May 21, 2014

The Tide is Turning

Steve Cosson, Artistic Director of The Civilians, was recently featured in the New York Times’ Room for Debate. The topic focused on why Americans are less concerned about climate change than people in the rest of the developed world, and Steve was asked to weigh in. Check out what he had to say below, or view the original article HERE.

Americans care more and more about climate change as its effects become immediate to them.

While researching a play, I visited Churchill, Canada, the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” on the edge of the Hudson Bay. Because climate change is accelerated the farther north you go, I didn’t meet a single person there who wasn’t aware of climate change as a present crisis. Many residents told me they were going stir crazy because they couldn’t spend much time outside until the Bay froze and the bears, who become town residents during the warmer weather, went away.

Climate change is real in Churchill, and it is happening now. The play that it inspired held workshop performances before Hurricane Sandy hit New York. The difference in audience reactions before and after the storm was palpable. Pre-Sandy the tone was “This is an important problem for the future, and in other parts of the world, but not one that is affecting New Yorkers.” That changed after the fall of 2012. Since then, audiences have embraced climate change as a pressing issue affecting people worldwide. Now more people stay during question and answer sessions after the show to discuss the situation and ask what they can do.

Many Americans are overwhelmed by the sheer scale and complexity of the problem. And the way many of us deal with this is by shutting down, becoming numb. This is why it’s important for us to discuss the issue publicly, whether through theater or forms or by joining activist groups. At a recent post-show question and answer session, Elke Weber, a conservation psychologist, advised people that the two most important things they could do were to stop eating meat and to vote. She also used a great metaphor: “There is no single silver bullet; the solutions are more like silver buckshot.” The actions we can take as individuals matter. The action we can take collectively matters even more.

 


March 3, 2014

Martha is Making a Comeback! (Maybe)

How does a bird that once numbered in the billions disappear over the course of a few decades? The birds were shot and trapped. Beds and pillows were stuffed with their feathers. Their fat was used in shortening and soap. When huge flocks of the pigeons passed overhead, people would open fire on the poor creatures from their rooftops.

NORTH WIND PICTURE ARCHIVES/VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS - A woodcut from the 1870s shows passenger pigeons being shot in Louisiana.

On Sept. 1, 1914, Martha (named for George Washington’s wife), the last captive passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. She outlasted George, the penultimate survivor of her species and her only companion, by four years. Don’t the women always outlast the men…

“Martha,” the last known passenger pigeon. Photo by Carl Hansen, Smithsonian Institution, 1985

Plans are in the works to possibly bring the bird back by way of “de-extinction.” Ok, de-extinction…here’s our layman breakdown:

So the DNA of a passenger pigeon and the fragments of an existing band-tailed pigeon meet at a bar. They get together. Insert what results into a band-tailed pigeon stem cell. It becomes a germ cell. Inject these germs cells into developing band-tailed pigeons, and voila! They start mating with each other, and eventually their offspring become more and more passenger pigeon-esque.

Want a more scientific explanation of the process? Check out this article from The Washington Post.

Oh, and check out this awesome song about Martha from the upcoming production of The Great Immensity!

 


February 19, 2014

Americans Want Policy Change

The Center for Climate Change Communication At George Mason University recently released the third report from their latest national Survey, Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies

I was heartened (ecstatic, elated!) to learn that the majority of Americans support national global action on global warming. Here are some of my favorite findings:

  • Most Americans (83%) say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
  • A majority of Americans (71%) say global warming should be a “very high, “”high,”, or “medium” priority for the president and Congress.

The support of several climate and energy policies even crosses party lines!

  • Providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans support this)
  • Funding more research into renewable energy sources (84% and 60% respectively)
  • Regulating CO2 as a pollutant (85% and 55%)
  • Eliminating all subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry (67% and 52%)

Not enough environmental statistics? Need more? Check out the original music video for the song “Margin of Error” from THE GREAT IMMENSITY over here. It’s currently on never-ending-repeat on my iPod.

What do you think? Which climate and energy policies do you think are most important?


February 10, 2014

Welcome to The Great Immensity Blogosphere!

