On In A Future Age, I normally concentrate on principles of sustainability, as they intersect our society through business, politics, and development. However, I am also a big music fan, and a remarkable new record captures perfectly the malaise that we find ourselves in as a society. If you don’t know of the Montreal band Arcade Fire, it is time you were introduced.
Yesterday Arcade Fire released their third LP, The Suburbs, which takes as its subject matter the sprawl of the last four decades, and all that has been lost in the process. The album is a traditional one that works as a thematic whole, and it really taps into the anxiety of the place that we find ourselves.
On “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, Regine Chassagne sings “Living in the sprawl/the dead shopping malls/rise like mountains beyond mountains/and there’s no end in sight/I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights!”
The Suburbs focuses on our lifestyles, and expectation that everything will be delivered immediately. On “We Used to Wait,” Win Butler sings about how we used to write letters and pore our heart into them: “Now our lives are changing fast/Hope that something pure can last/It may seem strange now that we used to wait for letters to arrive/but what’s stranger still is something so small can keep you alive.”
Butler sings about how the sprawl became the seed of our own financial ruin, on “Half Light II (No Celebration)”: “When we watched the markets crash, the promises we made were torn/Then my parents sent for me, from out west where I was born.”
Arcade Fire have become that rare band that holds both critical and mass appeal, after their successful first release, Funeral. Since then, they’ve gained some prominent fans including David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and Terry Gilliam. In fact Gilliam, director of the cult movie Brazil, will direct a live webcast of Arcade Fire’s show Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, available on YouTube and Vevo. I saw Arcade Fire at the Gorge in 2004, and they are a truly remarkable band live. Their energy is grand, and they use a lot of string and traditional instruments to build an epic sound to match.
UPDATE: The live show is now being streamed here.
This morning, when I got home from the YMCA, I began a daily ritual, putting my Cuisinart automatic grind and brew coffeemaker together. I take beans, roasted locally and sustainably by New Harvest Coffee Roasters, and place the amount that I want to make in the coffeemaker. My Cuisinart grinds and brews the exact amount of coffee that I want, from 1-10 cups. To me, the coffeemaker is efficient, well designed, and elegant; it does exactly what I need it do to.
Last weekend, my mother visited from California, and she was very excited to tell me about her new coffee pods. Apparently, she could make her coffee one cup at a time, no fuss. Because I have a generous coffee habit, I assured her that those individual serve cups weren’t necessary for me – I was just fine with my Cuisinart. However, the conversation got me thinking… just how popular are these things? Apparently, according to the New York Times, very much so.
In fact, Green Mountain Coffee, whose motto is “Brewing a Better World,” received 80% of
their $803 Million in sales through nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable, single-use coffee pods and their brewing systems. In 2010, they plan to sell almost 3 Billion K-Cups, bound for waste facilities around the country.
According to Lawrence Blanford, CEO of Green Mountain Coffee, the K-Cups reduce wasted coffee, and increase demand for Fair Trade and organic coffee. However, Darby Hoover of the National Resource Defense Council has the quote of the day:
“The whole concept of the product is a little bit counter to environmental progress. If you are trying to create something that is single use, disposable, and relies on a one-way packaging that can’t be recycled, there are inherent problems with that… At some point you have to ask, ‘But do we need this product enough that we need to be trying to find all these different solutions for the components of it, or can we just go back to the old way that we used to make coffee, and was that good enough?’ ”