I spent a little over half of Earth Hour listening to Jose Gonzalez’s new album, In Our Nature on my battery-powered CD walkman--which is ironic because the chorus of the second song goes “don’t let the darkness eat you up, don’t let the darkness eat you up…” Well, I didn’t.
The candlelight flickered, and for a little over 33 minutes, I was transported to someplace warm and nice where people are thoughtful, proactive, and effective. Truth be told, I was probably thinking about the artist himself and reflecting on the great conversation we had regarding the greening of his tour. I had the chance to talk with him while he walked around the streets of Portland.
In January, Jose’s record label, Mute, announced the onset of his green tour. Through an innovative partnership with Reverb (see Jason’s interview with Reverb here) and Native Energy, Jose’s fans can opt to add fifty cents to their ticket price to support Reverb’s greening efforts. Similar to Andrew Bird’s tour, fans can purchase carbon offsets to green their travel to and from the show and wear a custom sticker that shows their friends what they did.
Here are some snippets from my interview with Jose: SK: How did the idea for your green tour begin? JG: It was an idea from my manager, but straight away I thought it was a good idea. I went to Reverb’s website and checked out the work they did with other artists. As a person living in Sweden, it’s very easy to recycle or take the tram or ride a bike. It’s very easy to recycle—every building has receptacles for separating litter. But, when you’re on tour it’s very difficult. Reverb worked with the venues and worked out transportation by bus and that sort of thing. They made it easy.
SK: Do you find that some countries or even cities are better about that stuff? JG: On this tour, we’ve had luck recycling bottles and paper. Before this, everything went in the same place. In Sweden, it is more common to find places to separately recycle litter.
SK: I hear you guys all have water bottles that you refill? JG: I decided not to do that. The plan was to make new bottles, and I didn’t think that it was practical. If you have your own bottle already, you can just use that. My crew gets the big water jugs and takes the water from there and we refill the jugs with tap water from the cities we go to.
SK: You’re doing quite a bit more than most artists by greening the footprint of your tour and building in a 50 cent price onto the ticket that goes towards Reverb’s greening efforts. JG: I’m not sure if this tour is completely carbon neutral, I think the ambition should be to do as much as you can.
SK: Was it a choice for you to do the greening or to write songs about being environmentally responsible? You’ve decided to lead by example instead of penning songs with lyrics about recycling or being carbon neutral… JG: (laughs) I don’t think you need to be creative to write a song about that and make it creative. In general, I try to be pretty vague about my songs. I like the idea of art being art and being able to say whatever you like and not be too moralistic—it’s about the enjoyment. I like the feeling of urgency in the music. I don’t like the part of it where you’re pointing your finger and saying how things should be.
SK: I think going about it the way you have is most effective. JG: Many other artists have done this and the more people that show they are willing to do this with economic sacrifice will get things moving in the right direction. This has an important ripple effect.
SK: Absolutely. Do you have any advice for other musicians or fans? JG: I like the idea of looking up information about things and not doing things because you have to. The environment is a really good place to exercise that and figure out what you can do without getting caught up in little details.
In 2007, the citizens of Sydney, Australia took a stand against climate change and turned off their lights for one hour as a symbolic gesture of their support of climate change mitigation. The symbolic gesture had a notable bi-product--the hour without lights was equivalent to taking 48,000 cars off the road. Earth Hour was born.
Earth Hour happens again this year--tomorrow night. The movement has gone global and includes cities such as: Toronto, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco are involved. Regardless of where you live, show your solidarity for the fight against climate change and try and use as little as possible electricity tomorrow, March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m.
The incredibly inspiring story of Earth Hour is here:
This time it's a little smaller and has taken the form of a drinking cup from the brilliant minds behind Flatterware.
As I've mentioned before, sustainability is first and foremost about behavioral changes and this design elegantly addresses just that.
Bottled water blows. It is counterintuitive. Why would you purchase something that flows freely from a tap and through your purchase deepen your environmental footprint to include transportation, plastic, and then probably not be able to recycle the bottle once you're through with it? I'll admit, I've purchased bottled water ((gasp))....for me, it's usually a purchase born out of convenience. "I didn't bring my water bottle with me because my bag was stuffed" or "I brought a small purse with me," etc. Research has shown that convenience is a major motivator behind bottled water sales. It also carries over to people who purchase coffee in the mornings in paper cups because they don't want to lug their travel mugs around all day.
