A very silly play about the very serious problem of climate change
Prologue, the introduction to this entertainment
Gaia, the Earth herself
Zephyr, the gentle west wind, her messenger
Notus, the hot wind of the south
The Charred Tree, the only survivor of a great forest fire
The Park Ranger, beleaguered steward of the land
The Scientist, who is out of shits to give
Scott Pruitt, corrupt head of the EPA, climate change denier
Andrew R. Wheeler, his successor, also a denier of climate change (played by a puppet, if possible)
Coal, Petroleum, and Natural Gas, the triumvirate of fossil fuels
The Melting Glacier, melting and pissed off about it
Death, the end of all
Enter the PROLOGUE stage right.
Good day to you who keep our planet green!
A finer crowd of people I’ve not seen.
I introduce a play in honor made
Of you who strike today ‘gainst those who trade
In oil and in death for dirty money,
Deny the present danger, think it’s funny
That young and old alike would rise in fury
To make their voices heard above the flurry
Of braying naysayers who flee from facts;
Such obfuscation begs this fierce attack.
Behold then here upon this humble stage
The gentle Gaia and her well-earned rage.
She mourns that we, her children, do abuse
Her body and her bounty as we choose
To willfully ignore her many signs
That all we have achieved is in decline.
So welcome Gaia here as she deserves,
And hearken to the censure that she serves.
Enter GAIA stage left. The PROLOGUE bows deeply, encourages the audience to applaud and cheer GAIA’s majesty, and then exits stage right. GAIA regards the audience imperiously.
O humans! How you crack my heart with woe!
Long have I watched your race learn all you know,
While solving all the problems that you’ve faced;
And now you’d risk to have this all erased?
In short, humanity, I’d like to ask this:
When will you pull your heads out of your asses?
To find an answer to this burning question
And to discover what’s caused your regression,
I summon forth my vassal, the West Wind.
Come forth, my gentle Zephyr, let’s begin.
Enter ZEPHYR stage right, who bows ostentatiously.
I come, my glorious mistress, at your call,
To answer you, progenitor of all;
Whose fertile breath creates each green-clad leaf–
We’ve only got ten minutes; keep it brief.
Apologies, my Queen; how may I serve?
The humans fray the last of my poor nerves.
They drain my blood and sear my skin with rashes;
My body burns incessant with hot flashes.
Forth as a messenger I wish to send you
To find out what the human race is up to.
Learn first the cause of all this flame; go out
To visit Notus, hot wind of the South.
Exit GAIA stage left.
The South Wind blows the hottest, this I know,
And therefore to the fires I shall go.
I’m spoiled for choice of places licked with flame;
This world is scorched with fires none can tame.
Where smoke as thick as water veils the sun —
It’s here that I’ll find Notus, ten to one.
Enter the CHARRED TREE stage right.
Ow. Am I still on fire? That’s a yes.
Of all the days I’ve had, this ain’t the best.
The day’s not good! I am on fire!
Oh, that was rude. Forgive me, please, your ire.
I’m sent from Gaia hither to discover
If this your pain has been caused by my brother.
Enter NOTUS, the South Wind, stage left.
Oh, there you go again! You’re blaming me?
No! I didn’t set the fire to this tree!
The CHARED TREE rustles its leaves in alarm and tries to hide behind ZEPHYR, but it doesn’t work very well because he is much too tall.
The flames were borne upon his windy back!
It’s he who led this hot and dry attack!
It’s true I am the hot wind from the South,
And dry and dusty air pants from my mouth,
But I don’t start the fires that scorch your bark.
A forest must burn sometimes, fed by sparks,
But it’s not meant to happen in a rush.
I don’t know why, but maybe too much brush?
No, that’s not it. My bark’s as dry as bone;
You’ve kept the rains from falling on my home.
You blow the desert with you where you go.
I bring the heat from warmer climes, that’s so,
But these are warmer than they ought to be.
