As an observer of climate chaos I have a particular penchant for a good apocalyptic scenario. So it was delightful to be invited to host a conversation with some fabulous writers at NIDA on the topic.
Guests included Alana Valentine whose AWGIE Award nominated Barbara and the Camp Dogs was rocking the foundations of Belvoir Street theatre and whose play Ear to the Edge of Time won the 5th International Playwriting Award. Michael Gow was also with us. He is perhaps best known for his Australian classic play Away. And NIDA’s head of Writing for Performance Stephen Sewell who won an AFI Award for his screen adaptation of The Boys joined us alongside John Collee who wrote the blockbuster action film Master and Commander, and the ensemble thriller Hotel Mumbai.
I set the scene by explaining that we are now in a what many are calling the Anthropocene – a new epoch in Earth’s geological history, characterized by the arrival of the human species as a geological force.
Our amazingly smart fossil fuel-powered technology has enabled a constant stream of content from all over the world to flow to our screens at the touch of a button. But this global information and communications ecosystem that we participate in everyday uses 10% of the world’s electricity. And it’s this energy use that’s changed the very atmosphere of our planet.
Climate scientist James Hansen, formerly with NASA, has argued that we face an “apocalyptic” future as the result of this – sea waters rising up to 6 metres creating millions of climate refugees, food riots, plagues, hurricanes, grid failure – the stuff of many Hollywood disaster films.
According to the philosopher and former private in the US army Roy Scranton; “We have passed the point of no return. From the point of view of policy experts, climate scientists and national security officials, the question is no longer whether global warming exists or how we might stop it, but how we are going to deal with it.”
So the questions posed to panelists were; how are we going to adapt? What role do writers have in facilitating this transition? Is there enough support for local writers to do this important work? And how can they compete with global juggernauts like Netflix?