Well, excuses to buy tap water just got smaller. I purchased a flatterware cup last week for a mere five bucks and have brought it along in my tiny purse or in my stuffed school bag--and I haven't bought a single bottle of water since. The cup starts off folded up in a five inch disk that looks kinda like a hockey puck. A twist of the wrist pulls the lid off the top and a cup springs up from the bottom. You can fill the cup with hot or cold liquid (it's made from ABS plastic) and enjoy yourself. The walls of the cup are flexible (but not so much that you have flashbacks to Capri Sun shooting out of the straw and all over the cafeteria table) with the lip made from a harder plastic. Once you're done with your drink in a flatterware, push the cup down with the lid and twist it to lock--totally easy.
The reason I like this design so much is because it addresses a major underlying behavior behind bottled water drinking: carrying space. I hear there are other variations in the works that include baby bottles and other colors.
Get a flatterware cup here so we can raise our cups and toast our good sense.
To my delight, there is a nice roster of green artists like: Andrew Bird, Radiohead, Jack Johnson, and more to be announced! With these guys on board, I caI can't wait for August 22nd!
And the artists aren't the only thing green about this festival. Here are the greening initiatives taken right from the festival's website:
Just a few generations ago, Golden Gate Park was nothing but sand dunes. Now that it’s become one of the most beautiful parks in the world, we need to take extra care to keep it clean. To help limit the festival’s impact on the park, the surrounding community, and the whole Bay Area, we will be taking the following steps. Whether by taking public transportation to the festival, recycling your bottles, or donating a dollar, we ask that you help out in any way you can. Keep checking back, as we’ll continue to add more elements and more details.
Composting and Recycling
Just about anything you can buy at Outside Lands will be either recyclable or compostable, and we’ll provide you with plenty of recycling and composting bins. Clean Vibes staff will be on-site to answer any questions about where to put your bottles, cups, food, plates, napkins, forks, and anything else you’re throwing away.
The Outside Lands eco-village will feature a fully solar-powered stage, which will be hosting all kinds of activities throughout the day, including music, comedy, poetry, yoga classes, and more!
Win prizes just for recycling! The Outside Lands Recycling Store will be stocked with items you can “buy” with empty bottles, cans, and biodegradable cups you pick up from around the festival grounds. Prizes will include concert tickets, festival merchandise, band merchandise, food and drinks, and much, much more!
Cell phone recycling
Bring your old cell phones to the Recycling Store for additional prizes! Most cell phones will be refurbished and redistributed throughout other countries. Phones that are damaged beyond repair will be recycled safely and without leaking toxic chemicals.
Help reforest California
When you buy your tickets, you’ll be given the option of donating $1 to help reforest Caliofrnia. These donations will go to the National Arbor Day Foundation, who will use it to reforest areas of California that were damaged by the recent wildfires. One dollar plants one tree in California’s damaged forestland.
Offset your festival experience
When you buy your tickets, you’ll be given the option of donating $1 to help ‘green’ your ticket. These donations will be used to purchase (and then retire) pollution credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. By buying and then retiring these credits, we will directly prevent polluting companies from buying them and using them as a “right to pollute.”
All generators used at Outside Lands will be fueled with a 20% mix of biodiesel, which reduces emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.
Outside Lands will partner with the SF Bicycle Coalition to provide bikers with a complimentary bike valet service, allowing them to park their bike safely at Golden Gate Park.
Recycled paper and soy-based ink
We will print all of our marketing materials and programs on recycled paper, using soy-based inks whenever possible.
Organic festival merchandise
We’ll offer a wide selection of organic festival merchandise, allowing you to be both trendy and conscious whenever you wear your Outside Lands shirt around town.
Comprehensive online transportation guide
We have provided an online guide for travelling by foot, bike, bus, muni, and BART from all parts of the bay area to Golden Gate Park to encourage the use of public transportation.
Since this is a popular travel week due to the onset of spring, the kiddies on spring break, and the Easter holiday, I thought a quick post on the environmental impact of travel was timely. I myself am traveling, but am bringing back far less schlock for friends at home than I would normally. While air travel has the biggest impact on the environmental footprint of your vacay, awhile back, Treehugger.com reported on some non-schlocky souvenirs that also add to your footprint. But first:
schlockn. Something, such as merchandise or literature, that is inferior or shoddy. adj. Of inferior quality; cheap or shoddy.
