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    Climate Doom Is Out. ‘Apocalyptic Optimism’ Is In.

    The philanthropist Kathryn Murdoch has prioritized donations to environmental causes for more than a decade. She has, she said, a deep understanding of how inhospitable the planet will become if climate change is not addressed. And she and her colleagues have spent years trying to communicate that.“We have been screaming,” she said. “But screaming only gets you so far.”This was on a morning in early spring. Murdoch and Ari Wallach, an author, producer and self-proclaimed futurist, had just released their new PBS docuseries, “A Brief History of the Future,” and had hopped onto a video call to promote it — politely, no screaming required. Shot cinematically, in some never-ending golden hour, the six-episode show follows Wallach around the world as he meets with scientists, activists and the occasional artist and athlete, all of whom are optimistic about the future. An episode might include a visit to a floating village or a conversation about artificial intelligence with the musician Grimes. In one sequence, marine biologists lovingly restore a rehabbed coral polyp to a reef. The mood throughout is mellow, hopeful, even dreamy. Which is deliberate.“There’s room for screaming,” Wallach said. “And there’s room for dreaming.”“A Brief History of the Future” joins some recent books and shows that offer a rosier vision of what a world in the throes — or just past the throes — of global catastrophe might look like. Climate optimism as opposed to climate fatalism.Hannah Ritchie’s “Not the End of the World: How We Can be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet” argues that many markers of disaster are less bad than the public imagines (deforestation, overfishing) or easily solvable (plastics in the oceans). In “Fallout,” the television adaptation of the popular video game that recently debuted on Amazon Prime Video, the apocalypse (nuclear, not climate-related) makes for a devastated earth, sundry mutants and plenty of goofy, kitschy fun — apocalypse lite.“Life as We Know It (Can Be),” a book by Bill Weir, CNN’s chief climate correspondent, that is structured as a series of letters to his son, centers on human potential and resilience. And Dana R. Fisher’s “Saving Ourselves: From Climate Shocks to Climate Action” contends that the disruptions of climate change may finally create a mass movement that will lead to better global outcomes. Fisher, a sociologist, coined the term “apocalyptic optimism” to describe a belief that humans can still avoid the worst ravages of climate change.In confronting the apocalypse, these works all insist that hope matters. They believe that optimism, however qualified or hard-won, may be what finally moves us to action. While Americans are less likely than their counterparts in the developed world to appreciate the threats that climate change poses, recent polls show that a significant majority of Americans now agree that climate change is real and a smaller majority agree that it is human-caused and harmful. And yet almost no expert believes that we are doing enough — in terms of technology, legislation or political pressure — to alleviate those harms.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Climate Protesters Disrupt Broadway Play Starring Jeremy Strong

    A performance of a new production of Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” was interrupted by protesters who shouted “no theater on a dead planet.”A trio of climate change protesters disrupted a performance of “An Enemy of the People,” starring Jeremy Strong, on Broadway Thursday night, shouting “no theater on a dead planet” as they were escorted out.The show they disrupted is selling quite well, thanks to audience interest in Strong, who is riding a wave of fame stemming from his portrayal of Kendall Roy in the HBO drama “Succession.” Strong stars in the play as a physician who becomes a pariah after discovering that his town’s spa baths are contaminated with bacteria; revealing that information could protect public health, but endanger the local economy.The protest, before a sold-out crowd at the 828-seat Circle in the Square theater, confused some attendees, who initially thought it was part of the play. It was staged during the second half, during a town hall scene in which some audience members were seated onstage and some actors were seated among the audience members. Although the play was written by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century, this new version, by Amy Herzog, has occasionally been described as having thematic echoes of the climate change crisis.Strong remained in character through the protest, even at one point saying that a protester should be allowed to continue to speak, said Jesse Green, the chief theater critic for The New York Times, who was among many journalists and critics who were in the audience for a press preview night. “I thought it was all scripted,” Green said. “The timing was perfect to fit into the town meeting onstage, and the subject was related.”The protest was staged by a group called Extinction Rebellion NYC, which last year disrupted a performance at the Met Opera and a match at the U.S. Open semifinals. Other climate protesters around the world have taken to defacing works of art hanging in museums, but a spokesman for the New York group said that it had not engaged in that particular protest tactic.A spokesman for Extinction Rebellion NYC, Miles Grant, explained the targeting of popular events by saying, “We want to disrupt the things that we love, because we’re at risk of genuinely losing everything the way things are going.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Against the Tide’ Review: Tales of the Sea

