By Timothy B. Hurst
New York, NY (March 30, 2010)- If you’re wondering why an environmental politics blog is covering the doings of rock icons like Pearl Jam, I’ve got a little tidbit I’d like to share with you: when it comes to defining environmental politics, I tend to cast a pretty wide net.
Politics isn’t just the stuff that happens on senate floors, committee meetings, and on the campaign trail. Politics is inherently about public action and public affairs. High profile public actions from popular figures, actors and entertainers can spur individual and corporate action, but they can also galvanize public support for a cause- and by announcing a plan Monday to voluntarily mitigate carbon emissions from their 2009 world tour with an ambitious urban parkland reforestation project, that’s exactly what Pearl Jam hopes to do.
Pearl Jam announced on Monday that it would be partnering with Seattle-based land conservation organization the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) to plant 33 acres of native trees and plants in communities around the Puget Sound. “A band on tour generates a lot of carbon,” said Pearl Jam guitarist and founder, Stone Gossard, on a call with reporters on Monday. “We are constantly moving, using carbon-dependent forms of transportation and a great deal of energy.”
When I asked Gossard how the band had been faring in terms of reducing its touring carbon footprint since they began tracking it in 2003, he told me they’ve been doing a decent job of finding efficiencies but that the biggest way they keep their carbon emissions low is by traveling light and touring less often. [Note: Figures showing Pearl Jam’s touring carbon footprint from 2003-2008 were not available at press-time but the band’s PR indicated they will get those details to us as soon as possible. -Ed.]
“We have analyzed our travel and become more efficient with flights and playing less dates,” said Gossard. “But we’re up against some really big things. Touring is a very energy intensive process. A lot of what we do is we don’t tour that much. We don’t tour with huge production. We tour with 5 or 6 trucks whereas the Rolling Stones might travel with 100.” Gossard added that Pearl Jam has been using biodiesel for the last 5-6 years but he also called it “an interim solution” as it is “still a carbon-based fuel.”
Storing CO2 in Seattle metro area’s urban parks
Pearl Jam’s $210,000 donation will fund the Cascade Land Trust’s urban forestry project and mitigate more than 7,000 metric tons of carbon. Michael Totten, the chief climate advisor at Conservation International estimates the band’s actual carbon emissions from its 32-date 2009 tour to be 5,474 metric tons of CO2.
“Trees are incredible at absorbing carbon,” said Gene Duvernoy, CLC president. “Pearl Jam’s contribution will enable us to plant urban forests throughout the Puget Sound and restore native trees and understory to ecosystems that have faced intense human pressures. This sort of approach has an enormous impact on improving forest health, connecting people to nature, and activating communities to engage in the restoration and stewardship of natural open spaces,” said Duvernoy.
Pearl Jam’s Gossard said the band decided to partner with CLC’s community-based stewardship program to address the serious decline of urban forested areas by removing invasive plants and replanting with native shrubs and trees. Asked about the verification and accounting process, Gossard added, “We hope everyone scrutinizes the plan closely.”
Cost of doing business
Between tractor-trailers, buses, charter flights, and fan travel, it is no surprise that large touring productions are energy-intensive; and that’s only for transportation, to say nothing of the electricity needed for big light shows and hulking sound systems. The problem is that with the current infrastructure, carbon emissions are an unavoidable byproduct of touring.
“Businesses have an opportunity to lead the way in becoming a more conscious economy, one that views the health of our environment as inseparable from our personal and economic well being,” said Gossard. “Tracking and mitigating the band’s carbon footprint is a big first step that our business is taking in that direction, and we hope other businesses will join us in this effort. Pearl Jam is a band but we’re also a business. More importantly, we’re also a Washington business,” added Gossard.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn was among several local leaders praising the urban parklands project. “It will put more acres in this important restoration program, and that is a great benefit,” he said. “But beyond that the gift helps us all to see the forested parklands we’re lucky to have already in the city. This really is a gift to the people of Seattle.”
The restoration efforts, beginning immediately, will be in partnership with municipal agencies and community volunteers and will be completed by December 2013. Pearl Jam will once again be calculating and mitigating its carbon emissions for their upcoming 32-date 2010 world tour.
Ecopolitology- Pearl Jam Touring Less, Planting Trees to Cut Carbon Footprint