Al Gore

‘Ten Billion’ from another side

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Wallace Heim writes:

Michael Billington, in his nomination of Ten Billion as the best theatre event of 2012, claims that all the people he knows who saw the production found it life-changing. From my unscientific poll of the dozen people I know who saw the production, including myself, it’s possible we were in a different theatre. The lecture was well-crafted, the production tight, but the event was neither moving, informative or motivating. It was ‘old news’, a ‘first-year introductory lecture’, ‘Al Gore without the cherry picker’.

Billington’s lauding of the production is encouraging. That he, and others, were deeply affected is even more so, although one wonders what he has avoided reading or seeing for the past 20 years if the information presented was shocking. But Billington finds that it is not merely the accumulation of statistics, but the presence – the performance - of Stephen Emmott, the verifiable scientist, the speaker with a creditable reputation outside the theatre, that gave the production its urgency.

For this audience, the fluid realm of belief and disbelief that makes theatre work had to break down for the shock of climate instability to be heard. At the same time, the very theatrical occasion of sitting in that darkened room redolent of emotions of past productions, listening to another human speak, heightened any effect.

Asking again of those who found the production lacking, I found in each person’s experience at least one, if not many moments when the numbers add up, when the terror hits, when someone trusted speaks about a future irreconcilable with what one could bear. These events can be motivating and if Ten Billion provided that for some, then theatre’s role as educator has been met.

But if you’ve already had that experience, theatre is where you want to go to understand it, and a collocation of facts will not do that. This is a far more confused territory, requiring human imagination and many avenues of intelligence, deliberation, conflict and consent. It requires doing something like the processes of science, itself – its questioning and cross-questioning, experimentation, doubt and informed agreement.

Theatre may not be the place to present firm courses of action; Emmott’s advice to get a gun falls especially short. Conventional forms of theatre may, or may not, be adequate to the combination of reality and fiction that understanding climate change demands. But theatre, or something like it, continues to be a place where collectively, humans find a way through. There will continue to be many kinds of productions for many kinds of audiences. The hunger for a theatre by the audience that gets the facts but wants more continues to be strong.

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.

The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

The Directory has been live since 2000.

Go to The Ashden Directory

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2009 Green Day LDI

Greening in the Entertainment Industry

Thursday, November 19, 2009 – Room# N322
Join LDI in going GREEN! A full day dedicated to what the industry is doing—and can do—to reduce its carbon footprint and be environmentally smart!  A special full-day conference organized in conjunction with Showman Fabricators, as LDI “goes green.”
Sessions open to all LDI full-conference badge holders, and four-pack or eight-pack tickets.

PLUS: The Green Technology Today Showcase on the LDI Show Floor: November 20-22


Welcome and Kick-Off
Bob Usdin of Showman Fabricators kick off Green Day with an overview of what’s happening in various aspects of the industry.


GD01 Why Bother? A Session for Skeptics!!!!!
Is there a Crisis?  The facts are indisputable when you see this evidence. Why is Greening in the entertainment industry important?  Beyond just the immediate carbon footprint of an event, talk about the ultimate payoff: Getting your audience to be green in their lives.
Learn about the 4-D’s, and how to deal with skeptics.

Paul Reale, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Green Allowance and trained speaker from Al Gore’s The Climate project will present the undeniable evidence from the Inconvenient Truth with updates on today’s global climate.


GD02 Green Standards: Alphabet Soup
LEED, CRI, Greenguard, FSC, Greenlabel, VOC, MERV, 3 R’s, CFC’s, Carbon Offsets: A whole new language has evolved around greening. What does it all mean? More importantly, what standards are useful for the entertainment industry? We’ll look at how to weigh claims and benefits in materials, products, and practices.

Josh Allen, Theatre Consultants Collaborative
Seema Sueko, Moolelo Theatre
Mitchell Kurtz, AIA, LEED AP
David Weiner, Scenic Designer
View Green Products from the LDI Show Floor

What are manufacturers and suppliers offering that are green?  LDI exhibitors are invited to showcase their products that can contribute to making productions greener and more sustainable.

AC Lighting • Apollo • Clark Transfer • Creative Stage Lighting • Doug Fleenor Design • Gekko / PRG • Green Scene / Pro Tech • Iluminarc • Rose Brand • Rosco • Showman Fabricators • Stageline • Tomcat

Coordinated by: David I. Taylor, ARUP


GD03 Breakout Brainstorming Session:
This roundtable discussion will seek out Best/Better Practices being used around the country, in a completely ‘hands-on’ traditional brainstorming session with post-its and white boards. At the end of the session all ideas will be compiled and posted on a website. Bring every idea to the table no matter how crazy.