    Sarvnik Kaur’s breathtaking documentary about Indigenous fishermen in Mumbai brings to life an ecosystem wrecked by corporate greed and climate change.“Against the Tide, ” Sarvnik Kaur’s breathtaking documentary about Indigenous fishermen in Mumbai, India, dispels the myth that cinematic beauty has to do with the power of the camera or the glossiness of the image. Shot by Ashok Meena, the film finds beauty, simply, in perspective.The camera looks down from above at a baby held gingerly between the knees of a grandmother as she rubs oil on his skin. It tilts gently upward on a boat that ventures into a roiling sea in the dark; it peers into a bucket of fish crowded by hands holding cash, as a seller barks his prices. In each frame, the right vantage point yields a revelatory view.Kaur tells the entangled stories of two fishermen from the Koli community. Rakesh, who lives in a cramped house with his wife, mother-in-law and newborn child, struggles to sustain a living with ancestral fishing practices. The more ambitious Ganesh employs giant deep-sea boats and LED lights (banned in many parts of India) to attract fish, but is still besieged by debt. As the two friends navigate work, manage their households and argue over late-night cups of tea, the camera stays close and loose, more like a quiet listener than a voyeur.The film avoids easy binaries of tradition and modernity, and instead brings to vivid life the ecosystem that encompasses both Rakesh and Ganesh — one that has been wrecked by corporate greed and climate change. Their only choice is between bad and worse, and if this makes the film rather bleak, the two men’s prickly yet undying friendship (centered by Kaur in another keen perspectival decision) warms the movie like a fire.Against the TideNot rated. In Hindi and Marathi, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters. More

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    John Luther Adams, Praying for the Earth in Music

    First come the plants: the Baishan fir and the Qiaojia pine, the coral tree and the suicide palm. Then come the insects, the Franklin’s bumblebee and the Bozdagh grasshopper in turn, then the spiders, the fish, the reptiles, the amphibians, the frogs, 17 kinds in all. Birds fly behind, finches and macaws and vultures and larks, monarchs and thrushes and curlews and crows. Last are the mammals, from the mightiest Javan rhinoceros to the meekest mountain pygmy possum.The Latin binomials of 192 endangered species make up the incantatory text of “Litanies of the Sixth Extinction,” the grim, dark heart of “Vespers of the Blessed Earth,” a new, 50-minute work by John Luther Adams that the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Crossing and the soprano Meigui Zhang will premiere under Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Philadelphia on Thursday, before taking it to Carnegie Hall on Friday.That’s 192 endangered species until low male voices invoke one more, the species that named the others and now threatens them, and itself, with extinction: Homo sapiens.“We’ve got to face that the situation is dire and it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Adams said of the climate crisis, and his latest musical response to it, in a recent video interview from his home in the New Mexico desert. “The only way it’s going to get better is if we face the harsh, stark, sobering, actually terrifying realities ahead of us — and act on them.”Coincidentally, though tellingly, the “Vespers” will have their premiere little more than a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in its latest report that “there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”For Matías Tarnopolsky, the president and chief executive of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the new “Vespers” are an example of the role that classical music can play in society.“We all believe that music can change the world,” Tarnopolsky said of the premiere’s creators, “that music can change the way we look at searing issues facing humanity. John Luther Adams’s music — his philosophy, his ethos — encapsulates that in all of his work.”Still, for all the ecological concern that has informed so much of what Adams has composed since he turned away from professional environmentalism several decades ago, he has rarely, if ever, been so direct as in these “Vespers.” Habitual disclaimers that his music and his activism were to some extent distinct used to surround works like “Become Ocean,” the consuming masterpiece that won him the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2014, and “Become Desert,” a New York Philharmonic co-commission that will have its belated Lincoln Center premiere this June.Following the example of Greta Thunberg, Adams took the train to Philadelphia from New Mexico, rather than fly.Aaron Richter for The New York Times“I believe that music has the power to inspire a renewal of human consciousness, culture, and politics,” Adams wrote in “Silences So Deep,” an eloquent memoir published in 2020. “And yet I refuse to make political art.”But the “Vespers” are markedly more urgent in tone compared with Adams’s typical “passive activism,” as it was called by Donald Nally, the conductor of the Crossing, which has recorded Adams works including “Canticles of the Holy Winds” and “Sila: The Breath of the World.”