Mainstage Dramaturgy: Climate Refugees are not a Fiction
Many of us tend to forget the human impact that comes with climate change. As seas rise, ice caps melt, fires blaze, and hurricanes whirl, human lives are displaced and endangered. 1.2 billion people could be displaced globally by 2050. These people have been termed climate refugees since 2005; they are defined as people who have been forced to leave their habitat temporarily or permanently because of environmental disruption. This forced movement sometimes happens across borders or within a nation. It is worthwhile to mention that the use of the word “refugee” often has been used violently to connote a person as the “other,” someone who is “not supposed to be” in a particular place. Such terms are barriers to social thriving and economic recovery for many people. In Somewhere, we meet six climate refugees: Cassandra, Alexander, Eph, Corin, Sybil, and Diana. We watch the possible horrific human cost of the climate crisis. Yet this reality is not as ungrounded in the present reality as many of us would like to assume. Families and individuals across the world are actively being displaced as the climate changes.
In Syria, the desertification of fertile farmland between the years 2006 and 2010 cost 800,000 agriculture-based jobs and the lives of 85% of the local livestock. This situation caused 1.5 million rural workers to move to the city, increasing the existing tensions leading to the Syrian Civil War.
In Guatemala, the irregular storm pattern dubbed El Niño–that of extreme droughts followed by sudden storms–has destroyed crop production. In 2019, with the first rain after a five-year drought, farmers rushed to plant their crops, and those plants began to sprout until there was a flash flood, suffocating them. This cycle has become endless, driving rural residents into the cities of what many refer to as Central America, and it will only increase and overwhelm infrastructure as we move forward.
In South Louisiana and areas across the Mississippi River and Alabama coast, communities are grappling with the material reality that the rising sea level and tidal surges (which accompany the increasingly common hurricanes) will lead to the disproportionate displacement of black, native, and poor communities.
The human effect of climate change is here, and, despite the claims of deniers, it is real. It is not contained to one region of the world; it stretches from Syria to Guatemala to the Southern United States and beyond: its effects can be noted virtually everywhere. The climate crisis is creeping into all regions of life, even into our art. Theatre is an artistic forum: it creates a place to exchange ideas and views. Somewhere asks us to discuss the climate crisis and climate refugees and to share ideas and knowledge about how we can intervene to prevent the future that the play predicts. Theatre can also seek to shift the cultural norms of a time. Somewhere aims to increase the urgency and seriousness that should define how we address climate change. I strongly believe art can be an agent of change and coming to see Somewhere could be someone’s first step in participating in the larger climate movement. Come enjoy theatre, have these conversations, and help create a culture shift toward widespread recognition of the urgency of climate change. The future of our earth is in our hands.