Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Preview of Live Sound Column

Another Green World
Written by John Mayberry
Live Sound International

Who can argue with the current trend of smaller carbon footprints, green packaging, and energy efficiency?


What a colossal waste of time, effort, and money. “Going Green” is the last thing we should be doing right now.

Something bizarre is going on we’re culturally loathing to admit- a trend driven by guilt, despair, depression, and paranoia. It’s a lemming like rush to the acceptance of mediocrity.

Mediocrity as a virtue?

It’s almost as if the Borg were attacking and we’ve decided to capitulate rather than fight. I don’t believe for a moment that resistance is futile against this mistakenly woeful Green Revolution.

Yet right now we’re stuck in the middle of a conundrum; an unhappy intersection of marketing prowess, Me Generation greed, economic leverage from oversea competitors, and an unhelpful dose of our own stupidity. We must compete our way out of it, not dig our holes even deeper.

I saw my first green audio product the other day. Yeech. Instead of touting its technical merits the press release rambled on about how the packaging was 43% smaller and could more easily recycled. A boring little spit of a product was in the box, but who cares if its carbon footprint is smaller? Are we now playing to the crowd or to the customer?

And why in the world should Americans cut down on packaging? Exporting trash is America’s single largest export! It’s bigger than corn or coal right now- look it up.

In the old days it was the biggest house, fastest car, loudest sound system, or the most sparkling jewel. These days it’s degenerated into something far more sinister. Remember the two buses on the Sex Pistols disc going to Nowhere and Boredom? That’s where the Green crowd wants to take us- and on mass transportation no less.

With apologies to the Renaissance Faire crowd, your world is boring and is not the solution to this malaise. As fascinating as it is to see unshaven Luddites prance about in the dirt with pointed shoes whilst strumming a lyre, let’s just say it’s a fork in the road I’m glad you went down and not me. Yet you have the microphone right now, as they say. And I mean to take it away from you.

The First Lord of Green Boredom in my book is Al Gore, a man who practices something entirely different than what he preaches. His message of apocalyptic environmentalism may have delivered him a Nobel Prize, but if I may I’d like to whisper an opposing message into your ear as well, “Our industry does not sell boring very well. Never has, and never will. We sell excitement, movement, and energy. We sell new and different- spectacular events if it all comes together properly. I doubt the Rolled Stones would have quite the attraction of the Rolling Stones, for instance….”

Do Toyota hybrids sell well in Abu Dhabi? Hell no. Ferraris do. I suppose that’s why they’re building Ferrariland there instead of here. Can you imagine the conniption fits our Greenies would convulse in had they even proposed putting a Ferrariland in Southern California? The best we can hope for a Prius based ride in Legoland.

The Toyota Prius is sold in over 40 countries, yet over sixty percent of their sales have been in the U.S. Ever wonder why? Is it high fuel costs here compared to Europe? Stylish design? High performance (30 HP less than Toyota’s own Yaris)? Low maintenance or insurance costs?

No, it’s because we’re supposed to feel better driving a boring car that’s acceptable to the Green crowd, even if we’re not quite sure where those 600,000 nickel metal hydride batteries are going to get dumped. Perhaps they should try Yucca Mountain- it’s not be used for anything right now anyway. Suffice to say the same crowd that predicts Armageddon from cow flatulence yet gives the battery disposal issues a complete pass.

They even gave the first 85,000 hybrid owners access to the car pool lane in California without any passengers. How that helped unclog the freeways I’m not quite sure. It seems the OPEC boys found a much more efficient technique in my opinion.

The only way out of this mess is with bigger and better technology, not going backwards and accepting lower performance as we pine for the good old days. Our best and brightest engineers should be racing ahead to build the latest and greatest, not wasting their time bragging about the various merits of cardboard packaging and telling us to make do with less performance. They should be building nuclear and fusion reactors, high capacity energy storage, more efficient transportation, and better communication systems.

We got it. Digital consoles, integrated wild tracks, DSP processing, switched power supplies, and line arrays have been very good to this industry. So what’s next, and when do we get it? I want our manufacturers to rigorously go through the entire system concept from start to finish and make the whole thing much better! That is what we need to prosper in the long term. The dreamers, technologists, engineers, and builders that will shape our new reality must be given their chance.

Try an experiment for me. Go up to your head salesperson and tell them you want them to only sell systems that don’t perform well but they are made from eco-friendly low carbon footprint materials. The audience won’t hear anything, but who really cares anyway? I have a pretty good idea where your salesperson’s footprint will be planted on you after that request. It does sound kind of stupid when it hits home, doesn’t it? It’s not different for any other industry.

Going Green may be a very quick way to make your accounting go red and your future black. Paraphrasing Churchill, this may not be the beginning of the end of the Green Revolution. But perhaps it is the end of the beginning. I hope we’re at a point where the platitudes and positioning end and meaningful innovation begins.

Thank goodness for that. Now flip this chlorinated and Kraft pulped (a fascinating industrial process dependent on gas turbine engines, by the way) page on to the next article.