“He builds these sound worlds that allow you to appreciate the awesomeness, literally, of the world around us, even though you’re sitting in a concert hall that is probably contributing to the problem,” Nally said, pointing as an example to the first of the five vespers, “A Brief Descent Into Deep Time,” which sinks through the layered rocks of the Grand Canyon, eons of geology evoking the permanence of the Earth.“Music for me is a kind of spiritual discipline; it’s as close to religion as I get,” Adams said. “It’s a way of being in touch with mysteries larger, deeper, older than I can fathom, and so, because of that, I’ve never really been interested in expressing myself in music.”That changed, he continued, as he worked on the Philadelphia commission from spring 2020 on, amid superstorms, floods, police killings and the pandemic. His best friend, the nature writer Barry Lopez, died of prostate cancer that December, three months after a wildfire had burned parts of his home near the McKenzie River in Oregon, making him a climate refugee.“In the middle of all this,” Adams recalled, “I found myself composing what is if not the most personal, at least the most overtly expressive music I’ve ever composed.”But the “Vespers” are prayers, not a requiem. Even if Adams said that this score is one of the saddest and most austere that he has composed, it still celebrates the splendor of the enduring Earth, and is more melodic than some of his music has been. “If ‘Ocean’ and ‘Desert’ are Brucknerian,” he suggested, “this is almost Mozartean.”That dynamic of beauty and grief going hand in hand is especially apparent in “Night Shining Clouds,” a movement for strings alone that depicts cloud structures whose chemistry means that they are “getting more beautiful because we’re polluting the Earth more,” Adams said. It’s also clear in “Aria of the Ghost Bird,” the desolate final movement, a setting for soprano of the unrequited mating call of the last Kauai oo, a bird native to Hawaii that has not been heard since the 1980s.“It’s the song of an extinct bird, and yet it’s so beautiful,” Adams said. “One of my friends looked at the score and said, ‘Well, you just can’t help yourself, can you J.L.A., you have to end on a hopeful note.’ I said, ‘Jim, the bird’s extinct.’”Adams has not lost hope yet, though he admits that “the odds don’t look good for us as a species, and regardless even the best-case scenario isn’t very rosy.” The Biden administration’s recent decision to approve further oil drilling in his beloved Alaska is “kind of unbelievable,” he said.What gives Adams succor, even now, is a younger group of activists coming to the fore and working in new ways. Following the example of Greta Thunberg, he has cut back on travel and become more deliberate about his choices when it is unavoidable. To attend the back-to-back premieres of “Vespers” and “Night” — his part in “Proximity,” the triptych that opened last week at Lyric Opera of Chicago — he took the train from Albuquerque, rather than fly.“It’s these next generations that are going to have to sort through the rubble that my generation is leaving to them,” Adams said, “and imagine new ways of living together with one another, and living within the limits of biology — or our goose is cooked. But I’m not betting against them, in the face of all of it.”What role does that leave for an old-time environmentalist, now 70, writing music as the catastrophe that he long worked to avoid gathers speed?Adams often talked with Lopez, he said, about what it meant to be a “senior artist.” They agreed that they were, and could be, nothing like the elders of the Indigenous communities they knew. But when Adams recently reread “Arctic Dreams,” which won Lopez the National Book Award in 1986, he found a passage that reminded him of another ideal they had discussed.“The Inuit have a particular kind of person, an isumataq,” Adams said. “An isumataq is not an elder; an isumataq is a person who creates the atmosphere, or the place, within which wisdom may reveal itself. I think Barry was absolutely an isumataq. And that’s what I’m looking for in my own work, and have been looking for all my life. It’s not because I think I know anything. I don’t. I’m probably more clueless than the next person. It’s precisely because I don’t know, that I do what I do.”“I’m not trying to save you, or anyone else, let alone the world,” Adams continued. “First and foremost, I’m doing this because I’m lost, and I’m looking for religion. I’m looking for God, in that sense.” More

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    The Poignant Music of Melting Ice: Have a Listen

