WITH THE WORLD YET AGAIN MIRED IN INESCAPABLE MISERY, CATASTROPHE AND DESPAIR*, along comes the electro-opiate spread of sheer sporting escapism known as the FIFA World Cup to ease and distract our troubled minds. And better yet, they’ve gone green to offset all that travel—South Africa’s a significant haul for most participants and their fans, after all—and mass consumption that comes part and parcel of such a month-long, multi-city, multi-venue spectacle.

The World Cup’s “Green Goal” program began at the 2006 games in Germany with carbon-footprint-reducing offsets front and center, and has expanded with this year’s event, with commitments to doing more and doing it better, and showing last year’s lackluster climate talks in Copenhagen a thing or two when it comes to taking a united global stand against climate change. Time to make some noise with your vuvuzela—or considering its hornetlike buzz, perhaps not.

The Green Goal program includes offsetting teams’ emissions, more energy-efficient lighting and “green passports,” which I’ll explain in a moment. Over half the 32 teams participating are offsetting the carbon they generate from travel and hotel stays, Reuters reports. PUMA alone is paying for offsets of 18 teams, which wear the athletic company’s uniforms and gear. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), meanwhile, is behind the smarter lighting initiative, providing energy-efficient lighting in the stadiums and solar street lighting of six host cities.

The green passport is a 32-page booklet encouraging tourism that respects the environment and helps boost the economic and social development of local communities, as well as discussing green goals, plans and accomplishments. The handy guide also includes a carbon footprint calculator and information about green accommodations, restaurants and activities.

But wait, there’s more. Nine teams, thanks to Nike, are wearing jerseys made from recycled plastic bottles. There’s also a new high-speed train, the Gautrain, now online in Johannesburg, providing fast and reliable mass transit—it opened just 3 days before matchplay began at the World Cup.

Okay, so we’re talking sport here, 90+ minutes per match of diversion that often encompasses a nationalistic bent, a rather simple game that’s played the world over (yes, in the good ol’ US of A, too, and on a professional level), but there are some very positive lessons to be learned concerning the efficacious greening of the World Cup, just as there are from the game’s healthy competition, camaraderie and level playing field—just watch a game, if you haven’t yet, and pick up on its effervescent spirit, shared passion, commitment and excellence, the striving for greatness that involves teamwork as much as individual ability, focus and performance. We’re all in this together! seems to be a rallying cry.

And with the games held for the first time in South Africa, and on the African continent, which has certainly had more than its fair share of misery, catastrophe and despair, it’s encouraging to see how smoothly this world-engaging spectacle has unfolded as it nears the end of its glorious first week. We may not have witnessed a simpatico vibe at the Bonn climate talks that ended as the World Cup commenced, but perhaps by the next major climate summit in Mexico at the end of the year there may be some inspired shouting of “GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!”

Allen

*I know, when truly isn’t it to one degree or another?

SakamotoWHILE FAR FROM A HOUSEHOLD NAME ON OUR SHORES (and I should add—being an admirer, with chagrin—despite an Oscar, Grammy and two Golden Globe awards), Japanese composer-performer Ryuichi Sakamoto holds a globally prominent position when it comes to the mutually beneficial collision of art and ecology, having recently been honored with a UN Environment Programme Eco Award in 2009.

Sakamoto’s been involved with green pursuits since at least 1994, when he first moved away from plastic-jewel-case CD packaging to biodegradable paper sleeves. And he’s traversed some mighty terrain since then—as he puts it, “turning ego into eco”—which includes his latest release, Out of Noise, featuring two haunting tracks (“Ice” and “Glacier”) inspired by a Cape Farewell Project trip to Greenland viewing imperiled arctic glaciers.

Sakamoto—whose music encompasses classical, experimental, film scores, ambient, pop, jazz and electronica—is at the forefront of a larger movement that’s afoot. The vibrant relationship between the worlds of music and that of environmental concern has unquestionably gained momentum of late, and has seen genuine far-reaching and -ranging adoption (and not mere feel-good, get-on-the-bandwagon lip service to sell more tickets and product) by artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Radiohead, Melissa Etheridge, the Roots, Pearl Jam, Moby, Bonnie Raitt, the Dave Matthews Band and Green Day. Good for the Earth? Absolutely! Good for your ears? Ditto that, and perhaps coming this summer, in a carbon-neutral manner, to a concert venue near you. Read More »