To focus attention, there will be three separate groups:
* Lighting / Sound / Projections
* Scenery / Staging / Props / Costumes
* Buildings / Facilities / General Operations

Introduction: Bob Usdin
Coordinators: Bryan Raven, White Light Ltd, Ian Garrett, Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts
Speakers: Bryan Raven, White Light Ltd, David Duell, Jonathan Deull, Laurel Dutcher
Scenery/Staging/Props/Costumes Coordinators: Annie Jacobs, Showman; Peter Monahan, Rose Brand
Buildings/Facilities/General Operations Coordinators: David Taylor, ARUP; Curtis Kasefang, Theatre Consultants Collaborative


GD04 Closing Session: The Proof is in the Pudding:
A look at projects from the past year that incorporated some green projects (productions, events, buildings, theatre companies, etc.) followed by a general discussion of where the entertainment industry can and should go to be green.

Bob Usdin, Showman Fabricators
David Taylor, Arup
Charlie Duell, Clark Transfer, Touring Green and Broadway Alliance
Katie Carpenter, Green Media Solutions
Meredith Bergmana, Green Media Solutions
Ben Todd, Arcola Theatre

Moving Stars and Earth for Water

TODAY, Guy Laliberte, Founder of Cirque du Soleil, will promote a special water conservation message from outer space. His water conservation organization, One Drop Foundation, is producing a 2 hour, ONLINE event which starts at 5pm PCT, Friday, October 9th. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Dr. David Suzuki, Peter Gabriel, Salma Hayek, Shakira, U2 and others will be joining Guy in the performance.

It’s called “Poetic Social Mission: Moving Stars and Earth for Water”. Yann Martel, Life of Pi author, has created a special poem for the event.
Check it Out:
Should be amazing… (yes, tons of GHGs have been expanded, but hopefully the positive impact from the water conservation message outweighs it)!
More details…

Go to Eco-Catalysts

Congress Uses Poetry to Talk about Climate Change

One of my favorite poets, Drew Dellinger, has reached Congress through the raw beauty and strength of his words.  Click here to see Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin refer to Drew’s poem in aid of Al Gore describing our responsibility to our future grandchildren as it relates to climate change.

Go to Eco-Catalysts

More on Robin McKie’s article from The Observer

Well we have to be doing something right, because McKie’s article got this response from factually wayward Daily Telegraph young fogey James Delingpole, lambasting “eco-luvvies”. It’s a conspiracy! froths Delingpole:

What Cape Farewell does brilliantly, Delingpole fulminates, is breed wave after wave of high profile propagandists for the authorised Al Gore/James Hansen version of man made climate doom.

Um… yes. And? Delingpole (Ed. public school & Oxon), however, clearly thinks using culture to demonstrate things he doesn’t believe in is wrong.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

What Would Elphaba Do? The Broadway Green Alliance Squeezes Broadway Into Smaller Shoes

“I wasn’t green, but I’m organized,” says Wicked Company Manager Susan Sampliner.  ”I’m a manager.” When Sampliner signed on to the Stephen Schwartz musical in 2003, little did she know that environmental thinking would become an integral part of her work in the arts. But the term ‘carbon footprint’, alongside terms like ‘places’ and ‘10 out of 12′, quickly became part of her arts management lexicon.

Wicked producer David Stone, like many Americans, saw Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and began to wonder what he could do to find viable solutions to our planet’s growing environmental crisis. Having facilitated Eve Ensler’s successful V-Day initiative to stop violence against women, Stone began wondering if he could use his new hit musical to educate the Broadway community about its role in the issues of climate change and sustainability.

Stone realized that smaller shows didn’t have the financial resources to invest in greening operations, but that “big shows have big power”.  Knowing that he could commit the upstart capital needed to make energy-saving investments, and with the extremely eco-minded Universal Pictures as a producer, he decided that Wicked would be the first Broadway show to explore green procedures and procurement.  He began by tasking Sampliner with researching ways in which the production could green its operations.  And in the early stages of the show’s run, NBC/Universal provided in-house health and safety experts who ensured that toxic chemicals were stored, labeled, and handled properly.

When the hit show launched multiple companies, Stone encouraged each department in Wicked’s U.S. companies to find more energy efficient and earth-friendly options for carrying out daily duties. Over an 18-month period, Sampliner worked to tabulate each company’s (and each individual department’s) eco-efforts.  To date, the New York company alone has saved over $80,000 by recycling batteries and replacing incandescent front-of-house lighting with compact fluorescents. Additionally, Wicked’s makeup designers were encouraged to work with actors to adjust their makeup palettes to account for CFL lights, as opposed to traditional incandescent dressing room bulbs. These actions were not only good for the environment, but allowed Stone to invest financial resources in additional backstage eco-efforts.

