So I’ve been watching this show on FOX called Prison Break. It’s quite good — not, you know, Deadwood good, or The Wire good, but fast-paced, fun, and surprisingly cerebral. It’s like 24 but not horrible, stilted, and mean-spirited. Oh man, I genuinely hate that show, but don’t worry, I won’t make you listen to a rant about it. Wait, where was I?

Anyhoo. The plot revolves around this guy who gets himself thrown into prison in order to escape with his brother, who’s on death row. His brother is accused of killing the vice president’s brother, but supposedly was set up by the Secret Service.

Who really wanted the VP’s brother dead? Well, apparently the VP’s bro was a big environmentalist and advocate for clean energy. Matter of fact, his company, EcoField, had recently developed a "prototype electric engine." "Sixty dollar barrels of oil would be obsolete if this thing ever made it to the mainstream," says one character. She and a fellow investigator speculate about who might want him out of the way — oil companies, or perhaps the government of an oil-based economy. "Like the United States," says fellow investigator darkly.

Indeeed …

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One often hears calls for environmental themes to appear more often in popular art. But let me tell you, readers, we here at Grist receive a fairly steady stream of poems and songs by earnest greens, and almost without exception, they are painfully bad. (Except for that one you sent in. That was awesome! I cried.) Art that explicitly addresses "issues" is almost always cloying and didactic.

The real key is to get stuff in around the margins, for environmental discussions and issues to become part of the background, not the foreground. That’s why it’s cool to see an uber-mainstream show like Prison Break base its plot on the hostility of oil governments to clean energy. They don’t preach about it, the show doesn’t dwell on it — it’s just an accepted plot device. Progress.

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