Just because you go on vacation doesn't mean your carbon footprint will take a break, too; while things like the impact of aircraft carbon emissions are large (with one exception), obvious and often calculated, the impact small things like the chintzy souvenirs -- the ones we've all bought and received to commemorate a visit to some famous landmark -- are less so.
If you recall, The Story of Stuff taught us that all the little things we consume really add up, souvenirs included. Designer Héctor Serrano has conceived of a way to use 3D printers, email and downloadable design to create personalized souvenirs, like the one pictured above, at a small fraction of the carbon footprint (we first saw it back at the London Design Festival). Meet the Reduced Carbon Footprint Souvenirs below the fold.
The awesomely simple concept bypasses the traditional cycle of production and consumption, replacing sweat shop labor and the slow boat from China with electronic messaging and rapid prototyping to create really unique, super-personalized objects. Rather than buying something that's (probably) already traveled thousands of miles and incurred a sizable carbon footprint, you just send your giftee an email with a personalized message about the weather or whatever; they print it out with a 3D printer, and have something cool that didn't come from half a world away.
The conceptual range of Reduced Carbon Footprint Souvenirs was created for the Ten Again exhibition of sustainable design at 100% Design in London last September; 3D printers are coming (but not quite here yet), but when they become more available to the mainstream, ideas like this have the potential to totally change the way we consume stuff.
About the project, designer Serrano says, "The project questions the way that objects are manufactured and how new technologies can be applied to propose alternative ways of reducing their impact on the environment. the project becomes more relevant as 3D printers become more affordable." We're looking forward to it.
The North American festival scene continues to gather strength as two more excellent-looking festivals have thrown their hats into the ring trying to capture our limited entertainment dollars. I wish I could quit my job for the summer and go to all of these festivals. They just keep getting better and better. On paper, at least, the competition is paying off in two areas: venues and greening.
First, the venues seem to be improving. Rothbury and Pemberton, both eponymous for their host towns in Michigan and BC, respectively, look to be much nicer than Manchester ever could be, if only for the weather. Neither festival is likely to hit 95 degrees, even in July, so hopefully these festivals won't be as much of an endurance test. And the actual physical locations look good, too, especially Pemberton with its stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop. I was born in BC and if I hadn't already made arrangements for Lollapalooza the following weekend I'd be looking very seriously at going to Pemberton. And both sites seem to be working hard to make the experience of staying at the festival even better, with relatively affordable upgrade options including cabins, better organized RV camping, and hotels with shuttles. Hopefully we'll start to see improvements in the general camping areas in the not-too-distant future.
But what about the greening? Well, both festivals are making a lot of noise about how green they're going to be. They're setting the bar high for themselves, especially Rothbury, which has adopted a theme of "Achieving Energy Independence" for the festival and has scheduled an interesting-looking seminar with some big names including Hunter Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Oddly, though, Rothbury's list of green initiatives is focused on waste management, with green energy coming in only at #8 on their list of 12 greening initiatives. Like Bonnaroo and Langerado, the festival is going to be experimenting with a shuttle bus service. Here's hoping they don't screw it up as badly as Langerado did. But it looks very much like Rothbury is taking the greening seriously, even to the point of secondary sorting of recyclables.
Pemberton has much less info available on its greening initiatives. What little there is doesn't suggest it will be spectacularly green--yeah, the festival will be powered by hydropower, but dams aren't green, dammit (pardon the pun). On the other hand, Pemberton is a family-farming community. Organizers have stated strongly that they'll buy as much food as possible from their neighbors and even if the food isn't 100% certified organic you can be assured that it will be minimally coated in pesticides and herbicides and other cides. I'm firmly of the opinion that buying and eating locally produced food from a farmer you've met is just about the greenest thing you can do. This is a very good move, one I would like to see other festivals in farming/agricultural communities (I'm looking at you Bonnaroo and Langerado) copying in the very near future.
As we get closer to July I'll try to round up some interviews with these two festivals and do a more in-depth look at their greening campaigns.
By the way, since this is still a music-related blog, Rothbury's lineup is freaking amazing. Here's some Dynamites to take it home:
drum roll, please.......SXSJ at the San Jose Hotel on South Congress! These dudes did it right!