And why is that?
It sure as hell beats me!
Hey, tell you what, as I blow back on course
I’ll waft in someone who’s a better source
Of knowledge when it comes to stuff like this.
I’ll bet that he can tell you what’s amiss.
As NOTUS blows offstage stage left, he shoves onstage a slightly bewildered-looking PARK RANGER.
We welcome, then, this knowledgeable stranger.
And who are you?
An overworked Park Ranger.
What do you do?
Well, I do quite a lot.
I try to guard the land the public’s bought
As steward of the nature of our nation
And keep it safe for future generations.
It’s getting really hard to do my job.
The funding’s cut, the work’s become a slog.
We can’t engage sustainably in logging
When government is busy demagoguing.
The action that our leader wants to take
Is cleaning our damn forests with a rake.
But why’s the air become so dry and hot?
Explain the climate’s change? Well, that one’s not
Within my wheelhouse, so let me bring out
A person who can chase away all doubts.
Exit the PARK RANGER with the CHARRED TREE stage left. Enter the SCIENTIST stage right.
Good afternoon, everyone, humans and anthropomorphized concepts alike. I’ve been invited here today to give a very brief talk on the question of whether the catastrophic changes in our global climate that we’ve seen in recent years are human-induced, something that—
Excuse me! Yes, so sad to interrupt.
It’s just your switch to prose was quite abrupt.
You see, this play’s in verse. You didn’t know?
The genre switch is messing with the flow.
You want me to speak in poetry.
I’m a scientist. I have better shit to do. Look. Aren’t you here to learn about the finer points of the debate as to whether or not the sharp uptick in extreme inclement weather, catastrophic flooding, record-breaking temperatures, and constant forest fires are induced by carbon-heavy human activities like factory farming, rampant deforestation, and the use of fossil fuels?
Why, yes, I am! That knowledge would be great.
Please tell me all the facts of this debate.
Perfect. Here they are: THERE IS NO DEBATE. None. There’s no question at all. The scientific consensus is overwhelming. If you look at the data–
Enter SCOTT PRUITT and ANDREW WHEELER stage left.
Wait just a second! We need no science here.
Do humans change the climate? It’s not clear.
Oh, god, not Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler!
That’s right, my friends, it’s dear ol’ Scott and me,
The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency!
You valiantly attempted quite a feat, sir,
To try and squeeze that phrase into the meter.
Yeah, but he failed. Like he does at his ostensible job.
Hey, someone get us someone from Fox News
To cover “science” and its liberal views!
Why are you even here? Weren’t you fired over a year ago?
Excuse me, I resigned. Get straight your facts.
The bias shows! That’s just how science acts.
Whatever. I’m going to go take my empirical data elsewhere.
The SCIENTIST exits in disgust stage right. SCOTT PRUITT and ANDREW WHEELER high five.
Pssht, science! Who needs it? Not you or I!
Not with so many oil stocks to buy!
Her data sounds impressive, sure, I guess.
But reading all those numbers? Such a mess!
But isn’t science how you know what’s true?
You’d think that! But that’s just what they want you
To think! It’s just a big conspiracy
To trick you into socialism! See?
If we stopped using oil, coal, and gas,
My wealthy friends will be out on their ass.
Besides, our fossil fuels cause no real harm.
Their carbon output shouldn’t cause alarm.
How can it when our stocks perform so well?
Hey, why not hear from them why they’re so swell?
Enter COAL, PETROLEUM, and GAS, SCOTT PRUITT’s best friends, stage left.
It’s good to see you!
Oh, hey there, Andrew!
Forgive my ignorance, but who are you?
I’m Coal! It’s great to meet you! Let me see…
How to explain the greatness that is me?
I am the perfect carbon distillation.
I power quite a lot of this great nation.
I’m made of ancient forests and dead plants.
I’m subsidized by governmental grants.
I burn soot-black, it’s true, but I’m quite clean!
