Strategic Planning.


The War Against Climate Change.

Maslow, Lifeboat economics, population control, farming.

Version Four.
After the Protest.
ecosystem science, normality, climate change, managed retreat

Placard: TWO YEARS LATER. In an art gallery. There is a bar-table and two bar-stools. There is also a cleaner's trolley on stage, and perhaps a rostrum. Actors may use the rostrum at will.

GRANDPA is alone at the bar-table reading a book. A CLEANER is mopping the floor.

(SOPHIE and TINA enter together. TINA is carrying six coffees in china cups on a tray. SOPHIE and TINA move to stand by the bar-table with GRANDPA.)

Hi there. How did the protest go?
There were so many police officers, grandfather. We had to avoid them.

(SOPHIE and TINA hug gently, and SOPHIE lays an arm round TINA's shoulders.)

And hello again to the post-war generation.

(ASSISTANT PROFESSOR and MAIA enter together and move to join GRANDPA, TINA, and SOPHIE at the bar-table.)

(To the latest arrivals.)

Did you get rid of the placards?
(MAIA never smiles) Yes, of course.
And this is our Assistant Professor, by the way. He's doing a thesis on Ecology. And this is Maia. She is an ecology researcher at the University.
(Exchanging nods with MAIA and Assistant Professor.) Hi there. Did the police see you come in?
No chance.
So, Tina, let's all pretend that it's your twentieth birthday. Happy Birthday !

(TWO POLICE OFFICERS enter and begin looking round the gallery for protesters.)

(The POLICE OFFICERS inaudibly question the CLEANER, who shakes their head.)

(Raises coffee mug to TINA. Loudly, for the benefit of the police.) Happy Birthday, Tina !
(Loudly, for the benefit of the police.) Happy Birthday, darling!
(Loudly, for the benefit of the police.) Damn protesters, messing up our day!
(Loudly, for the benefit of the police.) Such a nuisance for you, Grandpa.

(TWO POLICE OFFICERS exit. From this point on, actors may move around the stage freely, look at art exhibits, check their mobile phones etc.)

Okay. Let's all just have a quiet coffee and wait a bit. The demonstration is over. It is safe here now.
Good. So I have a question for you, Tina, while we are waiting: how did you spend the money I gave you?
None of your business, Grandpa. ... But, for your information, she mostly got drunk and woke up next to someone else. That's what happens to young women.
(crestfallen) And Maslow, dare I ask?

(The CLEANER finishes up, smiles at GRANDPA, who nods in response. The CLEANER exits.)

Oh yes, Maslow's theory is not well-supported: so, it's best to toss Maslow's theory into the plausible, but unproven, basket. Why did the post-war generation carry on teaching it as if it were gospel?

No idea.

From an ecological standpoint, the pyramid is upside down: it should be big toward the top, and balance on a point, because at the moment the whole human species relies on just a few staple crops, such as wheat, rice, and cassava, plus a few staple animals, such as chickens and cattle, which are farmed on an industrial scale worldwide. If anything goes wrong with our staple crops, our whole human society will come crashing down.

Now it's my turn. So, Grandpa, you remember the Great Crash of nineteen hundred and twenty-nine and the depression that followed?

Before my time, actually. I wasn't even a young dinosaur then.
Anyway, what were we discussing? Ah, yes! Grandpa, you remember the Bretton Woods agreement in nineteen hundred and forty-seven that was meant to stop the Great Depression happening all over again?
In those days, I was just a hatchling.
And then the Agreement collapsed about nineteen hundred and seventy?
Ah, yes. Not my fault, though.
Why are you being so facetious? Anyway, the question is: why wasn't there a second crash and depression?
Ahhhh. Well, THAT'S a good question. Oh. Wait up. Is this for an essay? Am I helping you with your homework?
That's what grandfathers are for.
Oh. Well, for the essay, I'd put it down to technology then: financial markets were more developed, computerised, and able to react faster, and so on. But I would not view it all in those terms myself.
(Exasperated) So how WOULD you see it, Grandpa?
Darling, step back, look at the big picture, and pretend you and I are aliens on an orbiting spaceship, observing the planet. What changed? Not a lot. It's like looking down on an ant-nest, or a group of beehives. They are scurrying around much the same as before. Even if they would disappear, it would be hardly noticeable. Even if the human population doubled, from space, only the growth of cities would be visible. A world war? We humans can look down on ants fighting each other, or bees and wasps fighting; but the fighting seems unimportant to us.
Well, I won't get any marks for that. God, you're such a nong!
Hmm. I don't even know what that means. ... But at least I'm good at something.