    Listen to This ArticleAs soon as Martin Sharp opened the file, he knew the ice had been singing all summer.Several months earlier, Sharp — at that point, in 2009, a glaciologist at the University of Alberta for nearly two decades — had burrowed a cache of microphones into the Devon Ice Cap, a frozen mass in far northern Canada the size of Connecticut. Seven large microphones and GPS sensors monitored the rate of the melting ice atop the cap, while several seismic monitors sensed how the ice moved along the Earth, too. Almost as an afterthought, Sharp set up a little Sony hand-held recorder, hoping it might capture the essence of the frigid stillness where he often worked.The result teemed with surprises: A snow bunting perched on the rig and sang. Gulls circled above. And below, as deep ice gradually thawed, an unexpected symphony unspooled. Water trickled past the microphone, creating a vertiginous drone, while tiny bubbles — air trapped inside the ice, perhaps for centuries — exploded incessantly, creating an allegro of snaps and pops that conjured the electronic productions of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Sharp began playing a 20-minute tape during lectures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asked for a copy, hoping to add sonic context to dry discussions about data and policy.“It gave people a different way into what I was talking about, other than just showing slides,” Sharp, 64, said with a chuckle by phone. “The sound conveyed what it was like to be there.”Between 1990 and 1993, Thomas Köner made a trilogy of lauded ambient albums that steadily evoked the awe and unease of being surrounded by ice that loomed, moved and cracked.Erinn SpringerIn recent years, the assorted and unexpected sounds of ice have periodically gone viral — the laserlike phenomenon of someone skating across thin ice, the shootout sensation of ice being dropped into a frozen hole, the meditative sighs of ice forming and popping inside a Swedish lake. But several scientists and musicians believe it all could have power beyond being mere online curios. Recordings of melting ice, splintering glaciers and cascading runoff could help predict the rate of climate change and sea-level rise; music made with such sounds, some hope, could lead listeners to rethink their relationship to nature. If more people can actually hear climate change through the once-unknown songs of failing ice, can they be inspired to help prevent it?“I’m privileged that I can go somewhere and study these glaciers, but what about people who have to use their imaginations?” asked Grant Deane, 61, a longtime researcher at the University of California‌‌, San Diego.Since 2009, he has plotted methods to use recordings of melting ice and calving glaciers — chunks splitting from the monolith’s edge above or below water — to document and predict the rate of loss and concomitant rise of sea levels. The planet is in a constant state of flux, of course, so melting ice and calving glaciers are natural processes, with changing seasons or epochs. But the glaciers Deane studies are receding at a rapid rate he attributes to greenhouse gases, and he believes it’s possible to hear that acceleration. He aims to build 12 substations along Greenland’s coast to chart the attrition of the island’s gargantuan ice sheet through sound.Such science, he warned, held only so much possible public sway. “When people like me start talking about melting ice, it seems so far-off and unconnected from our everyday lives,” continued Deane, who has contributed recordings to immersive installations by the Canadian artist Mia Feuer. “How can people care about that when they’re dealing with immediate problems? Music can make those connections.”“These recordings may not be scientifically sound,” said the Australian sound artist and researcher Philip Samartzis, “but it’s a whole other way of communicating knowledge, a different aperture of experience.”Erinn SpringerFOR NEARLY TWO decades, the Norwegian musician Jana Winderen has been at the forefront of transforming her straightforward recordings of glaciers and the land and water surrounding them into emotional records, poignant musical postcards from melting and cracking masses of ice. During a 2006 family vacation in Iceland, Winderen dipped a hydrophone — a sealed microphone that detects pressure changes underwater — under a glacier’s edge. She shushed her daughters, sloshing in nearby mud, so she could tease out the source of some plangent rumble.“It sounded like a loud engine, so I started looking for a tractor,” Winderen, 57, said recently, speaking by video in her studio from her family’s farm outside Oslo. “But I realized for the first time that the glacier is gliding — really, really slowly — on this water underneath sediments. And the sound has presence, like a creature. I totally fell in love.”A former aspiring marine biologist whose mother was an early member of the Norwegian environmental advocacy group Future in Our Hands, Winderen soon realized the transformative capabilities of such sounds. A photo of an iceberg, she recognized, was gorgeous; the brutal noise it made while breaking free from a glacier, however, could be harrowing. Even fusillades of tiny pops from escaping air proved evocative, as the frozen world gave way to heat. “People could close their eyes and be there with the ice, be present,” she said. “It wasn’t like I had just recorded something and brought it there.”Every time Winderen wields a microphone, the sounds surprise her. She can hear differences between ice that’s old and young, inland or seaside. But she has never hoped to be a mere stenographer, simply playing back what she heard while suspended precariously in glacial crevasses or trying not to capsize off the coast of Greenland after icebergs hit the water. She processes raw recordings, turning them into extended collages. Her albums — particularly “Energy Field” from 2010, which occasionally calls to mind drum-less heavy metal or an untuned violin — unfurl as tone poems, giving her changing surroundings a spiritual gravitas.