This was a play that was running for only a few days in NYC. It was controversial because it was government-funded and thought of as a waste of money by those who don’t believe in the science of a warming planet. Basically everyone who believes in climate change is racking their brains on how on earth (forgive the pun) it is not possible to realize that we all live in a much hotter planet and there is proof and impacts of this everywhere.
Once the disbelief was accepted, the next strategy was to try to convince the non-believers to a. that it exists and that b. it requires immediate changes from all of us, otherwise like the wise man George Carlin quoted, “The planet isn’t going anywhere. We are! … The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.” All that would be left of us, he said, was maybe some Styrofoam.”
Thus, The Great Immensity play was made in an attempt to wake people up and shake them into action. The problem remains that no matter how cool or casual the talks may be made to not shock or put off the audience, the action required from all of us remains very urgent-so there is this sort of imbalance between the manner of delivering the message and acting on it. In my opinion you can’t make fun of a serious topic and then expect people to take it seriously. They will view it as entertainment and then brush it off because they wanted entertainment in the first place not a hidden lecture on how bad the state of the world is and how public apathy is making it much worse much faster.
The only people who were impacted by the play were people like me who already understand the consequences and implications of inaction. The one thing the play may have done very well though is to explain some of the facts. For example, there is a scene where two people in Alaska are talking about climate change and one person mentions that, “the rest of the world may be considering it a problem of the future, but here in Churchill, where our trains aren’t able to run anymore due to flooding of the tracks, where polar bears are turning ferocious on the human population because of lack of food, it is a problem of the present.” That really hit the point home for me on how things have changed drastically in some places and soon to come in other places.
There was another point in the play were they mentioned weather changes in various parts of the world as evidenced by events in our world such as droughts in California, floods in Bangladesh, hurricanes in Philippines and elsewhere, and record heat in India. The point being made was that by 2050 this would be the norm. I am from India and still have almost all my family in India including my mother. As soon as they said it my thoughts were with my mother and I realized how much she’s been complaining about the dire heat in India and her complains have over the years become more frequent. For a minute I felt very worried for her and sadly I felt better thinking she won’t be around to suffer in 2050….
In any case, it was a great play, very funny, well acted and informational. The solution they presented was so dire (which may be required), it was hard to believe or relate to and that’s where I feel lay its weakness.
To learn more, please click on any of the following links:
thegreatimmensity.org– watch music videos of the songs, blog pieces from the point of view of the characters in the stories and explore the regions covered in the play-from Panama to the Arctic.
350nyc.org (grassroots global organization working in 188+ countries to build a world-wide climate movement). Their motto is to reduce the current level of 400 parts per million (ppm) of c02 in the atmosphere to 350 or below to have the planet continue being livable.
cuspproject.org (Climate and Urban Systems Partnership).It is focused on climate change education that is concrete, actionable, and city specific. It avoids enormous, abstract, and global ideas.
futurecoast.org– An interactive, collaborative work of internet storytelling. Quite nice.
decadesout.org– An arts organization dedicated to a dialogue between science and society through various mediums. It aims to raise the awareness of the cultural, human impact of scientific issues.
Post blog script- I realized I forgot to describe the play; here’s a good summary from
The Great Immensity, a well-reviewed play written by Steven Cosson and staged by The Civilians, a theater company dedicated to “exploring the intersections of theater and society.” The play tells the story of Phyllis, who’s searching for her husband, Carl, a nature photographer who’s gone missing at a biological research station in Panama. Carl isn’t dead, Phyllis eventually learns: he’s just morbidly depressed about the state of the earth, and in his misery has opted to withdraw from both civil society and his marriage. Carl’s despondency, meanwhile, has made him ripe for recruitment by the Earth Ambassadors, a group of young activists who are planning a mysterious, unspecified “action” at an upcoming international climate summit. Through a combination of dialogue, musical numbers (by Michael Friedman), and multimedia projections, the play’s first act relentlessly—some might say numbingly—enumerates many of the environmental crises we now find ourselves confronting: rising sea levels, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, habitat fragmentation, garbage-clotted ocean gyres, species extinction. The play ultimately feels less like a call to action and more like a reflection of our frustration with our political leaders and the impotence of the environmental movement. Dale Jamieson, a professor of environmental studies at New York University (and the author, most recently, of Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed—and What It Means for Our Future), put it well. “This is the first adult work on climate change that I’ve seen,” he told me, “because it deals with those feelings of powerlessness. It’s not 50 Things You Can Do To Save the Planet.”