The Gaia hypothesis - a theory of planet-as-a-whole-organism propounded by James Lovelock in the 1970s - was the underlying theme of the Gaia Galactic New Year's Eve party Prana, (meaning life-force) held at an idyllic spot near Opoutere on the Coromandel.
The four-night festival included a stimulating smorgasbord of workshops, exploring a diverse and esoteric range of topics from climate change seminars, permaculture and eco-living talks, to meditations and spiritual healing.
Ecological awareness was evident in every aspect of the festival, which was of the "small and perfectly formed" variety as opposed to the mega-crowding at many NYE spots.
Alcohol was almost invisible, although not prohibited: the focus was on clarity over a boozy haze.
On December 30 The Volunteers, a Wellington rock-soul act with a startlingly emotive style and strident guitars in the style of 70s rock acts, delivered a tight set complete with backing singers.
The Terra Nine Live show followed with ambient trance topped with some ethereal vocals.
New Year's Eve saw Sola Rosa Soundsystem deliver a great set of their trademark electronica with a funky, earthy and soulful twist. Great sound helped them to connect with an up-for-it crowd, getting everyone dancing.
Paddy Free of Pitch Black followed the midnight countdown, using the large projection screens to either side of the stage to great effect.
Saturday saw a continuation of the extensive workshop programme, and another evening of world-class live music on the main stage. DJ Balkanetic was the highlight, his uplifting blend of organic, global grooves well appreciated in the uninhibited gyrations of all present.
Sunday night saw the screening of some excellent short films by Maria-Elena Doyle. This set the scene for Russel Walder's solo oboe performance, a meandering melodic exploration complemented by a laser light show.
This led into a brief and humorous documentary on the foibles of humanity and the observation that we are not far removed from the primates we evolved parallel to - a fitting introduction to the finale of the festival: Bella Gaia, A Poetic Vision of Earth From Space. A tour de force of the planet as viewed from afar, this movie starts with a view of Earth from the International Space Station, and quotes reinforcing the unique nature of our life-giving orb.
It continued with footage from around the world, revealing the unity underlying the diversity of the Earth's peoples and terrains. Astronauts were interviewed, too, and shared the epiphanies they experienced upon viewing the planet from space for the first time.
The famous image of the Earth from space that catalysed the environmental movement has become an icon for environmentalists, hence it's fitting that as technology has advanced it is now moving images of the Earth from afar that are spreading awareness of the finite nature of our spaceship.
The "Vospertron" performance group added a futuristic and kinaesthetic aspect, replete with light-dragons squirming serpentine-like over the crowds, and robotic-looking light-men.
This is multimedia thought-provoking eco-art at its best, using new technology to publicise the truth about the crisis we are facing yet keeping the imagery optimistic and fresh - a great start to a new year.By Stephen Allely