Green tour marries sustainable energy, entertainment

Geneseo hosted The Solutions Grassroots Tour: “A Solar Home Companion” in Newton 202 on Sunday March 1. The pro-sustainability roadshow featured several important voices of the clean energy movement, including award-winning documentary filmmaker Josh Fox as well as 2014 New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout.

Utilizing a variety show format, the tour highlighted the myriad connections between sustainable living and artistic expression. Fox is perhaps best-known for producing the Academy Award-nominated 2010 anti-fracking documentary film Gasland. “You can’t say no to fracking unless you’re saying yes to something else,” Fox. That “something else” might be solar energy, wind energy, geothermal heating or some combination of these and more.

After playing his signature banjo and speaking further on the relationship between art and activism, Fox showed a five-minute clip of his forthcoming documentary on climate change, which is slated to air on HBO in 2016. This preview served as a reminder of the pressing importance of clean energy—not just because of the impending fuel shortage, but because of climate concerns as well.

Taking cues from the old radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” the show featured numerous other speakers as well as folk music from the ecologically-minded singer Dustin Hamman. Hamman—the front man of the band Run On Sentence—played several songs on guitar, with Fox occasionally backing him up on banjo.

Notably, many of Hamman’s original lyrics emphasized the beauty and simplicity of nature, and he sang them in a distinctive folk voice. The musician is also the proud owner of a “mouth trumpet”—meaning he can manipulate his voice to sound remarkably like a brass instrument.

Teachout made a brief speech which was part political rallying cry, part motivational talk. She thanked the audience members, many of whom had been key protesters for years leading up to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s landmark decision to ban fracking in New York State. But Teachout also reminded the audience that the fight for clean energy is just the beginning.

Director of Sustainability Dan DeZarn organized the event with help from the Little Lakes Sustainability Network. Leaders from several other local organizations including Frack Free Genesee and Geneseo Environmental Organization were also present. Between fast-paced guitar and banjo verses—performed by Hamman and Fox, respectively—these leaders described their organizations as well as ways to get involved.

At the end of the presentation, community and student leaders alike volunteered to form a sustainability committee in association with Solutions Grassroots.

Although art is often seen as “extra,” this does not mean it has to be wasteful. As demonstrated by Fox and the others involved with his grassroots tour, the intersection of art and sustainability can represent a unique vantage point—one from which it is possible to better and more creatively plan for a sustainable future.