I’m made of plants, so obviously I’m green!
During the last couplet, the SCIENTIST enters, walks in front of the stage, glaring and holding a flashing sign that says “BULLSHIT” in big letters, then exits.
My name’s Petroleum! I’m in your car!
I come in liquid form and sands of tar.
I once was plankton in a bygone sea.
I’m subsidized so much, my cost is three
Times less at fuel pumps than it ought to be.
I travel in long pipelines through the trees,
A process that’s completely safe, I swear,
Since oil spills are really, really rare.
The SCIENTIST enters and walks in front of the stage back the other way with her BULLSHIT sign.
And I am Natural Gas, the last of these,
I probably heat your home like a warm breeze.
I’m made of what’s essentially plant farts
From millions-years-old small organic parts.
I’m mined from fracking black and rocky goop.
I’m thought to be the cleanest of this group.
The SCIENTIST enters and walks in front of the stage back the other way with her BULLSHIT sign.
I must confess, I find myself in doubt
Of all these safety records that you tout.
But think of the convenience they provide!
We don’t need regulations, since we pride
Ourselves on being so perfectly pure.
The environment’s safe from us, that is for sure!
The fossil fuels look the picture of innocence. THE MELTING GLACIER bursts onto the scene from stage right, carrying an insulated cooler and shooting wildly at them with a squirt gun.
THE MELTING GLACIER
You tell that to my family, polluting fiends!
Each one of you needs to be quarantined!
I am a melted glacier in a fury!
All three of you should shove off in a hurry.
(She shakes the cooler.)
My husband’s last remains are mostly water!
(She squirts them more with the squirt gun.)
This squirt gun’s loaded with my liquid daughter!
She squirts SCOTT PRUITT, ANDREW WHEELER, and the three fossil fuels repeatedly until they flee her righteous rage stage left.
They’re gone! They’re gone! So you may cease to squirt!
Good lord, I’m freezing, and you’ve soaked my shirt.
THE MELTING GLACIER
I’m mad, since their deliberate obstruction
Is wreaking havoc and long-term destruction!
The fact is that my family’s demise
Is causing every sea level to rise.
My fragment of revenge was keenly felt.
And now I’ll exit right before I melt.
Exit THE MELTING GLACIER stage right. Enter GAIA, stage left.
My messenger, you have done well to find
The cause of all these woes; I have been blind
To my decline, my stopping-up of breath.
I fear these threats foretell untimely death.
Enter DEATH from the back of the stage if that can be accomplished, otherwise from stage right. His lines are spoken by an offstage actor into a mic. GAIA and ZEPHYR bow.
Arise, my children, I’m not here for you.
The Earth’s survived much worse than this in truth.
The land, the seas, the creatures will evolve
And find new ways to thrive as Earth revolves.
Destruction has rained down from heaven’s vault
And spewed in flames from rocky cracks and faults,
And yet the Earth lived on and bloomed anew;
And this is what our Gaia again will do.
No, I am here to doom humanity,
Who fast destroys themselves, and I forsee
Though those before us understand their peril,
Those holding power care not for their errors,
Preferring hoarded wealth to common good.
I’d come for them directly if I could,
But, alas, the rich have better healthcare.
But say, O Death, what can the humans do?
How can they save their race from certain doom?
Hell if I know. That’s their problem, not mine.
But they had best be quick; they’re out of time.
DEATH exits. There’s an awkward silence. Then, ZEPHYR turns to address the audience.
Well, this isn’t the happiest of ways
To serve as ending for our silly play.
But that’s, unfortunately, what we have got:
“To be continued” with a dot, dot, dot.
You’re here because you see the danger clear.
That’s great, but now where do we go from here?
I don’t know! There’s a lot of things to factor,
And I don’t have the answers; I’m an actor.
But yet our voices join with yours this hour
For even silly words speak truth to power.
© 2019 Rachel Kohler