In addition to environmental thinking in Wicked’s backstage areas, Stone and his staff wanted to integrate environmental education with their community engagement and marketing efforts. After being approached by Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, Stone funded the Wicked Friendship Garden in Upper Manhattan, which opened on the fourth anniversary of “Wicked Day” in October 28, 2007. The Wicked producing team made the decision to use all subsequent Wicked Day events around the globe to educate the show’s fans about environmental action they can take in their daily lives. Local environmental organizations and eco-minded companies have been invited to provide information to Wicked Day participants in London, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities worldwide.

Wicked’s producers and marketing team decided to curtail the show’s traditional billboard campaign andfocus on media outlets that would help spread Stone’s vision for a greener Broadway. Marketing firm Serino Coyne suggested a new marketing campaign that highlighted Wicked’s green efforts. Using the portion of the show’s marketing funding earmarked for taxi and bus advertising, Serino Coyne developed the “This is a Wicked green bus/taxi” campaign, advertising the musical on the sides of hybrid buses and tops of hybrid taxis throughout the city. Additionally, ads at commuter stations, including Penn and Grand Central Stations, encourage patrons to utilize mass transit when making their way to the Gershwin.

In Spring 2008, Stone contacted the Broadway League regarding Wicked’s newfound environmental ethos, only to find that the League was discovering the importance of inserting environmental considerations into Broadway productions. The League encouraged Stone to host a town-hall style meeting in June 2008 to inform the Broadway community about Wicked’s eco-efforts and source additional interest from theatre owners, producers, general managers, and industry members. After hiring an outside marketing consulting firm, the League was paired with Allen Hershkowitz, PhD, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Hershkowitz was brought on board to help the New York theatrical community realize its impact on the local and global ecosystems. After learning of the efforts of the Wicked companies to date, Hershkowitz was quick to admit that Stone and Co. had taken more environmental action than a major US soft drink company!

Hershkowitz, who has worked to green the Oscars and Grammy Awards, used NRDC’s Major League Baseball Team Greening Program to show theatre owners and producers how the Broadway community could take similar action. “We’re using the audience’s passion to educate them,” says Sampliner. “A baseball fan’s favorite players are heroes just as our favorite theatre stars or characters are our heroes.” Stone concurred, saying that if Wicked’s Elphaba were living in the present day, the environmental crisis would be her raison d’être just as animal rights influence her thoughts and actions in the musical.

The town-hall meeting proved that going green was on the radar at many New York producing offices and non-profit theatre companies. Due to the overwhelming concern and commitment voiced at the meeting, the League began to work with Stone to gather an ad hoc committee that would decide on further research and action. August 2008 marked the first meeting of the “Broadway Goes Green” Committee. Broadway League President Nina Lannan appointed Sampliner and Charlie Deull (of Clark Transfer) as co-chairs. Upon realizing the scope of the new initiative, the committee agreed to divide their research into three subcommittees: Pre-/Post-Production, Production and Venues.

The Venues Subcommittee, headed by Jujamcyn Theaters Head of Operations Jennifer Hershey, was the first subcommittee to analyze their piece of the puzzle. Because most Broadway theatres had already received energy audits as first steps toward potentially receiving state funding for energy-efficiency upgrades, baseline measurements already existed for the energy-intensive act of housing a Broadway production. Thanks to these numbers, the Venues Subcommittee had a clear vision of the work ahead; but shops and shows had a bit more research to conduct before disseminating findings among program participants. Jujamcyn Theatres has moved to add recycling bins to dressing rooms, with other theatres soon to follow.

The Pre-/Post-Production Subcommittee, headed by Showman Fabricators owner (and LEED AP) Bob Usdin, is analyzing the building of sets with a focus on end-of-life cycle recycling or reuse. The Production Subcommittee, headed by Stage Manager Spook Testani, began researching green practices for the running of shows from rehearsal through their runs. The Production Subcommittee distributes a monthly publication, called The Green Sheet, which features the eco-efforts of different departments across various productions.

Two more subcommittees were recently added to the Ad Hoc Committee: Touring and Education & Outreach. The Touring Subcommittee, headed by Kirk Wingerson of Broadway Across America, is working to gather green practices being implemented across the country and see if they can work in New York. Additionally, this subcommittee will address the issues of trucking and travel associated with touring productions. Finally, the Education & Outreach Subcommittee, headed by 9 to 5 Producer Seth Greenleaf, will explore ways to inform audiences about Broadway’s green efforts and establish partnerships with other members of the entertainment industry.

Having worked to challenge local colleges, universities, and hospitals to explore sustainable options, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg quickly set his sights to other major industries, including the commercial theatre sector. The Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability began working with the League to examine commercial Broadway’s carbon footprint. On November 25th, 2008, Mayor Bloomberg was joined by representatives from various Broadway productions at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre to launch “Broadway Goes Green”. Since the press conference, the newly-named Broadway Green Alliance has worked hand-in-hand with the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability to establish set recycling data tracking, retrofit marquee lights for energy efficiency, and develop various sustainable strategies for productions and theatres. The Broadway Green Alliance will reexamine Broadway’s eco-efforts in November 2009 to assess efforts to date and make industry-wide recommendations. Additionally, the Alliance hopes to hold discipline-specific seminars highlighting “better” eco practices, including workshops with costume, set, and lighting designers in theatre and film.

