Let's set musical genius completely aside for now. Let's talk about personal awareness and responsibility. The members of Radiohead have long been concerned about the direct impact that their actions have upon the planet. But unlike some grandiose rock stars who moan on about how we must save the world and then jet home in their private planes, Radiohead are actually walking the talk.
The recent mailout of their new In Rainbows discbox, for example, was done by road and sea whenever possible (although that may have resulted in some delayed deliveries, if you believe the recent keyword searches that have been showing on my stat counter the last few days). Radiohead are well known for being very concerned about the ecological impact that touring, specifically overseas touring, has upon the environment.
Take a glance at what Colin Greenwood posted on Dead Air Space yesterday. The members of Radiohead take so seriously the impact that touring has upon the environment that they commissioned Best Foot Forward to do a comparative analysis of the resultant carbon footprints of their two recent tours of North America. Not only does the report take into account the actions of the band and its crew, but also the expected activity of the fans.
Not to worry, Radiohead fans, this does not in fact mean that we North Americans will only be seeing a Radiohead concert via hologram in the future (although that's certainly better than what I have managed to achieve thus far). Instead, it looks as though the 2008 tour will focus upon theatre-type venues in city centres, as opposed to amphitheatre-type festival venues. Naturally, I am hoping that this will translate into more concerts in smaller cities to lessen the carbon impact per individual.
The band is hopeful that focussing concerts in city centres will encourage the use of public transport, and that factors like lack of downtown parking will help to encourage increased car-pooling capacity of concert-goers. The Best Foot Forward report, which is really quite a fascinating read, looks at many aspects of fan behaviour and the impact on the environment. For example, one suggestion is that free water is available at venues, with fans being encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles.
While the report shows that international travel increases carbon impact by 34-40%, the option of shipping band equipment via sea rather than air will significantly reduce the carbon impact, as will the use of commercial as opposed to charter flights within North America. Better still would be travel by rail. Colin states that the band intends to take these findings into consideration when planning the 2008 North American tour, in order to use the most efficient mode of transportation in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, as well as using the most ecologically sound venue possible.
Personally, I find this degree of responsibility most heartening. It's one thing to give lip service to environmental concerns, it's quite another to take action and personal responsibility. If I didn't already love Radiohead with all my soul, I would fall in love with them right now. They make me strive to be a better earthling.