June 11, 2014

Coming Together To Combat Climate Change

With the climate crisis worsening every day, people everywhere are stepping up to take action.

Photo taken from NASA's Twitter

Obama just announced a plan to cut carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030. Tired of the lack of action toward the looming problem of climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards for what EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calls a “clean power plant.” Mostly aimed at coal-fired power plants, the proposed regulations seek to diminish the ever-rising carbon dioxide emissions polluting our air.

Additionally, an exciting event called People’s Climate March stands to gain momentum from these new EPA proposals. This event will be taking place in New York City this fall in an effort to bring people together to face the climate change crisis. A modern call to arms, the march serves as an invitation to people everywhere to stand together and demand action from the world’s leaders when they gather for a UN summit on climate change September 20-21st.

Photo taken from People's Climate March Facebook page

Read more about the proposed EPA changes HERE.

Learn more about People’s Climate March HERE.

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.


April 21, 2014

The Arctic Cycle

We’ve got a special “guest blogger” on The Great Immensity today, playwright Chantal  Bilodeau. Read about her epic and fascinating project The Arctic Cycle!

A few years ago, as I became acutely aware of the challenges posed by climate change, I asked myself “What can a playwright do to address this issue?” The most obvious answer was “write a play about it.” But somehow, that answer lacked in scope. How could a single play capture the complexity of this global problem? How could one story illustrate the interconnectedness of all involved? A search for a less obvious, more multifaceted answer eventually yielded “write eight plays about the impact of climate change on the eight countries of the Arctic: U.S., Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.” And so The Arctic Cycle was born.

I started research for SILA, the first play of the Cycle, in 2009 with a commission from Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company. Set on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut, SILA looks at the web of interests bearing down on the Canadian Arctic and local Inuit population. Equal parts Inuit mythology and contemporary Arctic policy, the play uses puppetry, spoken word poetry and three different languages (English, French and Inuktitut). SILA will receive its world premiere at Underground Railway Theatre in Cambridge MA April 24-May 25, 2014.

FORWARD, the second play of the Cycle, was inspired by a 10-day sailing expedition with the Arctic Circle program in 2011. Set in Norway, FORWARD presents a poetic history of climate change and examines how a spirit of innovation propelled Norwegians through three major events of the 20th century: the conquest of the North, the discovery of oil and adaptation to climate change. FORWARD is being developed in collaboration with Hålogaland Teater in Tromsø , Norway.

The remaining six plays will be written over the next decade and chronicle our evolving relationship with climate change. In addition, operating on the principle that complex problems must be addressed through collaborative efforts, each play will engage artists across disciplines as well as geographic and cultural borders; solicit input from earth and social scientists; and actively seek community and educational partners to foster public conversations and provide strategies for action.

– Chantal Bilodeau

March 31, 2014

Climate Change “Stories”

To better educate and engage the public, environmental organizations like Climate Wisconsin, Facing Climate Change, and Aspect have begun recording digital climate change “stories” as told by local residents. The goal for filmmakers is to create a relatable, contextualized narrative around climate change that will encourage dialogue and inspire action.

Though WI is know for its brutal winters, extreme heat is responsible for more deaths in the state than all other weather disasters combined.

In Wisconsin, higher than average temperatures year-round are curtailing ice fishing in Madison, and fly fishing in Viroqua. Across the Atlantic in Cornwall, England, surfing enthusiasts complain that they are now more prone to ear and other infections as heavy rainfall regularly overwhelms waste drainage systems causing toxins and sewage to spill into the sea.

Local industry is also feeling the sting of climate change. In Idaho, declining mountain top snow pack is resulting in a reduced stream of fresh water feeding the Columbia River Basin, which has caused the closure of several potato farms that rely on the river to irrigate their crop.  In Washington State, oyster and clam farming is quickly becoming unviable due to the rising acidity of the ocean off the Pacific Northwest coast.

From the inability to take part in recreational activities to threatening local economies, it is clear that the effects of climate change are becoming palpable. What’s your climate story?

Check out these awesome projects:

Climate Wisconsin: Stories From a State of Change

Facing Climate Change: Stories from the Pacific Northwest

Aspect (UK)



March 11, 2014

Al Roker – Climate Change Educator?

Back in 2009,  TV meteorologist Joe Witte had a great idea. The public looks to TV weathercasters as a source of information concerning weather and climate. Why not use them to education viewers about climate change? After all they are:

1.) Trusted.

2.) Have access to large audiences. (Side note: did you catch Roker’s recent twitter war with Mayor de Blasio over snow days? Meow!)

3.) Are excellent communicators of dense scientific information.

Along with partners, Joe wrote a National Science Foundation grant proposal that was funded the next year.  The grant enabled them to develop a pilot project called Climate Matters, a series of climate education segments that Jim Gandy (chief meteorologist at the station) and his colleagues produced and aired over the next 12 months.

The results? According to an article published recently in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), over the course of one year, viewers of WLTX news developed a better understanding of climate change than viewers of other local TV news stations in the Columbia media market.  Boom.

Check out the whole article HERE.

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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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