“I am not archiving that sound or this sound — that’s not interesting to me,” Winderen said. “It’s more interesting to be out there and listen, to figure out what’s happening and have an awareness of how much we don’t know.”For the veteran Australian sound artist and researcher Philip Samartzis, it took an unprecedented Antarctic blizzard to accept the political potential of ice’s songs. Samartzis first visited the continent, through an arts fellowship in 2010, to map the acoustic environment of the Davis research station, one of Australia’s three outposts there. How, he wondered, did existence sound at this end of the earth?“I tried to render the experiences as authentically as possible,” Samartzis, 60, said by video during vacation in New Zealand. “So you have very detailed forensic recordings of the station — without wind, which I was very adept at removing.”But, as Samartzis admitted with a grin, bowdlerizing wind from the breeziest place in the world wasn’t very authentic. When he returned in February 2016, he intended to focus on wind itself, to log the ways it pulverized the place. He got his chance, during the strongest summertime blizzard ever witnessed there. As ice and snow pelted eight microphone stations through the 36-hour storm, the timbre of his work began shifting.Though Samartzis often talked with wonder about the way the Antarctic ice would “sing,” how dynamic and curious it always seemed, the roar he’d chronicled was terrifying, a bewildering testament to climate change’s ferocity. His “Atmospheres and Disturbances,” out in March, fastidiously presents the sounds of melting permafrost, contracting glaciers and human activity that seems to exacerbate both at a research outpost more than two miles above sea level in the Swiss Alps. Hearing the disappearance is haunting and hair-raising, like watching a television show about hunting ghosts.“When I talk to scientists about climate change, everyone’s all talked out. Essentially everyone knows, so it’s, ‘Why should I listen to you and your report?’” Samartzis said. “These recordings may not be scientifically sound, but it’s a whole other way of communicating knowledge, a different aperture of experience.”Still, at least one pioneer of portraying ice through music worries that all this work arrives too late — and that simply capturing these songs of surrender and playing them back through loudspeakers can never get to ice’s might or grandeur. More than three decades ago, the young German producer Thomas Köner sat at the foot of a Norwegian glacier and marveled as fog rose and fell above it, like enormous frozen lungs breathing deliberately.Between 1990 and 1993, Köner, who uses they/them pronouns, funneled such observations into a trilogy of lauded ambient albums that steadily evoked the awe and unease of being surrounded by ice that loomed, moved and cracked. But Köner believes that “Novaya Zemlya” — their 2012 album inspired in part by the glaciers of the Arctic archipelago of the same name — may be their final ice work. The Soviet Union tested the largest-ever atomic bomb there in 1961; for Köner, it represents humanity’s true relationship to nature.“This was the end of, if not the love affair, the loved object — the idea of this pristine world of ice,” Köner, 57, said by phone from an artist residency in Serbia. “It is very sad, like you lost somebody. But you keep going on.”Such presiding melancholy has motivated Eliza Bozek, 30, and a cadre of other young musicians to get to glaciers now, not later. An acolyte of the emotionally textured work of Winderen and Chris Watson (a prolific sound artist partly responsible for David Attenborough’s “Frozen Planet”), Bozek thinks that allowing people to hear ice creates an opportunity for awareness and, just maybe, altered behavior.“They’re beautiful, but there’s a slow violence to the sounds, too,” said Bozek, who makes music under the name moltamole, from her Copenhagen apartment. “The sounds are political statements that are not available to our ears unless they’re recorded. They create space for empathy.”Every time Jana Winderen wields a microphone, the sounds surprise her. She can hear differences between ice that’s old and young, inland or seaside.Erinn SpringerLATE LAST YEAR, Sharp’s 2009 recording atop the Devon Ice Cap, the one he played during lectures, enjoyed an unexpected reprise on an album called, simply, “Ice Records.” The London artist and filmmaker Susan Schuppli first encountered Sharp while making a documentary about the Canadian Ice Core Lab, where more than 1,300 samples pulled from glaciers shape a portrait of Earth’s climate history. He was the archive’s first director.Schuppli wove a portion of Sharp’s file into a 24-minute collage of ice recordings she and other researchers had made around the world by climbing into crevasses or sticking hydrophones beneath a glacier’s watery lips. The snippets are loud and vibrant, almost ecstatic, an atmosphere of ice offered with an exclamation mark. “I didn’t want to treat it as a mute witness,” Schuppli said by video from her home in London. “That sound gives us access to its change almost in real-time.”Toward the middle of “Ice Records,” as meltwater gurgles beneath India’s enormous Drang-Drung Glacier, several women laugh. In the village of Akshow, they’d depended on that water their entire lives; as the melting accelerates, however, they may be threatened by “outburst floods,” when the water overruns whatever reservoir previously held it. But these women had never visited Drang-Drung, let alone listened to it. Schuppli led them up the ice and handed them headphones, so they might hear it morph beneath their feet.