From the 8th to the 11th of September, Bordeaux (France) hosted its second Ocean Climax Festival. The programme included Selah Sue, a Belgian soul singer, Metronomy and Cassius, one of the leading lights of the French Touch movement, but also Edgar Morin, a French philosopher and Nicolas Hulot, a journalist very famous for his struggle for the protection of the oceans. Indeed, Ocean Climax is no usual music festival. Its aim is to inform its participants on climate change and the refugee crisis, and even encourage them to become actively mobilised.

To this end, the organisers went to great lengths: In addition to the very famous bands and speakers, the whole festival worked with ecological means: there were only dry-pit toilets, they served organic food, and served beer in “eco-cups”. Thus, taking part in the festival gave you a genuine and thorough experience of a life more respecting of the environment. Attendants were also able to see an exhibition called “Tous Migrants” (“all migrants”) to make them aware of the daily-life of the millions of refugees that came to Europe in the last couple of years.

Photo Damien Senger (Flickr) Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some might say this is completely hypocritical in that most attendees, if not all, came for the music and dodged the lectures. However, as Kévin Katz, researcher in political sciences at the University of Strasbourg explains, there is no denying that concerts are more attractive than talks. But the more people are attracted by the music programme, the larger the amount of people that is likely to become aware of the environmental and political issues discussed, even though it was not their initial aim. This is precisely why organisers deemed it essential to create this very unique atmosphere of an “eco-festival” and to invite the artists to have a word about the causes they cherish.

To what extent was it successful? Of course, it would be dumb to hope or believe that all attendees became activists of environmental NGOs or stopped using their cars the very next day. And it is way too soon to measure its fallout. Nonetheless, drawing thousands of people (mostly young) to a site gathering various artistic and intellectual events calling for a world more respectable of the environment can only have positive effect. The festival was organized to encourage attendees to visit the entire site between the various events, as Jean-Marc Gacille, chief of the ecological transition of Darwin, which hosts the festival, explained. Thus, most people did see the exhibition on the refugees and the “NGO village” in which many brand names of the ecological movement, including Greenpeace and Zerowaste France, had a stand. It certainly has struck a chord in many and raised others’ consciousness of the environmental issues.

Finally, one must note that at a time when music is available whenever you choose and often for free, what attendees look for in festivals is the experience. Ocean Climax offered them pleas for a greener world, over which they will think again. This type of event, which invites and draws very large number of people, is worth being praised but also replicated in as many places as possible. The more people are made aware of the urgency and gravity of ecological issues, the more likely it is, that the huge but required changes in our lives and societies to make our world sustainable will be able to take place.

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    Justine Olivier, born in Paris, is currently studying European politics at UCL. She became an editor at E&M in December 2015 because she is passionate about European culture and politics.

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