Native Communities and Climate Change, Center Stage

This article was originally published on HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theatre community, on September 19, 2016. A simple equation for survival: In this Anthropocene Age of human-wrought catastrophic climate change, Indigenous people including US Native communities are center stage in dual roles: as those disproportionately affected by the escalating environmental devastation, and as those uniquely voiced with perspectives of vital importance. If we wish to sustain this world for our children and future generations, we must with open minds gather and share information and expertise. We must commit to positive change and work together toward possible cures. Therefore, ergo, ipso facto, in sum: We need Native voices center stage. We need a good Ceremony: We need, collectively, to break up with Aristotle and elementally reframe and fast-track evolve a holistic understanding—an Indigenous understanding—of what it means to be human in a vibrant world that includes and transcends humankind. We need Native voices—historically dehumanized, marginalized, silenced, and subject to appropriation—center stage in all discussions leading to effective efforts, as Native

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Performance, Video & Ritual in the Era of Climate Change

Given the monumental devastation brought on by global climate change, as an artist I feel the urgency to be vigilant, a warrior and, despite our dystopian present and the probability of a worse dystopian future, courageous enough to hope. Last year I found myself in a state of veritable despair. I wondered,”How can I make an impact on something so much larger than me?” I was in the midst of making my performance/video piece BUNNY GIRL, shooting from the gut, with no script nor understanding of where the piece was going. Towards the end, however, cathartically the piece revealed itself and gave me my answer. I found a new focus in my work, drawing from a side of myself that I used to hide from the art world, the suppression of which has played into the patriarchal structure contributing to this global mess we’re in… BUNNY GIRL is driven by the crises state of our biosphere. In it, I play a Playboy Bunny/animal of the same name traversing

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Communicating Climate Change in the Small

In 2005, environmentalist and journalist Bill McKibben declared the need for an infusion of art in discussions of climate change, to help us “know about it,” to have climate change “[register] in our gut”, become “part of our culture”, and to help sort out what climate change means. #OurChangingClimate is a digital humanities and participatory design project that encourages diverse communities to do just that: to observe and critique their everyday environment through the lens of climate change, and to share those experiences through social media. It represents an effort to re-focus the conversation on climate change from global-scaled environmental impacts to one that recognizes the importance of the personal and everyday ways in which community members experience these impacts. Too often, climate change is defined in the media as an enormous and complex problem accompanied with images of melting ice caps, weather-related disasters, and mangy looking polar bears; the resultant response is a popular belief that only climate scientists

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Embracing the Vulnerability of Others

Marte Røyeng is a singer/songwriter based in Oslo, Norway. I met her on a trip to Norway a few years ago where, at the time, she had just finished creating a musical with at-risk youth that dealt with aspects climate change. I have been following her work from a distance since then, always delighted to listen to her haunting and richly textured songs. A gifted musician who plays mandolin, piano, guitar and banjo, Marte has performed in concert venues, cafés and smaller festivals in Oslo and as far north as Lofoten. Here, she tells us what drives her, why urgency must be accompanied with compassion, and why embracing the vulnerability of others is a source of hope. What inspires you? I often find inspiration in descriptions of a life that is different and more extreme than mine. When I feel like a stranger to what I am listening to, reading, or seeing, I feel the need to respond, and that response is usually a piece of music,

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The Nature of Man

Madmen and Dreamers is a progressive rock band who writes, records, and performs original rock operas. Our first project, The Children of Children, enjoyed a limited run at the Bleecker Street Theater in New York City following its regional tour. The band, founded by Christine Hull and me, is raising funds for the tour of its new project, a climate change rock opera called The Nature of Man, written by Mario Renes, Christine, and me. While we were touring The Children of Children, Mario, Chris and I began to talk about the next project. The environment was the obvious choice, but which aspect of climate change should we focus on? As writers are universally cruel to their characters we started tossing around worst case scenarios. It didn’t take long to settle on water: the lynchpin of climate change and flash point of fracking and pollution. But… how to make this huge issue accessible to the audience? While pondering that, Chris and I were

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