Pagans don’t do nearly so well in this regard as they tell themselves they are doing. Just look at the sheer mess left behind after a night of Pagan partying and you see the signs of people who aren’t considering their responsibility for their impact. Pantheacon takes place at a convention hotel that doesn’t even do recycling; I can’t speak to other conventions but imagine they may be similar.
Obviously, this is not an ideal world. Sometimes we would like for practices to be in place when they simply aren’t, and we can’t change this (as with the operation of a hotel). But here are some considerations/aspirations for Atheopagan gatherings so we can emulate to as great a degree as possible the world we are seeking to build.
1) Anti-discrimination policies and conduct standards. Ensuring that all participants are safe and treated equally, and articulating in writing that bigotry or harassment of any kind are not acceptable at your event is a critically important thing to do. Consent culture is learned, not assumed.
Recently, I published the Atheopagan Event Organizing Guide. In it are sample policies that will set clear expectations for both attendees and organizers.
2) No disposables. Other than toilet paper, just don’t have them available. Require attendees to bring their own plate, bowl, cup, utensils, napkin and towel, and have some extras available in case someone forgets. Ask that food be brought in reusable containers.
3) Minimal plastic. Try to minimize the usage of plastic, and certainly do not provide any kinds of trinkets, ID markers or keepsakes that aren’t naturally degradable (paper, wood, natural fiber textile, stone or ferrous metal).
4) Recycling. Make recycling and minimization of waste a priority for your event, and explain clearly to attendees where they should put recyclables, compostables and landfill garbage. Explain to all attendees that the goal is to minimize landfill.
5) Sustainable and responsible sourcing. When buying supplies and food, consider where they come from. What is the behavioral profile of that company? How far must the material be transported? Is there a local source?
6) Carbon footprint. This is a tough one, because every gathering wants as much attendance as possible and particularly for leaders and presenters to come, even if from a far distance. But the truth is that fuel consumption for travel is a tremendous burden on our planet. We have arrived in a time when it is important for us to stay locally as much as possible, and consider alternatives to distance travel whenever feasible.
Here is language I am including in the invitation for an event this summer:
“Carbon footprint and climate impact. This event is intended to be conducted in accordance with sustainability principles to as great a degree as possible. We would love to see you. but if you are considering attending from more than ~100 miles away, please ask yourself, ‘How important is this to me really? Is there some other way I can get my need for this event met without the energy and pollution impact, such as by organizing my own local event or attending something closer by?’ If not, we encourage you to carpool or take transit to our event, and will arrange to pick you up if you do the latter. Just being conscious of the impacts of our actions is an important part of being an Atheopagan.”
7) Another thing we can do at our events is to incorporate some kind of concrete political action as a part of the event itself. Taking a half-hour to write postcards to elected officials or swing-state voters feels good and can really make a difference.
No one can be “perfect”, and that’s not the point of considering such issues. But all of us can do what we can to minimize our impacts on the Earth, and to develop the habit of thinking about them. Baking this awareness into our culture is a step towards being more connected with our world and our impacts on it: the flip side, one might say, of the reenchantment of the world that Paganism is all about.
May we build our culture with our eyes wide both to the glories and the challenges before us. May our joy and pleasure be leavened by responsibility and right action. And may our communities grow as people who treat one another—and the Sacred Earth—with respect, kindness and consideration.