We are thrilled to relaunch The Great Immensity website in anticipation of the show’s upcoming production at The Public from April 11 to May 1.

The global issue of climate change is a topic at the forefront of the scientific community. From top environmental scientists to organizations like the Nobel prize-winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), our greatest minds have collected and analyzed decades worth of research to better understand the situation and to affect important policy change. Now artists and activists from all mediums are recognizing the call to arms, and asking: what role can the arts play in responding to the crisis? 

Molly Carden in The Great Immensity at Kansas City Rep; Photo by: Don Ipock

The Play

In a thrilling and timely production, THE GREAT IMMENSITY is a continent-hopping thriller following a woman, Phyllis, as she pursues someone close to her who disappeared from a tropical island while on an assignment for a nature show. Through her search, Phyllis uncovers a mysterious plot surrounding the upcoming international climate summit in Auckland. As the days count down to the Auckland Summit, Phyllis must decipher the plan and possibly stop it in time. With arresting projected film and video and a wide-ranging score of songs, THE GREAT IMMENSITY is a highly theatrical look into one of the most vital questions of our time: how can we change ourselves and our society in time to solve the enormous environmental challenges that confront us?

Artistic Director Steve Cosson on a research trip in Barro Colorado Island

Artistic Director Steve Cosson on a research trip in Barro Colorado Island

The Website

From original haiku to underwater sculptures, every week characters from the play will blog about projects that focus on the intersection of arts + science + activism and our always-evolving relationship to the world around us.

Meghan McGeary in The Great Immensity at Kansas City Rep; Photo By: Don Ipock

A Quick 101

We hope that you’ll explore the site, watch our original videos, and participate in conversations by commenting.

You can search recent and pasts posts by:

1. TOPIC – click on any of the “tagsin the left-hand column to search by a specific topic, such as “sustainability,” “mountains,” or “temperature.”

2. BLOGGER – find all posts by a particular character by clicking on their picture in the left-hand column. For example: if you want to read all of Karl’s posts, click on his picture, and then in the box that appears click on “Karl’s posts.”

Also be sure to check out our awesome Environmental Lists in the right-hand column to learn about specific ways to take action now!


March 7, 2013

Crowds Demand “Forward” on U.S. National Mall

An estimated 35,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on February 17th in freezing weather to rally against the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project designed to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, passing through Cushing, OK on the way. The rally pulsed with thousands of citizens waving flyers bearing the words, “Forward on Climate” and “Clean Energy.” This decision will be the first major climate change decision Obama will make this term.  In the pipeline’s defense, TransCanada, the company hoping to construct it, has said that a more sustainable energy source is needed, but that transition would take decades. An email excerpt from a company spokesperson on the day of the rally reads as follows: “The oil sands and their greenhouse gas emissions’ impact have been overstated. As the respected Nature Science Journal stated the other week, Keystone XL will not determine whether or not the oil sands will be developed. Nor is oil from the oil sands as ‘dirty’ as many believe.”

The protest was organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org, and the Hip Hop Caucus and has been billed as the largest climate rally in American history. Founder of 350.org Bill McKibben addressed the crowds at one point, saying, “All I ever wanted to see was a movement of people to stop climate change and now I’ve seen it. I cannot promise you we’re going to win, but I’ve waited a quarter century to find out if we were gonna fight. And today, at the biggest climate rally by far, by far, by far, in U.S. history — today, I know we’re going to fight.”

No matter what side of the issue you fall on, it’s thrilling to see so many people uniting to talk about the impacts of human decisions on the environment. It’s a visceral demonstration that people are really starting to care about the decisions their political representatives are making regarding issues of global climate change. I’d love to see something like this on an international level next, calling for clean energy across the board. I also just really love the slogan “forward.” It implies an almost never-ending campaign for addressing the climate, a movement larger than protesting this single construction and dedicated to constantly reevaluating and progressing. The decision is expected to be reached in March. I’m interested to see which side Obama will land on and how this blossoming movement will respond.

 

For more info, click HERE!


  • Featured Video

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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
     
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