“It was not about mourning this glacier but trying to understand what was going on,” Schuppli said. “How does science produce hospitality, so it’s not just scientists saying why their work is important? These women were enthralled. They didn’t want to stop listening.”Audio produced by More

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    In ‘Extrapolations,’ Scott Z. Burns Dramatizes Some Inconvenient Truths

    Years ago, when Scott Z. Burns was doing some uncredited script work on Steven Soderbergh’s escapist heist movie “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004), Burns made the mistake of cracking a joke about the popcorn movie they were making. Soderbergh quickly set him straight.Movies and TV shows are a transaction, Soderbergh told him. Filmmakers and showrunners tell viewers a story, and viewers give that story their time.“He told me that is a transaction that we, as storytellers, can’t afford to be cynical about,” Burns said in a recent video call. In other words, entertainment is the storyteller’s mandate.The lesson came in handy as Burns was writing, producing and directing multiple episodes of “Extrapolations,” the new limited series he created for Apple TV+, which debuts on Friday. The series, which features a large, illustrious cast — top names include Edward Norton and Meryl Streep — conjures eight hours of drama, science fiction and some occasional comedy from the subject of global warming. As subjects go, it’s a tough sell; the series could easily have come across like an urgent plea to eat your vegetables.But not if he could make it at least a little bit fun.“I don’t believe I’m going to move people or change their attitude about anything unless first I entertain them” said Burns, best known for writing the research-heavy Soderbergh movies “Contagion,” “Side Effects” and “The Informant!” (and for writing and directing the 2019 political thriller “The Report”). “That, to me, is the fun part of the job: creating entertainment that maybe sticks with somebody.”Make no mistake, it was a challenge. Telling multiple, sometimes interlocking stories that cover the years 2037 to 2070, “Extrapolations” is hugely ambitious, exploring climate change from religious, political, economic, technological and social perspectives. Each episode (with the exception of one two-parter) leaps ahead several years as the climate crisis worsens, traversing the globe from Alaska to India, much of it shot overseas. Fires rage, cities flood and famines spread but life continues, including all of the myopia, power-grabbing and need for deeper meaning that has always characterized human history.Mia Maestro and Edward Norton in a scene from Episode 4 of “Extrapolations.” The series follows multiple, often interlocking stories that track the future of climate change.Apple TV+Matthew Rhys (far left, with Heather Graham and, center and far right, Alexander Sokovikov and Noel Arthur), praised Burns’s ability to “view the world from many different perspectives.”Apple TV+It’s a series full of big ideas. But that is typical for Burns, said Matthew Rhys, who stars and has been friends with him for several years. (He also played a small but important role in “The Report.”“He is forever posing the questions that would never even cross my stratosphere,” Rhys said in a video call. “He has this expanse to his thinking and to his questioning, and also this enormous humanity and incredible sensitivity.”Born and raised just outside Minneapolis, Burns studied English literature at the University of Minnesota and originally wanted to be a journalist. His father worked in advertising, and Burns followed in his footsteps. He soon discovered that he was good at writing television commercials, which is how he met the actor and director Peter Berg. Berg was interested in directing ads in between his film and television projects. They became friends, and Berg hired Burns to write for the series “Wonderland” (2000), a drama set in a psychiatric facility modeled on Bellevue Hospital.The series lasted only one season, but the experience taught Burns two things about himself: He had a talent for writing screenplays, and he loved doing research. He would spend hours at Bellevue, immersing himself in the atmosphere and the history.“I think that’s where I became persuaded that research really is the solution to writer’s block,” he said. “That if you just continue to dig into your subject matter, it’s eventually going to reveal some cool story to you.”Kate Winslet and Larry Clark in a scene from the heavily researched Steven Soderbergh film “Contagion” (2011), which Burns wrote. Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.He takes a hands-on approach to gathering information and context, engaging experts and throwing himself into his subjects. For “Contagion,” that meant global pandemics (the film was released in 2011, nearly a decade before the Covid-19 outbreak). For “Side Effects” (2013), it was the world of antidepressants. In writing “Extrapolations” Burns consulted with the climate change experts Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben.He is also open to perspectives that diverge from his own. “I know that one of the reasons he brought me on is that he and I don’t see the world the same way,” Dorothy Fortenberry, an executive producer of “Extrapolations,” said in a video call. “We have very different lives and lifestyles. He’s agnostic, and I’m religious. We’re not a matched set, and I think he appreciated that.”Burns traces his environmental awakening to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, in which some 11 million gallons of crude oil were spilled into Prince William Sound, Alaska. Burns took a leave from his advertising job to help clean otters affected by the spill. He soon realized that the otter center where he worked was part of a carefully planned strategy to rehabilitate Exxon’s image.“I think what I took from that was that a story, like a place that had been built to clean otters, wasn’t maybe what it looked like,” Burns said. “That was a big thing for me. I came back and I changed my relationship to advertising so I could do more work in the environmental space.”Years later, he jumped at an opportunity to work on Davis Guggenheim’s 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” joining as a producer.Al Gore, pictured in a scene from “An Inconvenient Truth.” He applauded Burns’s willingness to apply his storytelling skills to the subject of global warming. Eric Lee/Paramount ClassicsThe film, which won an Oscar for best documentary, turned an Al Gore slide show into a visually compelling and morally persuasive argument for heeding the dire signs of global warming. Viewed widely as an important moment in raising public awareness of climate change, it even spawned a sequel, 2017’s “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” with Burns as an executive producer.Gore, who has remained friends with Burns, was particularly impressed with how Burns handled the episodes of “Extrapolations” that are set in the distant future, and his ability to turn real-world crisis into compelling narrative.“The farther into the future you extrapolate, the more difficult it is to find the most accurate projection of what might happen,” Gore said by phone. “But I think that he’s really done a terrific job.”“There is kind of a cottage industry of books about how storytelling is the way we all best absorb information, so the importance of highly skilled storytellers has grown,” Gore added. “It’s great that Scott has applied that skill to this challenge.”Compared to the “Inconvenient Truth” films, the flashy, effects-heavy “Extrapolations” feels like “Ocean’s Twelve,” with a similarly star-studded cast. It includes Marion Cotillard and Forest Whitaker, who play a married couple living a contentious, futuristic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” existence; Sienna Miller, who plays a pregnant marine biologist wondering what the future holds for her unborn child; David Schwimmer, who plays a slippery lawyer willing to grease some wheels to preserve the temple where his family worships; and Kit Harington, who plays a powerful tech mogul lording over all he sees, Elon Musk style.It makes for a lot of intellectual and artistic juggling. To that end, Rhys, who plays a craven casino mogul trying to make a fast buck in Alaska, praised Burns’s ability to “view the world from many different perspectives and approach them all with equal empathy.”Daveed Diggs, who plays a rabbi in a rapidly flooding Miami, was drawn to the scope of “Extrapolations.” “I just thought it was a really big swing,” he said, “and I like things that are big swings.” Apple TV+That enormous scope was a specific draw for Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton,” “Blindspotting”), who plays a rabbi trying to balance faith, social obligation and the reality of rapidly rising Miami sea levels in two early episodes.“I just thought it was a really big swing, and I like things that are big swings,” he said in a video call. “I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work, but the world building was so smart to me. It is trying to create something that allows us to discuss the reality of climate change in the same way that we discuss other elements of popular culture.”“Extrapolations” also fits neatly into a running Burns theme: The world is a scary place, and humans have devised all manner of ways to screw it up. But they also have the capability to fix it, and this gives him hope.“People who know me would probably say I tend to be a little darker and drier than a lot of other humans,” he said. “But I know that we have all of the solutions to all of these problems. I also recognize that the amount of change that we have to engage in is massive, and human beings don’t tend to change very rapidly.”Perhaps his latest endeavor can help push things along. And maybe even provide some entertainment along the way. More

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    Cautionary Climate Tales That Give People Pause When They Press Play