A solar stage by Sustainable Waves, compostable paper plates, biodegradable utensils, rainwater collection system that water the outdoor plants, plenty of recycling bins.....be still my heart!
The only blemish on my event experience was the Toyota/Yaris sponsorship....wha?! It seemed kind of odd to have new 2008 Yaris models zooming in and out of the concert area offering concert-goers a chance to test drive the new models (which do get 29/35 mpg, but come on!). However, the Yarises mostly sat curbside waiting for potential passengers, so perhaps other concert-goers felt the same way I did.
I wish the rest of my SXSW review were as glowing. I did see recycling bins, but there were at least three times as many garbage cans. They also mostly said "Recycle Plastic bottles and aluminum cans here", so the majority of the beer bottles ended up in the trash.
On the subject of trash, like every year, plastic cups, tin foil, concert fliers, and gobs of all other sorts of trash blow down 6th Street and the surrounding area. At least for me, the high of seeing the best and brightest new bands in the world quickly subsides and I'm bummed at how much trash it seems to take to have a good time.
Along with my new-found love for Fleet Foxes, Cryptacize, Black Joe Lewis, and my deepened love for Roky Erickson, SXSW really helped me understand why people hate on renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets. As you know, I've been a proponent of both (as long as they're certified) for some time. However, when a festival claims they're taking steps towards sustainability and goes so far as to put images of wind turbines all over their conference signage---it really rings true of greenwashing (and doesn't say much for lessening a carbon footprint) when there is a ridiculous amount of trash on the streets at night and the only active participatory greening opportunities that I saw are few and far between recycling bins.
My advice to SXSW planners who are probably already working on next year's conference is to focus on the trash. Organize all the venues to use real glasses or biodegradable cups, plates, and utensils. Austin has a burgeoning community/victory garden scene, so I'm sure they could find a good home for some compost. Or challenge some students from one of the region's eight colleges and universities to come up with a better waste management system.
I'm fresh back from a weekend in sunny South Florida, where I spent four days at Langerado in its new location at Big Cypress. It was a great trip, with a (mostly) outstanding lineup, fantastic performances, and a secluded site. But was it as green as the organizers had promised when I interviewed them last month?
The short answer: not really. But that doesn't mean that they gave up on greening, or were greenwashing the festival. It just means that this was a festival that is trying to be green, not a green festival. It was hard to tell what was going on behind the scenes. More to the point, it seemed at times as though the organizers were a bit over their heads in a festival of this size, and while scrambling to keep up, the greener details got lost in the shuffle.
So what were the green aspects?
To start, there was Greenerado, envisioned as a green educational "ecovillage" located at the center of the festival, complete with a small stage. It was a nice idea, but this village was really just a couple of eco-themed merch tents--organic skin care (free sunblock, though-nice move!) and bamboo shirts, along with a "sustain your soul" tent I never quite got the gist of and a sparsely populated silent auction.
There was also a tent set up for topics with titles like "Living the Scene: Sustainability in Music, Activism, and Politics of Sustainability," but when I showed up, there was no one there. I managed to find Bryan Birch of ZeroHero, the event's greening consultant, who told me that they'd had trouble getting artist participation. This shouldn't be too surprising--given the stellar lineup and the crowds, I'm sure the artists had other things on their mind. I know the fans certainly did. The non-profit tents seemed to be limited to an Audobon Society exhibit on the Corkscrew Wildlife Sanctuary and a tent dedicated to destroying Florida Power and Light. The inside of this second tent had a collection of photcopied handouts with titles like "Work Sucks" and "Cell Phones Suck." The first one, at least, seemed to resonate with the crowd.
On the other hand, the Greenerado stage was bigger than the solar stage at Bonnaroo and had legit performances by really good bands. I found myself there at least a half-dozen times over the course of the weekend, not for the green aspect but for the music. If the organizers can beef up the content at Greenerado in future years and keep the quality of music on stage there the same, they should be able to really draw some people in to the greener side.
Outside of Greenerado, there were recycling bins at every trash station, which the crowd seemed to be using as they were intended. And Bryan told me that they'd managed to fuel every single generator at the show with 100% biodiesel, which we later clarified to mean 100% B20 (20% biodiesel). While there's a growing backlash against certain forms of biodiesel, it's still better to get vendors accustomed to it now and open up the door for truly sustainable biofuels that are coming down the pipe, like algal biofuels.
