Dear Annabel Soutar and Chris Abraham (Or, Exit Music for a Planet)


Watershed-Kristen-Thomson-and-CastDear Annabel and Chris,

If noted TV philosopher Stephen Colbert is right that “reality has a well-known liberal bias,” reality’s political inclination seems nowhere so clear as on the subject of climate change. As you know, there’s now a strong consensus among scientists that the planet is getting hotter, human industry and consumption are largely to blame, and catastrophic weather phenomena (euphemistic for flooded cities and continental droughts) are, unless something’s done to stop them, coming soon to a major population centre near you. Even sophisticated right-leaning media havens for climate change denial (climate anti-alarmism, they might say), likeĀ theĀ Wall Street Journal, have begun to change their tune. The recent resolution of G7 nations to “decarbonize” completely by 2100 is at once a shirking of responsibility by current governments, whose leaders won’t be around to enforce the pledge, and a symbolic statement that the problem of anthropogenic climate change is real and must be dealt with.

The growing bipartisan acknowledgement of global warming has done little to depoliticize the debate over how to address it, as your excellent new play The Watershed, now running as part of the Pan Am Games’ festival of the arts, explores. Pundits on the far ends of the political spectrum tend to reduce the issue to a stark binary: “capitalism vs. the climate,” as framed by the subtitle of Naomi Klein’s recent book on the subject, This Changes Everything, reported in brilliant depth, if quite tendentious (probably Klein would reply that it’s reality that’s tendentious). The oil and gas industries are massive economic players who will need to commit hara-kiri in a hurry, Klein’s argument goes, if the planet isn’t to succumb to climate disasters that would lead to mass suffering and death. The immanent logic of capitalism, its hurrahs for growth without limit and the exploitation of the earth for human benefit, is in tragic opposition to the immanent logic of the earth itself, which is fragile and unforgiving of those who mess with its harmonies.

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