Saturday, September 23, 2023

Choose Your Climate Story: Extrapolations or ReGeneration

Just finished watching Extrapolations and I'd like to share a few thoughts about it.  

Most of you know me from my environmental advocacy with Sustainable Tucson or from following my blog about sustainable living. But in another life I wrote reviews of meaningful films for Reel Inspiration. Before that I was actually a theater major! Funny how our journeys don't always go the way we imagined. I went on to get my MFA in playwriting which led to writing screenplays, which led to becoming active in Tucson's indie-film community, which led to me writing film reviews - where I watched a few documentaries on climate change. I started to notice the impact of climate change on our desert town. Every year was getting hotter than the last. Our normally raging monsoon season diminished to a mere whimper. That inspired me to learn everything I could about climate change: the causes, impact, and ways to mitigate it. We adjusted our everyday lifestyle to have less of a negative impact and more of a positive (regenerative) impact.  

Experience has shown me that no education is ever wasted. Even my theater background could be used to educate people about climate change. Much of the research I conducted was incorporated into ReGeneration: The Tucson Story, a play about the impacts of climate change on Tucson in the near future. It was a vehicle to share solutions I had learned about. Unfortunately, by the time the play was stage ready, all the theaters and schools were shut down due to COVID. So I ended up directing a virtual play reading in 2021 (that you can still find on YouTube.) 

Meanwhile, another climate story was in the works.

Extrapolations, a limited series by writer, director, and executive producer Scott Z. Burns, "introduces a near future where the chaotic effects of climate change have become embedded into our everyday lives." The marketing team couldn't have come up with a better logline for my play! Naturally, I had to check it out. It's been a while since I've written a movie review for Reel Inspiration. But I couldn't help forming a few thoughts on the series. Occupational hazard. Once a reviewer, always a reviewer. And, it was only natural that I would compare the series to my own script. 

First, I'm not sure it's correct to say that Extrapolations is set in the "near future." (I guess it depends on how you define "near future.") The time line goes from 2037 to 2070. 

But my play ReGeneration actually is set in the near future. Here in Tucson we are already seeing many of the impacts of climate change dramatized in my story. While we haven't had to suffer through the grid going down (yet), we recently had a scare when the power went out for a few days in some parts of town. We have seen the impact of extreme heat on the most vulnerable. Everything that happens in the story is based on things that are already happening here. 

To get a better understanding of the series, I looked up extrapolation - the name of the title.

noun: the action of estimating or concluding something by assuming that existing trends will continue or a current method will remain applicable.

Given this definition, it seems that Burns created each episode based on an extrapolation of a current trend in climate and technology taken to a potential extreme. There was some continuity where some characters reappear in later episodes, but for the most part, each episode was a stand alone exploration of a potential future outcome of climate change and new technologies; like mass extinctions of animal species, the effects of extreme heat, or possible unintended consequences of attempting to solve global warming with geoengineering. 

While it is evident that the writers did extensive research on the causes of climate change and impacts, Extrapolations plays more like science fiction or dystopic sci-fi. It explores the dichotomy of the "chaotic effects of climate change on the everyday lives" of the underserved masses in contrast with the luxurious comforts the privileged few corporate CEOs are afforded due to future scientific advances. The general public endures rationed geo-engineered food, while billionaires enjoy gala events catered with the real food. Workers pay for shots of clean oxygen to endure the polluted air, while the rich are safely transported in flying machines to their domed, climate-controlled mansions. The idea of relying on for-profit corporations to share the technological advances needed for our survival is a frightening theme of the series.  

I guess the biggest difference between my play and Extrapolations is that in my play there is still hope as the teen protagonists fight for a livable future in our desert town. In most of the episodes of Extrapolations, the protagonists goals revolve around survival in a world that is rigged for profiting big corporations. Sort of a bummer, but an insightful theme. 

I know my virtual play can't compare with a professional production with state of the art special effects and star power.  But if you are looking for hope in this time of climate change, you might want to watch the recording of my play. I find the most hope in taking action. My goal in writing the play was to present realistic solutions and impactful actions we can all do to lessen the impact of climate change - hopefully in an entertaining way.  Maybe you can find some ways to share your own talents and skills to create a more resilient future, too. 

Here's a few ideas...   

What Kind of Climate Champion Are You?

For the Love of Tucson: Creating a Desert Oasis to Combat Climate Change

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