BAD09: Green Theatre and other thoughts

By Kate Foy
blog action day
Image by sniggy via Flickr

Today, October 15 is Blog Action Day around the blogosphere. Those thousands of bloggers who have signed up to write about this year’s theme Climate Change, are sitting down and tapping out individual responses. The idea is simply to spread the word.  Maybe it’s preaching to the converted, or singing to the choir of our own smart tribe,  but we write from a personal angle about an issue that’s bigger than we collective bloggers combined.  Perhaps we do this to assuage some sort of guilt, knowing we contribute to the problem.  Perhaps it’s to create a collective sense of purpose.  And maybe it’s just by writing about it in this way that we are obliged to take 20 minutes or so from our busy lives to think a little more deeply about what it means to each one of us.

It’s hard to miss the reality of climate change. In my own neck of the woods, and during the past month I’ve experienced immense dust storms that have blocked out the sun, filled eyes and noses, and given rise to mordant apocalyptic jokes.  In late September windstorms swept across Australia over the course of a week dumping tonnes of precious topsoil out to sea. This week in my home city the dust was raised again as winds blew ferociously, rain storms broke overhead, and hail fell, and all in the space of a few hours on one day. This morning I drove through local countryside smoking from fires, while water-bombing helicopters buzzed overhead.  As I write, firefighters in various parts of Australia are on alert and continuing to battle bushfires, and it’s not even summer yet.  It might as well be; the countryside is tinder dry, and conditions are ripe for a disastrous summer.  We Australians are terrified of uncontrolled fire in our old, dry land; earlier this year in Victoria lives were destroyed with a speed and ferocity that still seems almost unbelievable.  We check the skies on a daily basis.  We long for rain – slow, steady, long, drenching days of rain, the kind we knew as kids.

We read about and listen to the debate, hoping that common sense and politics will converge before, during, and after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year. We aim for a lighter carbon footprint, a term I wondered about a year ago when I wrote about BAD here on Groundling.  And so as individuals we try to do our bit; we sign up for solar-powered panels, and pay the extra few dollars on an air fare to offset carbon emissions, we turn off lights, refuse plastic bags, grow our own vegetables and reduce the food miles. Small towns ban water in plastic bottles – every bit helps.  And still the figures seem astronomical … beyond our capacity to control almost.  Certainly the forces of nature seem beyond our control.  It’s no wonder it all seems overwhelming, and why many find it all too hard, and just hope that things will get better. That’s no excuse of course, just the reality of people under siege.  Perhaps that is why we take some measure of comfort in doing things at home and at work that we hope will make a difference.  Arts companies are doing their bit in this regard.

It’s probably no coincidence given the date, but I read today in one of my blog feeds that New Leaf Theatre in Chicago is distributing ‘green programmes’ via smartphones as an alternative to the time-honoured paper artefact. The paper used to create what, to some, are precious memories of performance, are being reduced. This is a smart move; unsold, unused programmes are trashed or pulped in their thousands of tonnes each year. As I write this, the company I work with Queensland Theatre Company is squaring off with other state finalists for a national award through the Australian Business Arts Foundation. The ABAF awards honour the best relationships between business and the arts in the areas of partnering, volunteering, and giving. Queensland Theatre Company and URS, a global engineering and environmental services firm, embarked on achieving Queensland’s first ‘Green Theatre’ by working together during 2008 to create a carbon neutral production of The Importance of Being Earnest. They took out a state award, and are vying tonight for national recognition. Other arts companies throughout Australia are engaging with sustainable, green practices like this. The learnings from such partnering between the arts, engineering, and environmental science contributes to a growing body of knowledge about how human activity contributes to global warming, and in turn, assists in providing strategies to organisations to offset the emissions created.

Meanwhile, and in our own ways, we do what we can.  We hope that every bit helps.

Update: The ABAF partnership of the year was won by Bangarra Dance Theatre and Boral Australia.  Congratulations!

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