During my pre-show interview, I'd been told about the "positive legacy program." If there was any work done on this front to leave Big Cypress and the Seminole Tribe better off than they started, it wasn't well publicized. Similarly, there was supposed to be work done on "sustainable product sourcing." Outside of the compostable (but not actually composted) cups at the VIP beer tents and the ludicrous water pouches described below, I'm not sure what the sustainable products were.
On the waste management front, Clean Vibes was out in force doing its usual bang-up job of keeping the festival grounds picked up. There were recycling bins at every trash station, and it seemed like most festival goers were using them properly. But I didn't get any trash or recycling bags when I walked in off the bus, and several of the folks who drove in told me they didn't get them, either. The result was that the camping areas were pretty well trashed when I left on Monday morning. I couldn't find any evidence of a composting program. I did see a couple of people walking around with compostable beer cups, which were apparently in use at the VIP tent, but without composting facilities these don't do much good.
Speaking of composting, the festival toilets were standard composting toilets, not the new composting toilets springing up in Europe and Australia. Hopefully we'll see a lot more composting coming to US festivals in the next couple of years. A location like Langerado--normally used for pasture, with thin soil, would be a perfect spot to compost a mix of food scraps, compostable plates, etc., and humanure. And quite frankly, just about anything would be preferable to the current festival toilet situation.
Food was standard fare--I saw nothing touted as organic. There was definitely nothing local, not even fresh citrus products. But food wasn't the real issue. The biggest logistical problem at the festival was the lack of water. To be blunt, the organizers completely dropped the ball on this one. In the camping area, there was only one tanker truck of water that I could find, and it wasn't well set-up for washing--just a bunch of taps over what soon became a muddy mess. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings, as everyone went to get cleaned up, the tanker ran dry. On Sunday morning, I saw a handful of people on top of the tanker. They had opened up the top and were hanging down by their knees, trying to fill up their nalgene bottles from the puddles at the bottom. One of them nearly fell in when his buddy released his ankles to retrieve the nalgene.
The water woes were even worse inside the festival area. The only water for sale--including at the general store--was $3 a pint pouches that looked like bigger versions of Capri Sun. No gallon jugs, no cases of bottles, nothing. We weren't allowed to bring in water except in small sealed bottles, and there was NO free water inside the venue. This is a practice that should be outlawed at all big outdoor events. Forcing people to pay $3 for a pint of water--$24 a gallon--when they're standing around in the sun all day is criminal. Langerado was very proud of the special "low-energy" pouches of glacial melt water they trucked in from Utah. That's straight-up greenwashing, I say--trucking water 2000 miles is not "low-energy," and not giving people water at an outdoor festival in 80 degree heat is just wrong. Everyone at the festival was exceedingly upset about this, especially those of us who flew in to take the shuttle and didn't have the opportunity to stop and buy supplies, like cases of water and beer ($5 a can for Miller Lite).
That brings me to another problem with the greening of the festival--traffic. The site is fantastic, but it's 14 miles down a road off the main freeway with no other access to the festival site. The inevitable traffic jam was over 4 hours when I arrived on the shuttle, and I heard unconfirmed rumors that on Saturday the line was backed all 14 miles up to Alligator Alley. The festival had a chance to really promote some great alternatives to traffic with the shuttle service it offered ($60 round trip), but it dropped the ball. Flying in was a miserable experience--we got off the plane and onto the bus, with no stops for food or supplies. The buses waited in the same traffic, although we pooled our funds and bribed our bus driver $250 to drive illegally down the left lane (into oncoming traffic) and get us in more quickly. We were dropped off in a muddy field with no direction and just pitched our tents at the first spot that looked good. With limited baggage, none of us had any of the amenities--like food, campstoves, or coolers--that make camping at a festival bearable. And with no car to secure our goods, theft was a problem. I had my tent entered, and although nothing was stolen from my tent, my neighbors were relieved of their bags--including clean clothes and plane tickets--while they watched the closing set on Sunday night.
