And the Glyndebourne band played on
Howls of outrage from the classical establishment greet the disruption of a Glyndebourne performance by Just Stop Oil. Leading the outrage is a prominent critic who tweets "Anti-oil kids disrupting an opera house that is entirely powered by renewable energy". So now let's look at the facts. If that particular critic had travelled, as they normally do, by car to review the opera from their home in the Midlands, the return journey of 380 miles would have generated 76 kilos of co2. Glyndebourne Opera House seats 1200. Let's make the assumption that 1000 of those opera goers came by petrol-powered car, with two in each car. And let's assume that the average car journey was from London.
This means each Glyndebourne performance results in a staggering 75000 car miles. So a single Glyndebourne performance pumps more than 15000 kilos of co2 into the environment, before taking into account the jet travel bringing the singers and conductors to the venue, and the lorries carting scenery about and orchestra instruments from London. Now multiply that 15000 kilos of co2 by the 102 summer performances at Glyndebourne, then by the number of other country house opera performance around the country, and it seems the anti-oil kids have a point.
Glyndebourne is very good at strutting its environmentally friendly credentials and waving its wind turbine at the gullible media. But these credentials do not extend to some of the corporate sponsors credited in the list below taken from Glyndebourne's 2021 Annual Report.
Anglo American PLC at the head of the list is a multi-national mining conglomerate which was the target of a lawsuit by Zambian authorities alleging environmental damage from lead poisoning. Another corporate sponsor is Nynas UK, a producer of transformer oils, base oils, tyre oils, rubber oils, process oils and bitumen. While Unilever PLC is a major user of palm oil, a key driver of tropical deforestation, and Tata Steel faced a €100,000 fine for ‘black snow’ and other pollution in the Netherlands.
The Just Stop Oil protesters were described by the Daily Mail as "eco-clowns" in a report juiced up by a quote from critic Jessica Duchen. Of course, as can be seen above, the Daily Wail is a Glyndebourne corporate sponsor. And moving away from the environment but staying in murky media waters, corporate sponsor US-based law firm Jones Day was described by the Columbia Journalism Review as "notorious for aggressive anti-union tactics that journalists and union leaders say have helped downgrade media union contracts and carve employee benefits to the bone". It should also be noted in this age of corporate transparency that three sponsors remain anonymous, leaving room for speculation on the reason for that confidentiality.
A few years back I held the same view as the outraged classical establishment, and yes, many years ago I travelled to Glyndebourne by car. But as one of the more thoughtful response explained, I now understand what’s coming, I now know of the panic of scientists that is not being reported. We are heading for environmental carnage and year after year nothing is changing, while the number of country house opera performances increases each year. What should the young people who actually understand the potential disaster facing their generation do?
My view on climate change is now very different, and the concern expressed so vociferously by protesters has helped me to think differently. I am not comfortable with some of the tactics of Just Stop Oil. But I am infinitely less comfortable with the climate disaster that my grandchildren will inherit unless solving environmental problems is given far more priority. The shallow knee-jerk condemnation of the Glyndebourne protest simply proves, once again, that the classical music establishment has its head buried in the increasingly parched and infertile sand.