Looking Beyond the NOW; or, how I learned to think outside the eco box

My focus–or perhaps I should say my understanding–has begun to shift slightly recently. In my discussions with more and more people about this idea (what can we call it? Eco-Theater? Green Theater? Sustainable Theater? It is all of these things, and more) I have found myself speaking with folks whose knowledge base is vast. And these people tend to not be those in places of what we might call power. Their talk, their attitudes, their commitment, and integrity seems on a different plane than those holding the purse strings, developing the seasons in America’s theaters, and guiding artistic missions. What seems crucial to point out at this stage is the concept of what I will call Life-Cycle, and that has been referred to as Cradle to Cradle, or Dust to Dust. It is a way of viewing the world, and our place in it, that requires more thought than most of us are willing to invest. It also ties directly, I believe, to the concept of “Solving For Pattern,” the Berry-inspired notion that I spoke of in an earlier post.

The other day, I was made aware of CNW Research and their “Dust to Dust Automotive Study.” Let me tell you, it’s an eye-opener in many ways. The study aims to take the longest look possible at the lifespan of an automobile from the design, manufacture, and assembly of each of its parts to the day it’s towed to the junkyard. Following this process, analyzing each step and its requisite energy usage, CNW then assigned a dollar value to each of the hundreds of models of cars included in the study that is designed to represent the “Energy cost per mile driven,” which eventually ranged from over $11 (the Maybach) to under 50 cents (the Scion xB) per mile.

What was most surprising to folks (myself included) is that a Hummer H3 actually ended up with lower per mile cost than all Hybrids currently on the market! Do I need to repeat that? Here are the numbers, according to CNW’s study:

Hummer H3: $1.949
Toyota Prius: $3.25
Honda Civic (Hybrid): $3.24

Not one Hybrid beat the Hummer H3, let alone appeared on the top ten list:

1. Scion xB ($0.48 per mile)
2. Ford Escort (0.57 per mile)
3. Jeep Wrangler ($0.60 per mile)
4. Chevrolet Tracker ($0.69 per mile)
5. Toyota Echo ($0.70 per mile)
6. Saturn Ion ($0.71 per mile)
7. Hyundai Elantra ($0.72 per mile) <– the car my wife and I are buying. whew!
8. Dodge Neon ($0.73 per mile)
9. Toyota Corolla ($0.73 per mile)
10. Scion xA ($0.74 per mile)

Okay, okay, what’s my point, right? What does the auto industry have to do with sustainable theater? Think of it this way–if you had not yet learned of this study, and regardless of whether or not you wholly except its science and thus its premise, would it ever have occurred to you that a Hummer would leave a smaller footprint on the planet than new Hybrid technology? If so, you’re smarter than I am. Because it never occurred to me. While I may have questions about what this study is really (and I mean really) telling us about buying (or not buying!) a car, one thing is for sure: it is a prime example of thinking outside the “eco box,” and demonstrates how critical it is for those of us who purport to truly care to take a closer look at our day to day decisions. Are we really making the best choices by buying compact fluorescent bulbs and hybrid cars? It also opens a discussion that is so needed among greens about the life cycle of stuff.

(As it turns out, the trouble with hybrid technology and the reason it receives such a relatively poor “energy cost” rating has to do with the batteries. The nickel used in the batteries must be mined and transported. They must also eventually be discarded.)

It applies here to ecoTheater in many ways, and I’m sure you’ve figured them out by now. As I have written before in different ways, you cannot have ecological diversity and stability without taking a long view–without thinking about the important things that may lie beyond a direct link to what we may call environmentalism. Social justice, human rights, supporting local (and thus more sustainable) economies–all of these things tie in to one another.


I promise that my next post will be more focused. In fact, I can just about guarantee that it will deal with a rather inspiring conversation I had recently with green theater activists and scholars Theresa May and Larry Fried…


2 Responses to “Looking Beyond the NOW; or, how I learned to think outside the eco box”

  1. August 27, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I happened to like your post. What a wonderful dialogue. As we manage a performing puppet troupe from our Library (small nuts compared to real theater) I’m interested on your eco-take. I have your next generation under my wing of budding performers and artists. Never thought about EcoTheater. How awesome! Shannon

  2. 2 Amir
    November 19, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I have read that CNW is paid for mostly by Big Auto in Detroit, which would obviously have certain biases. I am not certain about the truth of this, but it may be worth keeping in mind.

    Another thing to consider is the toll higher gas consumption causes *politically*, something that’s left out of CNW’s equations. One of th reasons I own a hybrid is to send less money to Osama and Mahmoud.

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