Flying in isn't great for the environment, but people are going to continue to fly to festivals, so organizers should at least make an effort to get them out of rental cars. I would have gladly paid another $40 or more on top of the $60 bus fare to get a decent tent site, close to the action, with shared coolers and barbecues and some sort of secure storage area. We should have had the option to stop and buy supplies or buy supplies at reasonable rates on site. Our bus drivers should have been instructed to take a back route or jump the line--for every 50 people in a bus, that's 12-20 cars that aren't in line, so busing in people makes much more sense, and bus passengers should be rewarded for getting out of their cars, not punished. Coming in by plane and bus should be an almost VIP-like experience. After all, the festival organizers are making a profit on the bus tickets, can squeeze more people into the camping area without cars, and will save money and headaches on traffic management. Environmentally, buses could save thousands of gallons of gasoline and reduce the associated air pollution over the masses of idling cars they replace and by reducing the overall traffic flow.
In summary, it wasn't bad, but it was a long way from being a truly green show. The organizers really seem to want to be greener, they just haven't figured out their strategy just yet. If they can repeat the amazing lineup, get the same quality of performances and fine-tune their logistics, this show has serious potential. Hopefully they will live up to that potential in a sustainable way. My overall green grade: C
I'm packing my bags and heading for sunny Austin, TX, for this year's SXSW conference. Hope to see you there! Email me if you want to meet up: green [at] jambase [dot] com.
As we reported last year, SXSW has been steadily increasing their green commitments with each festival. Green innovations like solar stages, renewable energy credits, and themed parties and panels that help record labels and bands green up their activities made a huge impact last year and will continue on to this year's festival. Here is a video from You Tube that details at a fan's eye view what greening initiatives went on last year and what to expect this year. Check it out:
Since we all got robbed of one hour of blessed sleep last night (can anyone tell me why we still practice Daylight Savings?), I wanted to tell you how much better my sleep has recently become. No, I'm not going to go on and on about my Now-and-Zen alarm clock again.....
My boyfriend finally got tired of waking up with back pain every morning and decided it was time for a new mattress. Keeping in mind our eco-leanings, we settled on a brand new mattress from Keetsa, an eco-friendly mattress company. Great rest has ensued.
And piece of mind, for that matter. Keetsa is a pretty amazing product. Our entire king size mattress came compressed and rolled in a box about four feet tall and two feet wide. Once you take the compressed mattress out of the box it settles out and the material grows to regular mattress size. As you can imagine, Keetsa is able to transport many more mattresses from their manufacturing plant when they're compressed--cutting down on the environmental footprint of shipping. They think of everything!
Our new mattress has that heavenly memory foam thing going on that makes it very hard to rise when beckoned by my Now-and-Zen alarm clock---oh, right, I wasn't going to go on and on about that. Sorry.
Now comes the best part, instead of being made of gross non sustainable materials, the entire Keetsa mattress is recyclable! And then, to complete our new eco-sleep, we had Eco-Haul come and take the old mattresses away in their bio-fuel-powered truck.
After reading this post on PSFK, I felt bad for yelling at my ink jet printer so much.
The implications of being able to print solar panels with similar technology to printing newspapers is huge--not only for people in the Western world, but also people in developing countries. It stands to dramatically lower the cost of solar because one of the main cost drivers that makes solar so expensive are the manufacturing processes. Also, it makes the technology more accessible and able to be produced (at least in part) locally, a production model that has served the wind industry well (geek out on that here).
Massachusetts-based Konarka Technologies have apparently manufactured the first ever solar cells by inkjet printing. This major advancement has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of production by eliminating the need for clean rooms.
By developing a new breed of flexible photovoltaic material, solar panels can not only be produced at a lower cost, but can be printed or coated onto a variety of surfaces using roll-to-roll manufacturing, similar to how newspaper is printed on large rolls of paper.
“Demonstrating the use of inkjet printing technology as a fabrication tool for highly efficient solar cells and sensors with small area requirements is a major milestone,” commented Rick Hess, president and CEO at Konarka. “This essential breakthrough in the field of printed solar cells positions Konarka as an emerging leader in printed photovoltaics.”
I gotta say I loved the blackout of 2003 in New York City. Besides the monster blisters I had on my feet after walking from my job in mid-town Manhattan to my home in Brooklyn--it was an amazing experience. I got to know my co-workers, I got to know my neighbors, I got to appreciate my apartment by candlelight, I got to eat discounted half-melted popsciles from the corner store, and yes, I got (or had) to set aside time to clean out the freezer.
