Thursday, January 11, 2007

Smog Over Hollywood

The next time your eyes run like a faucet, the air tastes like diesel fumes and your chest feels like you inhaled oven cleaner, blame Hollywood.
According to a recent report out of UCLA, 140,000 tons of year of ozone and diesel particulate pollutant emissions from trucks, generators, special effects explosions and fires are being produced by the sames folks who brought you "Gone With the Wind."
Show biz tops hotels, aerospace, apparel and semiconductor manufacturing in traditional air pollutant emissions in Southern California, the study says, and is probably second only to petroleum refineries. Enterntainment ranks third in greenhouse gas emissions.
This is particularly noteworthy in an industry that produces more environmental activists than a Greenpeace convention.
That crashing sound you hear is George Clooney, Ed Begley Jr., Ted Danson, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rob Reiner, et al bouncing off their solar panels.
According to the study, researchers considered the emissions created directly and indirectly by the film and television industry. For example, they factored in both the pollution caused by a diesel generator used to power a movie set, as well as the emissions created by a power plant that provides electricity to a studio lot.
Call me simple minded but that's like saying I'm to blame for using my toaster which is connected by wall plug to a massive emissions-generating power plant that was once constucted by fume-spewing heavy equipment.
But I digress. Researchers also interviewed 43 people who worked in a variety of areas within the industry, and reviewed major trade publications to see the level of attention paid to environmental issues. In doing so, researchers found that some studios have recycling programs and green building practices.
"Nevertheless, our overall impression is that these practices are the exception and not the rule, and that more could be done within the industry to foster environmentally friendly approaches," the study said.
I guess we can be thankful that so many films are being produced in Canada or the skies above Hollywood would resemble turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh.
The enterntainment industry, to nobody's surprise, wasn't quick to embrace the study.
Lisa Day, spokeswoman for Participant Productions which worked on offsetting carbon emissions from the making of "Syriana" and "An Inconvenient Truth," said she was a little surprised by the study's findings, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
"I think the industry as a whole does look at itself," she said. "The studios have done a lot in terms of waste reduction. I think that energy is the new thing the industry is looking at and what impact they have."
The industry might also look at the fact that a good film doesn't need a dozen 20-megaton explosions to hold our attention.
Since Hollywood usually finds itself on the cutting edge of social activism, I suspect this will cause more than a few ripples through the industry.
It will be interesting to see how quickly Hollywood's social activism turns inward.
But since that same industry generates a combined $29 billion in revenue and employs 252,000 in greater Los Angeles, don't look for a lot of new regulations to emerge from the study.
Now, if we can just convince the industry to stop polluting the screens, we may have accomplished something.
All ready this year we have been subjected to such noxious offerings such as "Snakes on a Plane," "Beerfest," "She's the Man" and "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector."
Cough, cough.

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