And the papers you gave me, Grandpa. What exactly are they all about? What you were trying to achieve, Grandpa?

I often wonder about that myself. Probably, a worldwide revolution in people's thinking about life on this planet.
Revolution? How would you organize a revolution?
I meant a revolution in people's thinking, not an insurrection.
(deadpan drily)

Oh, is that all.

The essays just seemed to be a load of stuff about Neanderthals.

Yes, Neanderthals: what happened to them, our cousins? No-one knows for sure.

Will the Homo sapiens go the same way, for the same reasons? That's the question. Will we, like bees, have our own version of Colony Collapse Disorder?

(Sighs) Oh my God. I would need evidence, not speculation and scenarios of doom.

I see. Well, I am just pointing out that species like us have disappeared in the past, and therefore it would be no surprise if the human species disappeared in the near future. It's happened before; and it can happen again.

(While busily checking her mobile) Blue Planet sounds better. ... You're pretty downcast about it all, aren't you, Grandpa?
To be honest, yes; but it would be more accurate to say that I'm frustrated with climate chaos deniers. Everything I did was such a waste of time. All that effort trying to bring up children and so on was so misguided, just a waste of my time, of my life. But at the time, everyone thought it was progress. And now I'm more worried and horrified about what the future holds for your generation.
(With airy confidence) Oh, we'll be alright. We'll think of something.

That's what people thought in nineteen hundred and seventy-three, during the first oil crisis. Things haven't got better since then. Your optimism is ill-justified, Tina.

But I am young and looking for hope. I can't go forward through life all the time thinking doom, doom, doom, can I? I have to find some small smidgeon of hope somewhere. The real issue is that ecology and classical economics seem to be at odds, because economics says that eternal growth is the answer to everything, and ecology says otherwise.

Sophie, I can't contact my sister, Tamara. She's not responding. I wonder if the police arrested her?

So what's the answer, Grandpa?

I don't know exactly.

Net-zero is not enough. Population and consumption levels matter too. GDP per capita, women's education, family size, religion are all part of the mix. The education of girls and women is the number one factor. Human fertility rate has critical and massive consequences for the entire biosphere.

It's also a matter of geography, though, of population versus farming. For instance, the United Kingdom imports over half its food from abroad, and is thus vulnerable to whatever happens in supplier countries; whereas our homeland produces far more than enough food locally, and exports large quantities.

(SOPHIE ascends rostrum.)

So what's the plan, Sophie?

The plan is as follows: young people take over, everyone walks away from consumerism, leaving the elderly behind to their fate, and together young people build a refuge somewhere, we create a self-sustaining economy, where people grow their own vegetables and tend their own animals, and where people live a simpler life, without polluting the planet, and survive the climate crisis.

The second part of the plan is political. The Coalition Against Climate Change and Plastics will target mainstream center parties, and infiltrate them. Once we have the numbers inside a party, we will take over, oust the post-war generation, and revamp all the policies for our own benefit.

That sounds like more of a revolution.
Yes, of course, a revolution in people's thinking is a prerequisite. After that, it is just a matter of organisation.

The best hope is that climate chaos will hold off long enough for the post-war generation to die off, and that our generation is wiser, and can create a refuge.

That's very kind of you, Maia.

Anyway, there will be several refuges around the world, and our homeland will be one of them. And that's all.

It's not essential to fill our refuge to the maximum with human population.

What about the other refuges?
The refuges should be anywhere inside the Arctic Circle, or towards the southern tip of Argentina, and some places in the goldilocks, or habitable, zone at altitude in the Andes. But their viability will all depend on whether crops can be grown there into the future.
And what about the rest of the world that's not a refuge?

Don't know. In some places, every last drop of available oil will be used to prop up the current lifestyle for as long as possible. Elsewhere, people will flee the cities if there is no food supply there. That may have happened in previous disappeared civilizations: who knows? Cities can only exist as long as there is food and water flowing into them from a network of suppliers.

So, the question is: if the fertility rate here is down to about one-point-six children per woman, then an overall population decline is to be expected, unless there is further immigration each year.

What is the target human population? Why does it matter? Those are the questions. Without answers, there can be no viable plan for surviving climate chaos, except to bumble through from day to day with no plan at all. It is that bumbling approach that leads to housing shortages, and so on.

Yes, but as climate chaos moves on, our homeland may become an even more desirable destination for migrants seeking a better chance of survival, or our homeland could also take in climate refugees from elsewhere.

It all sounds pretty desperate.

Yes, it does. The human species shall have its magic mayfly moment in the sun, and then disappear from the universe quite unnoticed.