It looks like I'm not alone. Rufus Wainwright feels the same way and is calling for a "Blackout Sabbath" to happen from noon to midnight on June 21st--the longest day of the year. The event also goes down as one of my favorite images of the environmental movement. He talks about it with Lloyd Alter via Treehugger.com (reposted here):
Rufus Wainwright found the last New York power failure "incredibly invigorating, spiritual and practical at the same time: we all had to pay attention to each other! Not to mention that Manhattan in total darkness was oddly enough a beautiful sight to behold.
Now he is proposing that on June 21st, the longest day of the year and the summer solstice, we all turn everything off (lights, fridge, computer, everything) from noon to midnight. "The time could be spent contemplating alone or with friends on the coming year and what personally one can do to save the planet."
He adds that "Mummy (Kate McGarrigle) says it's a good day to also empty out the fridge." ::Blackoutsabbath via ::Grist; be sure to watch Rufus' amazing performance of "Get Happy" at Glastonbury below the fold, and to learn how to really enjoy a New York Blackout, watch Joan Crawford in the original Night Gallery episode "Eyes", directed by an unknown Steven Spielberg.
In preparation for my trip to Langerado, I thought it would be nice to learn a bit more about the wonderland that is Big Cypress and some of the environmental challenges that face the area. I already knew from a trip to the nearby Everglades last year that water resources are the key to everything in this part of the world. The Everglades and adjacent Big Cypress have a number of conflicting roles--they must provide water for crucial natural habitat, water for a good part of the the megalopolis that stretches from Miami to Palm Beach, and water for the agriculture that is still so important to Florida's economy. As if that weren't enough, the water itself is stressed. Pollution from stormwater runoff, people; man-made barriers that block the natural flow of the water; encroaching development on all sides...things can get pretty gloomy if you dwell on the issue for too long.
While I was digging around, I found the South Florida Watershed Journal, an informal source of news about the Big Cypress-Everglades watershed. The SFWJ is the place to go if you want more info about the state of the watershed and the ecological systems it supports, or if you just want some great pictures of local flora. The best part about the SFWJ is that it's not gloomy at all. News is presented in the bigger scientific context and there's almost no hype at all.
After a round of emails so fast it would almost make you believe in your government again, I was able to coerce Bob Sobczak, Managing Editor of the SFWJ and National Park Service Hydrologist at Big Cypress National Preserve, to contribute a guest post to the blog with an update on current conditions and some advice on what to do when you're not listening to music. I hope those readers who will be joining me at Langerado have time to take his advice and visit some of the surrounding areas. I know I'll be bringing some sturdy shoes for a couple of morning hikes.
Thanks, Bob, for your guide to the area! Hopefully we'll see you at Langerado 2009.
I've always been a big fan of getting a thumb-nail awareness of the greater watershed wherever and whenever I travel. For example, I was just up at a conference in Gainesville, which is just north of scenic Payne's Prairie, which was fun to find out more about, and briefly hike through. Of course I only had time for a brief view -- as the conference was packed with talks just like the Langerado music festival is packed with must-hear music.
But, in the chance that you do have a chance to sneak away from the festival -- for a few hours, or for a half day -- you are in good position, smack in the middle of the expansive wetlands and waterways of south Florida's interconnected waterways.
The water cycle connects them all.
In south Florida its constantly turning, and never ceases to amaze in its details, and interaction of all its parts. The challenge in south Florida is to tap into the water cycle in a way that sustains both us and the natural places we love. The water cycle starts with the sky: south Florida gets around 50 inches of rain per year, but three-quarters of that falls during the 6-month wet season, starting in late May and ending with the wind-down of hurricane season in October. South Florida is water plentiful when you compare it to other regions -- such as the 4 inches of annual rain that falls at Hoover Dam -- but the seasonal signature of rainfall means that the prospect of drought and flood is always at our doorstep.
That pendulum has swung in the direction of drought in recent months, as you may have heard.
To the north, Lake Okeechobee is at an all-time low for early March. We're in the middle of our second consecutive year rainfall was scarce over the Lake and upstream Kissimmee Basin. It was just 6-months ago in June 2007 that Lake Okeechobee dropped down to its lowest recorded level ever (~8.8 ft above mean sea level), and water managers are bracing for the Lake dropping to even lower in the months to come. Don't miss the opportunity to see and touch the big lake at this historic moment.
