A very silly play about the very serious problem of climate change

Dramatis Personae

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.

PROLOGUE

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. 

GAIA

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.

ZEPHYR

I come, my glorious mistress, at your call,

To answer you, progenitor of all;

Whose fertile breath creates each green-clad leaf–

GAIA

We’ve only got ten minutes; keep it brief.

ZEPHYR

Apologies, my Queen; how may I serve?

GAIA

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.

ZEPHYR

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.

CHARRED TREE

Ow. Am I still on fire? That’s a yes.

Of all the days I’ve had, this ain’t the best.

ZEPHYR

Good day!

CHARRED TREE

The day’s not good! I am on fire!

ZEPHYR

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.

NOTUS

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.

CHARRED TREE

The flames were borne upon his windy back!

It’s he who led this hot and dry attack!

NOTUS

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?

CHARRED TREE

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.

NOTUS

I bring the heat from warmer climes, that’s so,

But these are warmer than they ought to be.

ZEPHYR

And why is that?

NOTUS

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.

ZEPHYR

We welcome, then, this knowledgeable stranger.

CHARRED TREE

And who are you?

PARK RANGER

An overworked Park Ranger.

ZEPHYR

What do you do?

PARK RANGER

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.

CHARRED TREE

But why’s the air become so dry and hot?

PARK RANGER

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.

SCIENTIST

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—

ZEPHYR

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.

SCIENTIST

You want me to speak in poetry.

ZEPHYR

…yes?

SCIENTIST

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?

ZEPHYR

Why, yes, I am! That knowledge would be great.

Please tell me all the facts of this debate.

SCIENTIST

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.

SCOTT PRUITT

Wait just a second! We need no science here.

ANDREW WHEELER

Do humans change the climate? It’s not clear.

SCIENTIST

Oh, god, not Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler!

ANDREW WHEELER

That’s right, my friends, it’s dear ol’ Scott and me,

The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency!

ZEPHYR

You valiantly attempted quite a feat, sir,

To try and squeeze that phrase into the meter.

SCIENTIST

Yeah, but he failed. Like he does at his ostensible job.

SCOTT PRUITT

Hey, someone get us someone from Fox News

To cover “science” and its liberal views!

SCIENTIST

Why are you even here? Weren’t you fired over a year ago?

SCOTT PRUITT

Excuse me, I resigned. Get straight your facts.

ANDREW WHEELER

The bias shows! That’s just how science acts.

SCIENTIST

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.

SCOTT PRUITT

Pssht, science! Who needs it? Not you or I!

Not with so many oil stocks to buy!

ANDREW WHEELER

Her data sounds impressive, sure, I guess.

But reading all those numbers? Such a mess!

ZEPHYR

But isn’t science how you know what’s true?

SCOTT PRUITT

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.

COAL

It’s good to see you!

PETROLEUM

Scott!

NATURAL GAS

Oh, hey there, Andrew!

ZEPHYR

Forgive my ignorance, but who are you?

COAL

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.

PETROLEUM

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.

NATURAL GAS

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.

ZEPHYR

I must confess, I find myself in doubt

Of all these safety records that you tout.

SCOTT PRUITT

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.

ZEPHYR

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.

GAIA

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.

DEATH

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.

GAIA

But say, O Death, what can the humans do?

How can they save their race from certain doom?

DEATH

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.

ZEPHYR

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.

Fin.

© 2019 Rachel Kohler