As the lights over Paradise Bay dim, eager spectators gasp and cheer in anticipation. Music rings out, and after a few moments of dramatic buildup, powerful fountains spring to life over the water, illuminated by an almost dizzying array of choreographed lights. In an awe-inspiring display of vivid color, radiant music, and majestic water, Disney’s “World of Color” show begins.
I’ve always loved Disney theme parks, but as my environmental consciousness has grown, so has my recognition of the the parks’ environmental impacts. Disneyland and California Adventure consume massive quantities of energy and water, generate enormous amounts of waste, and pollute our atmosphere with huge volumes of carbon dioxide. Seriously, look at the data—it’s terrifying, and those footprints become even larger when you consider the automobile traffic that the parks generate. And that’s without even getting into the fact that Walt Disney famously paved over a 160-acre orange grove to build Disneyland. (Although at least one original tree is still standing.)
Don’t get me wrong—I grew up going to Disneyland with my family, and I love it there. Some of that love stems from nostalgia, but mostly it stems from the thrill of rides like Space Mountain and Grizzly River Run, from the wonder of watching fireworks light up the night sky over Sleeping Beauty Castle, and from the majesty and technological marvel of shows like World of Color. But that pure enjoyment is difficult to reconcile with an understanding of environmental impacts.
Unless, of course, it isn’t. Continue reading