Or you could travel west to Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It offers a hike through the last and largest stand of old growth cypress in south Florida. The Redwood Giants in northern California grow as tall as 350 feet. The old growth cypress of Corkscrew are about a quarter as tall, but no less scenic, and are the arboreal giants of south Florida. The hydrologic story there was the year without a wet season. The rule of thumb in south Florida is that we always have a wet season -- yes, it varies in magnitude, but we can always count on the summer rains to fill the swamp up with water. Not in 2007. Or almost not. The summer rains did manage to push the water table up into the deepest portions of the swamp, but it was the shallowest summer seen in Corkscrew since 1970.
Or you could travel south to Big Cypress National Preserve and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. Best known for the scenic view of cypress domes and strands where during the summer surface water rises to knee-high depth, both contain a diverse mosaic of wet prairie and pineland uplands. (Keep in mind these are Lilliputian uplands, only a foot or two higher than the surrounding cypress). The big story was the surprise +5 inches of February rain. That's tied a 25-year February record, and refilled the swamps with surface water, effectively rewinding the water cycle back in time several months.
Or you could travel to the east into the Everglades. Don't miss your opportunity to see the sphinx-like structures -- geometrical and speechless -- that control flow into its different basins, or cast your eye out into the vast sawgrass plain. A few of them are still open, but most of them are closed for the dry season. Everglades National Park is at a 17-year low; that's in respect to both inflows entering the park from across the Tamiami Trail and in terms of water levels in central Shark River Slough, the main wetland water body that meanders through the Park and discharges into downstream Florida Bay.
That's just a few of the places you could go, or think about, not to mention the beach.
But most of all enjoy the music. I'm a big Bob Dylan fan myself.
In the event that the music is too good or you can't get away, The South Florida Watershed Journal (http://sfwj.blogspot.com/) brings the story of south Florida's water cycle and its interconnected watersheds right to your fingertips.
Enjoy a safe and happy stay in south Florida. And remember, wherever you are, find a way to stay in tune and in touch with your local watershed.
The end of Noise Pop is upon us (I'm going to see She & Him tonight!), and in the festival's wake lies some progress in moving the festival towards being a totally green event.
Maybe tonight's show will be different, but the other Noise Pop events I went to didn't strike me as being particularly green. I saw tons of plastic cups all over the floor at the Independent at the end of the night, and no labeled containers for recycling, and no evidence of ride-sharing programs.
To be fair, on the positive side, they did give VIPs reusable canvas tote bags that are the perfect size for carrying records, and did some extensive greening behind the scenes as noted on their website. They've also stated outright that they're still learning and this year's attempts were just a starting point. Here's some information on their website about the behind-the-scenes greening that took place this year:
Noise Pop Gives A Hoot
Noise Pop learned a lot about creating environmentally-friendly, sustainable and carbon-neutral events last fall at the Treasure Island Music Festival, and this year we’re starting to bring those smart ideas to the Noise Pop Festival.
Here’s a few of the things we’re doing as a business:
- Well over 50% of our printed materials utilize recycled paper with soy-based inks.
- Promoting mass transit options to the festival with our friends at Alternetrides.
- Calculating and offsetting our carbon footprint with Carbonfund.org’s reforestation project.
Most festivals and concert series begin with some greening initiatives to test the water, and expand their commitment year after year. When you're hard pressed for staff and money, executing greening initiatives at multiple venues can be challenging. Has anyone ever seen this done successfully? If so, please share.
This little tidbit came through my field of view this week: almost half of festival goers will pay more for a green festival. How much more remains to be seen, but compared to the $25 I paid to see just one band the other night (worth every penny, though!), I still say that festivals remain the best music value around. A couple of extra dollars to make things green shouldn't give anyone pause.
All Points West, a NYC festival with a killer lineup (2 nights of Radiohead--dang!), has announced that it will limit parking to those festival-goers with at least 4 ticket-holders in a car. That's a creative solution to the transit dilemma faced by most big festivals, albeit one that could probably only work in New York and maybe one or two other cities with decent public transit. They're also going to be giving away free water bottles to folks who bring in found empties, a move that's been successful at several other festivals.
Of course, I'll miss this festival since I just booked tickets to Chicago for the week for a combination of Lollapalooza and Red Sox-White Sox play. But I can't really complain about missing a festival to go to another festival. Life is good! More to come on the greening of APW as news becomes available.