I was post-yoga frizzy and damp as I dashed into the press line along the green carpet at the premiere of FUEL, Josh Tickell’s revision of his Sundance-award-winning documentary Fields of Fuel, about the politics of oil and the alternative options most of us know little about. I’m new to the green-carpet glamour scene and was trying to make sense of the protocol as I took my place next to the Huffington Post’s Paige Donner, who was talking to a pretty boy from television she called “the Eco It-Boy of the moment.”
“What does that mean?” I asked him.
It turns out that Darren Moore is more commonly known as the “Eco-MacGyver” on the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green lifestyle-makeover series Alter Eco, hosted by Entourage’s Adrian Grenier. Moore patiently filled me in, then quickly turned the conversation around to the subject of composting and how he is really into it. But when I asked him what he grows in his garden, he told me he doesn’t have a garden. When I asked what he does with his composting, he stammered and backpedaled, and we shared an awkward hiccup. I don’t want to slam the Eco-MacGyver, because it’s all a process and we’re all doing the best we can as we learn how to tread more gently on the planet (plus Donner insisted that Moore is the real deal — doing good things and walking his talk while looking really handsome). So what if Moore doesn’t make use of his banana peels and his kale stems? He does eco-remodeling and smiles really, really well. And couldn’t we use more of both those things right now?
Soon after, Peter Fonda came strolling down the aisle — ahem, carpet — with a stainless-steel water bottle in one hand, and an überbabe in the other. Actually, cups, bottles and mugs were the green-carpet prop of choice, self-conscious and awkward, while symbolic of a real change we need to implement: Yes, we should all bring our own beverage vessels with us wherever we go; and yes, we must absolutely get off our plastic and our paper and our Styrofoam and our fucking laziness; and yes, it’s a green-carpet stunt, and it’s lame and it’s staged and it’s ridiculous … and yet that doesn’t make the message any less important. Still, the commodification of the green movement and the artifice of the delivery threaten to detract from the relevance of the message, if only because it’s oh-so-easy to slam something and so very, very hard to take personal responsibility not just for the environment but for every area of our lives.
Fonda was slick and on, and touted his million-dollar hydrogen-fuel-cell ride over cars that run on ethanol, which takes infinitely more energy to produce than it provides. He introduced his stunner of a date to the press line as his girlfriend, and when she corrected him and said, “wife,” he corrected her and said, “girlfriend.” My heart broke for her in that moment of rejection and dejection and confusion as she kept her supermodel smile in place and clung to the hand of her aging but still-sexy movie-star husband/boyfriend, who seemed to have her back just a tiny bit less than the hydrogen car he rode in on.
Anna Getty, of those infamous Gettys, and the yoga books and prenatal empowerment, revealed an ambivalent mix of anxiety and hope when I tossed her an off-topic question about how we might remain in an expanded state with the fear machine raging and the seeming collapse of the threadbare structures that shape our consumptive culture. She cited people’s egos as our main stumbling block as we face the very real challenges of a failing economy and a wheezing planet. At the same time, she acknowledged the “genius” of Jacques Fresco’s resource-based economic solution, the Venus Project; and this moment in Mayan calendar cycles, the Fifth Night of the Galactic Underworld — the same moment in the cycles of Maya time measurement when Rome fell and other large-scale epic atrocities happened. So while she fears for the coming days, she acknowledged the power of the light: “I think there’s a crack now, and once the light comes in, a room’s not dark anymore,” she said, thoughtful and radiant and real. “Hopefully, the crack will keep on opening up.”
Meanwhile Donner, not for the first time, dodged my elbow in her boob (“… If it keeps happening,” she said, “I’m going to have a problem with it”), and grilled Mariel Hemingway on her own in-home sustainable practices. I grabbed Hemingway’s pal, eco-entrepreneur Paul Hawken, of all those books and his own Smith & Hawken stores. When I asked him about this moment in human history, a massive smile overtook his face and he gushed giddy and enthusiastic about these last days of selfishness, separateness, individuation and ignorance. He said great changes should come out of the difficulties we’re now facing. “We never change when we’re happy,” he said, “when we’re thinking we’re the cat’s pajamas.”
It was then that I realized that the glamour and the artifice of the green carpet, combined with the earnestness, inconsistencies, fear, glee, slips, trips and longing to be better than we are all mirror this moment in human history. We’re in our own awkward adolescence, self-conscious as we grow, charming at times, gangly and spastic the next, yet still beautiful — always — in our authenticity, in our redemption, and in the reality of this shared human experience, mistakes, lessons, triumphs and all.
Here’s to the end of the Fifth Night; it’s shaping up to be a doozy.