And so I wish you well, but, for the post-war generation, the carnival is over: not for all species on this planet, but for the human species, and many more.

So how long have you thought like this?
About climate chaos? For the last thirty-five years.

No. How long have you believed the situation for the younger generation is hopeless, old-chap?

For several years. Two thousand seventeen was the turning point, when the USA withdrew from the Paris Agreement. But hopeless is the wrong word: it's too black and white. Almost hopeless would be more accurate.
Yes, but technology has not saved the day yet. Have you got anything else, Grandpa? We're looking for answers, not problems.

(Dejectedly, perhaps from one extreme corner of stage.)

Not really. No magic wand.

Perhaps, humans are just a short-sighted species.
All species are just too short-sighted. And the greatest infighting and competition exists within a species.

Well, the short answer is that humanity has run out of time, and solutions involve stuffing the toothpaste back into the tube.

Oh, once internal combustion engines and nuclear weapons were invented, there was no going back to innocence.
Is that where the post-war generation went wrong?


Well, again, very briefly: humans are a tropical species, and, just like some other great apes, grew up in Africa in tropical forest. Our minimal body hair is not an adaptation to temperate climes; quite the reverse.

Tina, a question: why are you wearing clothes today?

What? It'd be a bit cold and rude without, wouldn't it?
Exactly. You and I are both wearing clothes now because our ancestors originated in the tropics, and our bodies are not well-adapted to living in colder climates. By the way, it's not rude without them. That's just our culture.

(Removes cap and makes as if to remove his t-shirt)

(finding Grandpa tiresome)

Okay. That's enough already. No need to put on a show.

(Grandpa replaces cap)

I'm just extremely pessimistic about the outcome. But for you four, and your generation, it just means that the Coalition against plastics and climate chaos needs to go global. We need to find partners right across the world.

(TINA's mobile phone pings. TINA checks, looks up at ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, and nods.)

Okay. Maia, let's go. The police've gone. Take care, everyone.

(ASSISTANT PROFESSOR and MAIA wave goodbye and exit.)

(TINA's mobile pings. TINA checks the message.)

Fantastic! What a relief! Tamara says she's making apple pie. That's code to say she's found a safe house.

But what I wanted to know, Grandpa, was: how've you coped emotionally? How d'you live with this stuff and stay positive?

With great difficulty. There is a great disconnect between the gloom that I understand intellectually, and how good it feels to walk along the beach in the morning light on a quiet and peaceful sunny day. I am always surprised by the scale of environmental disasters because, emotionally, I'm not ready for them. Intellectually believing something is not the same as emotionally believing it.

It's probably better that way, isn't it? ...


I just enjoy my twilight years as best I can.

And for me?

Oh, you, darling, yes, of course. ... Dear God, I don't envy you in your position, Tina: you will see the end of humanity, or the beginning of the end. According to mitochondrial DNA, once upon a time, thousands of years ago, humanity was reduced to just a tiny number of survivors. Perhaps this will happen again, although this time round maybe our species will not come through at all. Given our recent track record, there is no reason at all to hope. Why would I mislead you, darling, by pretending that hope still exists?

(Quietly but distinctly)

And what do you, Grandpa, expect me to say now?
I have no idea. I can't even imagine it. It's like a scene from Dachau. Nothing matters any more. So what, actually, do you think, Tina?
Oh, why didn't anyone do something? What kind of stupid, heartless duckwits were you?

(Pause; sighs; then speaking factually and quietly without menace)

The post-war generation betrayed us. You stole our future. Why are you still here? You are truly just deadweight, overcrowding the lifeboat. ... Or else it's the rich and wealthy, the big spenders, who are the enemy. ... If my generation is to survive, we would have to rid ourselves of ... of the excess baggage.

(Fades to longish pause; Grandpa looks down and finally sighs.)

But maybe it's not too late to create a refuge.

I could kid myself there's a future, I suppose.

But I know, in my heart, it's not true. There's not even a proper plan. ... Just wishful thinking and false optimism. Neither courage nor bravery will save us. ... It's not some Hollywood epic.

(Pause; sighs; with slight shrug)

Whatev. ... It's the end of the sparrows.

The end of the sparrows.


(Standing close to TINA.)

Look, Tina, perhaps here, in a refuge, you'll be able to see out your life in peace.
Oh, maybe. But there'll be no children. Never. Not even one child. I just would have wanted one baby. But what would have been the point?
Not my intention, darling, to dissuade you of that.
Of course. ... But that's what happened.

(SOPHIE puts an arm round TINA, and they wander off stage. GRANDPA pauses, staring into space, and then wanders off stage after them.)