Two scenes from the climate era
Several short snapshots to celebrate the launch of something new
This edition of the newsletter is a little different.
I’m very excited to announce that from today, you can now buy scripts from my website!
Thanks to Karmin Cooper and New Best Friend, I now have a shop on my website where you can purchase three of my best works: Scenes from the Climate Era, 44 Sex Acts In One Week and Kill Climate Deniers.
These ebooks have been beautifully designed by New Best Friend, with intro essays by Eamon Flack, Eleanor White and Julian Hobba.
To mark this, today’s newsletter comprises two of my favourite snapshot scenes from Scenes from the Climate Era. These are several of my personal favourite moments from the show.
Dive in: davidfinig.com/shop
LIVING THROUGH EXTINCTION
- It's 2064, it's a restaurant.
A is a young person, B is an older person.
A - But what was it like living through it all?
B - Living through all of what?
A - All the extinctions. Like you were alive when the Western Black Rhino went extinct, what was that like?
B - When was that?
A - 2011.
B - I didn’t really notice.
A - The last rhino died, and you were alive when it happened, and you didn’t notice?
B - Look, it was a busy year. Maybe I read about it, I don’t remember? It wasn’t a big thing at the time. I remember, I think that was when the Occupy protests were happening? These big protests against inequality. And the Arab Spring, which was a whole set of revolutions... that Gotye song came out…
A - That mass extinction was the biggest thing you ever lived through. Those species existed since before we were human, and now they're gone forever - and you were there when it happened.
B - Look, you have to trust me - when you live through a big historic moment for the planet, it doesn’t feel like it’s that important. We knew there was a mass extinction happening, we all felt bad about it. But you didn’t think about it every second of every day. 2011, I had a bad breakup that year, I was in a shit job, I was trying to pay rent. We weren’t thinking about the big picture all the time, we were trying to live our lives.
- 2030, Antarctica.
A - We arrive in Antarctica at the beginning of summer. Three months of daylight. It’s bright all the time, but cold enough that you can throw a cup of water into the air and see it turn into a cloud of ice crystals before it hits the ground.
There’s four hundred of us, from everywhere: Xinjiang, Hebei, Fujian, Beijing, Hainan. Engineers, plumbers, electricians, scientists - even a documentary crew.
The ships arrive carrying six cubic kilometres of rock and gravel, dredged from islands around Australia. They pour it all out into the ocean about 50 metres from shore, on that shallow bit of seafloor called the Jenkins Ridge.
And now our job is to clad all that rock in concrete. To turn this mound of rock and grit into a sea wall. And quickly, before it gets washed away.
Behind us on land is the Pine Island Glacier. From our camp on the shore it looks like a huge hill of ice, but it’s a frozen river, with enough water in it to raise the world’s oceans by a metre and a half, all by itself.
That river of ice is sliding into the ocean. It’s unsticking itself from the rock beneath it and flowing out of this bay, faster and faster every year.
Our job is to stop it happening.
No-one’s ever built a wall in the ocean to trap a glacier before. No-one’s ever done this scale of undersea construction before, especially not somewhere so remote.
Some people say it can’t be done. But if it can’t be done, then there goes half the coastal cities in the world. One out of every five human beings on the planet loses their home. So it has to be done.
Some countries say that this is Chinese colonialism, just a ploy to take Antarctica for ourselves. Even Australia, which provided the gravel, says that we’re in it for selfish reasons.
Maybe that’s true. It’s selfish, but I don’t want to see Shanghai go underwater. I want my daughters to be able to take their children to Donglin Lu one day.
So we roll up our sleeves and get on with it. It’s hard, cold, ugly work. Underwater construction is dangerous at the best of times. Trickier still when you’re working around ice shelves which constantly grow and shrink, and wind that picks you off the ground and throws you sideways.
Lots of frostbite. We all have one or two blackened fingertips. An engineer breaks her leg when a crane collapses. Two divers drown while they’re welding a support strut underwater. We never find out for sure what went wrong.
Most people travel home for the winter, but fifty of us stay on to maintain the site. We settle in for a hundred days of darkness, reading comics and watching films.
On the last day of July, there’s a huge storm. The winds are up, visibility is zero. We stay indoors for two days.
When we come out, the waves have washed away all the work we did over the summer. The concrete cladding is shattered. The gravel is washed out of the bay. Everything gone. Back to where we started.
So, nothing else for it. We take a deep breath, and we begin again.
It’s really lovely to be able to make these scripts available! I’m very grateful to Karmin and New Best Friend, and to Julian, Eleanor and Eamon for their excellent introductions to the scripts. And of course to the artists and creatives who have brought them to life, in their various incarnations.
Please dive in if you’re curious - and have a beautiful week.
NEWS AND PROJECTS
I’m currently in Germany, working away on the next iteration of the You’re Safe series. This is a look at the history of the climate conversation - a high-level look at how we arrived at this moment through a century of climate science, environmental activism and fossil fuel companies.
My life right now is a lot of this:
Nathan Micay - To The God Named Dream
This album is lurid and hectic, and I feel wary recommending it, but I love the hell out of it and it would be wrong to not share it.
Rebecca Giggs - How Smart Are Owls?
Rebecca’s latest for the Atlantic is rich and lyrical and beautiful - dig:
Though their true ears are mere apertures hidden under their feathers, owls’ reactivity to sound has few equivalents in the animal kingdom. The great grey owl can not only pick up the swish of a vole’s footfall coming from a passage cored into a snowbank, but also figure out the elevation of the sound source, so as to strike through the snow and hit that very point.
As ever, you can get more background on my practice in my New Rules for Modelling series, or you can check out my website. And if you have any questions or offers that might make my life more interesting, feel free to get in touch.