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 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,, and the Hip Hop Caucus and has been billed as the largest climate rally in American history. Founder of 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!

November 28, 2012

Feeling the Heat of Climate Change Now More Than Ever

So this summer was a little hot. You get used to feeling like the sun is constantly melting your face off, right? Well, not exactly. It’s hard to think of climate change as having an extreme detrimental effect to our future when we hear about people trying to keep the planet from warming more than a mere 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2020, but the fact of the matter is that we are closing in on the end of a critical period to prevent it from becoming catastrophic. And if we don’t do something to combat it’s progress soon, in a matter of decades climate change is going to come back and smack us in our already fried up faces for not having done more when we had the chance.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change didn’t waste any time on Monday when the convention opened. They began with a discussion of greenhouse gas emissions and how most countries aren’t pulling their weight in terms of working to minimize them. The world’s band of dirty little mistresses, or fossil fuels as some like to call them, are just so hard to say no to! However, according to their report unless this issue is addressed soon we will be putting the planet on a fast-track to devastating climate change. Click HERE to see some of the discussions live and to find links to some of the past discussions on Youtube! Also, the Kyoto Protocol – which usually forces countries to put in at least a little effort to combat rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions – expires this year. So it’s no wonder that climate change proponents are begging everyone at the convention to understand the urgency and criticalness of this situation.

Just a few weeks before the convention opened The European Environment Agency released a report stating that the effects of climate change are already becoming evident in Europe and are only likely to get worse if action is not taken to diminish them. In conjunction with the UN Environment Program, they have found that the “emissions gap”- the difference between current levels of carbon emissions and the levels of carbon emissions needed to avert climate change- is becoming greater rather than lessening. The European Environment Agency also reported that climate change has already impacted environmental systems and society, and further impacts are predicted for the future. We’re effectively delivering our climate a one-two punch. Between carbon and greenhouse gas emissions we’re setting our climate up for a knock-out blow. Unfortunately for us though, that knock out will take us down with it.

The Midwestern United States can attest to the fact that they’re already feeling the burn of climate change, too. In Iowa, 138 scientists and researchers from 27 Iowa colleges and universities signed a report called the Iowa Climate Statement linking global warming to past and recent extreme weather patterns that have caused severe damage not only in Iowa, but in surrounding states as well. Iowa alone experienced $10 billion in damages from major flooding that occurred in 2008, and it is common knowledge that this summer’s drought didn’t exactly extend a helping hand to help counter the previous damage.

But the UN can’t effect fighting climate change on its own, and others are on board to help spread the word. Just check out this article from the Huffington Post that features a video of Naomi Klein (her video segment on Democracy Now! is below), award winning author of “The Shock Doctrine”, discussing how Hurricane Sandy has the potential to be an impetus to keep fighting against climate change. And she’s not alone. A coalition of the world’s largest investors is currently pushing the government to act too! (Yep, you read that right- “A coalition of the world’s largest investors”. Who’d a thunk it?) They say that the government may face losing trillions of dollars in investments and disruptions to the economy if we can’t make more of an effort to combat climate change. Hopefully, countries, including the U.S., will leave the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change with some fresh ideas and the motivation to put them into action. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s going to take a global effort to combat climate change and we need to get that effort into gear as soon as possible.

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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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