Managed Retreat I.


The War Against Climate Change.

End of Century climate, transport.

Read-through version. 4.3
Managed Retreat I
ecosystem science, normality, climate change, managed retreat.

Placard: YEAR: 2099. In the storm bunker. Minimal electric lighting.

TAMARA and SUNITA at corner of stage, or in front of curtain, or in opera-box; or SUNITA descending steps to stage, followed by TAMARA. FOGEY and LIEUTENANT, wearing civilian attire and conspicuous press passes with identification photo, are already seated apart among audience, either at the front, or in an opera box, where they can face the audience, preferably on opposite sides of the auditorium.

(SUNITA and TAMARA, barely visible in the darkness.)

What were we discussing, Sunita?

We were looking back to seventy years ago, my dear step-great-aunt Tamara, to the beginning, to your sister Tina and your Grandpa and to my grandmother Sophie.

Ah, yes, Sunita.

I still have a question, Auntie, but.

Why couldn't people foresee what would happen? Why didn't they do things differently in those far-off days, back in two thousand and twenty-five, seventy-five years ago?

Were they idiots or bastards?

Don't know. The truth would have come as a big shock to most people, who, in those days, had been accustomed to flying around the world for business or vacation, and all the other trivial pursuits of the silly lifestyles those bipedal heterotrophs led.

But come whatever, the end of the sparrows, or a tragedy of the commons, the universe won't notice. Nothing will change the orbit of Uranus.

I don't care what your Grandpa thought or wrote: he was just a post-war baby, what did he know? Our circumstances today are totally different. Just because something was written a long time ago, that doesn't automatically mean that it applies to us today.

Yes, old writings are easily misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Whatever it is, the Vedas, the Gospels, the Talmud, they may have been good advice in their day, but they're not automatically applicable today.

Our generation must decide for itself as to what is right and wrong, what is true or false, and what works for us, but.

Yes, Sunita, you're right about that, dear, although some of those ancient texts suggest that humans are stewards of the natural world. People should be grateful for the blessed rains from the sky that make our gardens grow and bring us grain from the harvest. Even the ancient writings say: thou shalt not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.

As stewards of the natural world, the post-war generation screwed up, didn't they?

(FOGEY stands up.)



What a pile of feminist fantasy! Nothing that is provable science!

(shouts back)

Just because it's women talking, doesn't mean they're feminists, you twat!

Why don't you just listen, you fat pig, you?

(In a more orderly voice.)

But I agree with Sunita.

In our earthly form, one isn't on this planet for long, just passing through. Agreed, we cause a lot of damage on our travels. Most of our problems come from the mind, our beliefs, attitudes. It's near impossible to change someone else, only oneself, and that's challenging enough. Trying to make people give up consumer lifestyles would be like torture. We're addicted to distraction. ... We cannot face reality. Worrying about the future is pointless, the future will come, be the next generation ready or not. Or not!

Fuck you: sit down, and shut your damned mouth!

(Pause as required. FOGEY and LIEUTENANT both sit down again.)

But tell me, Sunita, what will you tell your children on the topic of climate chaos?

Well, nothing: I don't have any children, and I'm not planning to. Even if there were children, there'd be no need to say something. They'd just need to know what grows here in today's climate; when, what, and where to plant; and when and how to harvest the crop. Farming isn't about climate chaos and grand plans to save the world. Farming's about what seed to use, what breed to buy, how to mend fences, where to find water, when it's safe to plant, how to protect the crops and animals, when and how to harvest, what to use for fertilizer, and how to collect and store seed and grains, and so on. Nothing else matters now. Survival is everything.

Yes, Sunita, I understand, trust me, but you must understand that the long-term matters too. It isn't enough just to toil on from one day to the next, from one winter to the next, and in doing so, ignore the long-term issues.

(THUNDERCLAP ! No reaction from actors.)

Ecology often takes a long-term view: it is partly about biodiversity and food security. First, we need to acknowledge that pesticides and herbicides only provide short-term protection to crops. For long-term protection, we need to find a variety that is resistant to the particular pest or disease that is causing problems.

What? How can one do that?

To achieve this, generally someone needs to go back to the area where the crop originated, collect all the available varieties, talk to the indigenous farmers about their farming systems, and bring back the seeds so that we can experiment with them, and create a resistant variety that will work in our homeland and in our climate.

Don't be silly, Tamara: there's no chance of doing that any more: your world has gone, but.


But make no mistake, darling, it is biodiversity which has provided solutions for potato blight, mealy-bugs on cassava, similar issues with coffee and cacao, rust on wheat, disease on bananas, and so on.

And that means seed banks.

(FOGEY stands up: loudly declaims.)

What a load of left-wing bollocks this is!

(LIEUTENANT stands up: loudly shouts back to FOGEY.)

Do shut up! Damn your generation! Bullies!

(shouts back)

Shut up yourself, you little sniveller!

(FOGEY and LIEUTENANT both sit down.)

Weren't there any seed banks in our homeland before the crisis?

There were, my dear, but seed banks focused on preserving native plants, not on essential food crops and varieties. One should have a seed bank containing useful varieties of edible plants, be they native or not.

So here we are in two thousand and ninety-nine, and everyone has to grow our own food, and now ecology matters, be it boring or not.

Why are you telling me all this?

Yes, that's a good question.

There are three reasons. First, no-one else remembers what life was like; no-one but me remembers what normal was. Well, not quite normal. Your Great-great-grandpa said the sun was not as strong in the nineteen hundred and seventies. There was no hole in the ozone layer, and people didn't get sunburnt so easily.


Second, where did it all go wrong? Our generation learnt the hard way that mining and extracting fossil-fuels has catastrophic consequences, and that zero-carbon is the only way forward.

No. It's my generation that's paying the price, but.

All future generations will feel like that. But hungry people will be tempted to take the easy way out, and exploit fossil-fuel resources all over again. One should at least pass on a warning.

That's your job, Sunita: I'll teach you all I know, and you must learn it all so well that you can, in turn, pass it all on to the children.

What? Seriously? That's a big task, but! Why me?

It's the only way.

Lastly, I hardly have to ask, Sunita, were you more interested in the ecology, or in the story of Tina and your Great-great-Grandpa? It is always the same, most people are more interested in the human story than in the science. Many people just want to know what happened next, and skip or gloss over the scientific details. Yet it is the science that matters most.

I don't give a shit about your Grandpa, Tamara. Why worry?