Into the blue

Lick the paint!?

Lick the paint!?

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

They are startling, they are meant to startle: the blue trees on 13th Street, lined up near the Sacramento Community Center Theater.

It’s the kind of color you wouldn’t wish on your niece’s hair, which is why so many nieces favor it: That electric shade of blue that because it is so unnatural, leaves you uncomfortable, unsettled. Somehow, the Clash line about “electric shockers” comes to mind, but Ruthie can’t say exactly why.

Auntie Ruth was wandering around the project in its early stages, and a paint-stained Konstantin Dimopoulos was happy to chat a bit. He’s the Australian artist, whisked out our way for a project that will endure until the hard rains come. The project, part art-in-public-places and part eco-activism, came courtesy of a what-if article in Sactown Magazine and some $25K in public and private fundraising. That’s a bargain—presenting an event featuring one night with a good dance company can easily cost that much. Conversationally, his eco-rap was good—very pro-tree, pro-environmental, attention must be paid to Ma Earth and her mighty trees—and he tried to tie in his work in Sacramento with a “nearby” old-growth forest (Auntie thinks he was referring to Humboldt County, meaning Mr. Dimopoulos’ grasp of Northern California is as spot-on as Auntie’s grasp of Devils Marbles, Australia—no harm done), and when asked about what would happen to the blue paint after it washed off, he noted it was environmentally harmless and licked the paint right off his hand. And then grinned, toothily.

We environmentalists lack the startle factor more often than not. Not that your average day perusing the news isn’t startling enough, but the startle factor sometimes crouches beneath the science, the complexity, the nerdy truths of it all. That and the peculiarly American inability for taking the long view makes us slow to alarm. Show us a polar bear drowning for lack of a nearby iceberg, and we get it.

Or show us a blue tree.

And when Mitt Romney says he’s going to aggressively develop coal, or that half the renewable-energy businesses that received stimulus money went bust, or that “I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies,” somebody has got to paint it blue.

A bright, startling blue.