Rock Me Like A Hurricane. Or a Tornado. Or an Impending Ice Age: the carbon cost of the LACMA rock.

Rock and awe: onlookers take in the rock as it sits in the middle of the road on Figueroa St., just north of Florence.

Like a lot of kids (or maybe not), I had a fascination with rocks when I was younger. That said, I was rather nonplussed by the idea of LACMA spending $10 million to put a granite boulder on its lawn. Thinking perhaps I was too cynical, I headed to Figueroa St., where the rock was parked just north of Florence, to see what everyone else thought about it.

The small crowd that had gathered there Friday afternoon seemed more impressed by the spectacle than the rock. A father that had brought his family from Commerce said he’d been tracking the rock like Santa, and talked excitedly about how this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A woman from Inglewood kept shouting, “This is crazy!” as she snapped photos and wanted to know why residents hadn’t thrown a party for the rock like they did in Long Beach. A resident of the area said he didn’t have much choice about coming to see it, being that it was parked in front of his house.

A grandfather from the West Side had brought his grandchildren to see it, feeling that the event was something memorable that they should see together. His 10 year old grandson, however, was more interested in the police car of one of the officers watching over the rock. He wanted to know if the spotlights on the front of the car were the kind that could see through the road and find criminals that were hiding underground.

“He plays a lot of video games,” the grandfather apologized.

“What do you think of the rock?” I asked the kid.

“The truck has 160 wheels!!” he shouted.

Actually, it had 196.

“How much do you think this thing cost?” asked a woman videotaping the rock. “You have to wonder…”

“Mmm hmm,” said another lady. “But I bet it’s really beautiful underneath that shrink wrap.”

I showed her the information card LACMA had given me with a sketch of the boulder.

“Ok, maybe not…But I hear you’ll get to walk under it once they put it up?” she paused. “How much did you say this thing cost?”

In dollar terms, LACMA estimated that the total cost was about $10 million. The tab was picked up by private donors, with the costs of staffing road closures — about $203,400 — picked up by Emmert International.

It also burned a LOT of fuel: according to Zev Yaroslavsky, the rig burned approximately 2,250 gallons of gasoline on its 105-mile journey.

According to the EPA website, the environmental costs of burning 1,575 gallons of gasoline could be the equivalent of any one of the following:

  • Annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3.9 passenger vehicles (or, as I like to think of it, greenhouse gas emissions avoided thanks to 3.9 cyclists)
  • CO2 emissions from 46.5 barrels of oil consumed
  • CO2 emissions from .264 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline
  • CO2 emissions from the electricity use of 2.5 homes for one year
  • CO2 emissions from the energy use of 1.7 homes for one year
  • Carbon sequestered by 513 tree seedlings grown for 10 years
  • Carbon sequestered annually by 4.3 acres of pine or fir forests
  • Carbon sequestered annually by .198 acres of forest preserved from deforestation
  • CO2 emissions from 833 propane cylinders used for home barbeques
  • CO2 emissions from burning .109 railcars’ worth of coal
  • Greenhouse gas emissions avoided by recycling 7 tons of waste instead of sending it to the landfill

And, apparently, at least two palm trees had to be cut down so the rig could turn.

All for a boulder.

“It’s so big,” said a boy looking at the rock. “How did he make it?”

“Well,” I said, “he didn’t really make it…” and tried to explain how the boulder came from a quarry. The boy looked disappointed.

“I hear this is the route they are testing out for when they bring the Space Shuttle through,” someone offered. “Now THAT will be something to see.”


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