Disney Theatricals, who has been a leader in sustainability, has also joined the Alliance and appointed a representative to each of the subcommittees. Disney was the first show to appoint a “Green Captain” at each of their shows. Since then, other productions have elected Green Captains who will receive regular briefings on actions that can be implemented at their own shows. The Alliance is also exploring levels of green certification that will enable venues and productions of various sizes and means to participate in the initiative. In the near future, participants that join the Alliance may post signage in their theatre’s lobby area to educate the public about the initiative. The Alliance is also working to obtain an energy baseline for the Tony Awards to green aspects of the awards ceremony is the near future.

In March, 2009, Broadway theatres turned off their marquee lights from 8:30 to 9:30 pm to “cast their vote for Earth” during Earth Hour. The folks at Wicked took the challenge one step further, encouraging cast and crew to turn off as much electrical equipment as possible during the hour. Sampliner plans to encourage the Wicked company to have their own “off the grid show” once a month. (For productions in which cast members spend the majority of the show away from their dressing rooms, exploring the off switch might be a good route for one hour a month, or even one show a week.)

Sampliner refers to Broadway’s recent green awakening as a grassroots movement. “We’re helping the different departments talk to their colleagues at other shows to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  I was around when Broadway Cares started and this is the first initiative I’ve seen since that one that affects everyone in the community,” she adds. “That’s what’s so interesting to me. Everybody can do something. You might not be able to do it all but you can make a difference.”


Wicked’s Green for Good page

The Broadway Green Alliance

9 to 5’s Green from 9 to 5 page


Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Are green blogs failing to convince?

Commenting on the possiblity of creating a new .eco domain, Al Gore said this week:

We fully support Dot Eco LLC in its efforts to secure the .eco top level domain through the ICANN application process and look forward to working with Dot Eco LLC to promote .eco. This is a truly exciting opportunity for the environmental movement and for the internet as a whole.

Exciting? Really? Really?

Like Matthias Merkel Hess, who occasionally wrings his hands with regret at calling his admirable site, Eco Art Blog, I inwardly cringe at the word. Here at Arts & Ecology we are always pleased that we never fell for the single-syllable option, keeping the subtler, more powerful term “ecology”, with its implicit sense of connectedness. Why having it as a suffix creates anything more than an internet ghetto, I don’t understand.

Anyway, to the point. Meaghan O’Neill, the woman behind and is perkily bullish about the future of green blogs in general, writing in an article in last week’s Guardian. In an age in which conventional media are shedding staff as fast as they can, she believes that blogs can and should take over the role of reporting on environmental issues:

Anecdotally speaking, the audience for green content appears to still be growing, even as budgets for green media outlets are cut.

If you look at what she says with web2.0 spectacles on, things look rosy. Green bloggers have formed a community which educates and reinvigorates itself. As Abi Silvester of says in a comment on O’Neill’s article:

One element of blogging that’s particularly relevant here is that as bloggers we treat the issues as a basis for dialogue rather than presenting them as facts in the way that mainstream media tends to do… I do understand why some are uncomfortable with the idea of unqualified bloggers spurious scientific “facts”on the environment or any other topic, but so is any blogger worth his or her salt. In my experience, the blogs that gain credibility and respect are those that don’t set themselves up as “experts” but as interested parties that want to get involved and explore solutions creatively. There’s really no better place to do that than online at the moment.

Which is why green blogs are failing to change minds. Web2.0 is a great thing. But it’s not an end in itself. .

O’Neill says her faith that growing green audiences is “anecdotal”. Silvester too is a fan of the anectotal: “In my experience, the blogs that gain crediblity are those that don’t set themselves up as ‘experts’,” she says .

We don’t really have to prove ourselves right because we have the moral highground. A community that talks hihg-mindedly to itself is of value, but not when faced by an opposing community of sceptics which is, frankly, making all the running. In fact, as the barbed comments below O’Neill’s article show, climate deniers retain a much more powerful voice on the internet given their relatively small numbers, and green bloggers don’t appear to be able to do anything to dent that. Last month, to the horror of green bloggers everywhere, the climate-sceptic blog was nominated Best Science Blog of 2008 by the Best Blog Awards, to the delight of denier-trolls everhwhere.

The thing is, if blogs are going to replace the mainstream media, they must start assuming their authority. And that means finding more ways to do old-fashioned research and reporting – what the old mainstream media regarded as its central role. Moral highground is cheap. A reputation for accuracy is much harder to come by. That’s happening, but still so slowly.

The web is, as we are so often told, only 5,000 days old.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology Blog