    The India-born director Joshua Ashish Dawson builds digital worlds that ruminate on the future shock of environmental destruction in the real world.This article is part of our Design special section on how the recent push for diversity is changing the way the world looks.A young woman is distressed. She seems unwell. Her body was “never designed to cope with the extremes of a shifting climate,” a soothing voice informs us. As a dreamy soundtrack plays in the background, she arrives at “Spa Sybarite,” where futuristic stone treatment pods hover on stilts above a desert landscape.“Spa Sybarite” is a three-minute film by Joshua Ashish Dawson, a 32-year-old Angeleno who describes himself as a “world builder” and much of his work as “speculative climate futures.” Trained as an architect, he uses digital design tools and the language of cinema to create environments and scenarios that, he said, “ask viewers to question their assumptions about the world they live in.”At “Spa Sybarite,” the voice-over goes on, guests are offered “an assortment of scientifically tested customized treatments to help your body condition itself to the environmental despair that faces our planet.” Soaking in an outdoor tub rinses skin “of the deposits of wildfire ash,” and healthy meals are “customized to your prior nutritional accessibility.” There is also “solastalgia therapy,” where digital visualization artists create an immersive 3-D simulation of your wildfire-destroyed home for you to visit.A character in “Spa Sybarite” rinses in a tub that’s meant to cleanse her of wildfire ash. Both hyper-realistic and satirical, this film probes how people might shift their wellness rituals to cope with extreme climate change.Joshua DawsonThe conceit for “Spa Sybarite” is both slightly absurd and eminently believable. Elements almost feel like satire, something Mr. Dawson plays with, but his ultimate aim is for a kind of “hyper-realism,” he said of the film, noting that the idea of a climate spa is not very far from reality. “Wellness is a multi-trillion-dollar industry,” he said, “and it’s only a matter of time before someone takes the obvious opportunity to market wellness as the solution to climate-based illness, the biggest global health threat of our time.”Having grown up in Bangalore, India, he is sensitive to how climate change disproportionally affects low-income communities and communities of color. His invention of a white, presumably wealthy protagonist in “Spa Sybarite” raises the question of who has access to wellness, not to mention basic heath care. He sees the luxury spa as a product of disaster capitalism, “where these infrastructures of care are used to make a profit off of a crisis.”Mr. Dawson has made three other films, ranging from four to seven minutes, with related themes: In “Cáustico,” it is the politics of water privatization; in “Loa’s Promise,” the ecological and human impacts of unregulated resource extraction; and in “Denervation,” the threats posed by counterfeiting in an unscrupulous pharmaceutical industry. Concern with the environment and health underlie everything.He traces his career path to his childhood in India in the 1990s, when two of his loves were Lego and movies. His father is an English-speaking Protestant Christian who works as an interior designer, and his mother is a Hindu civil engineer whose first language is Marathi. The family spoke English at home, and both Mr. Dawson and his sister attended convent schools that had been established by the British.“The influx of Hollywood at that point in time in Bangalore really was something that we grabbed onto and were excited about,” he recounted. Even today, he said, movies are a big part of how his family connects.“I never had a road map set by someone who looked like me,” said Mr. Dawson. Here, he sits inside the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles where he plans to shoot his next project: a feature film.Tanveer Badal for The New York TimesHe went on to study at the RV College of Architecture in Bangalore, where he received a bachelor’s degree in architecture. While in school, he interned for several months in the Ahmedabad office of Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, India’s first Pritzker Prize-winning architect.Doshi, who died in January, worked with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, two influential figures in modern architecture, and he was known for adapting the International Style to a community-minded modernist approach and regional focus that reflected India’s culture and climate.The Projectionist Chronicles the Awards SeasonThe Oscars aren’t until March, but the campaigns have begun. Kyle Buchanan is covering the films, personalities and events along the way.The Tom Cruise Factor: Stars were starstruck when the “Top Gun: Maverick” headliner showed up at the Oscar nominees luncheon.An Andrea Riseborough FAQ: Confused about the brouhaha surrounding the best actress nominee? We explain why her nod was controversial.Sundance and the Oscars: Which films from the festival could follow “CODA” to the 2024 Academy Awards.A Supporting-Actress Underdog: In “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” don’t discount the pivotal presence of Stephanie Hsu.“I learned a lot from him in terms of how he used mythmaking and storytelling very much in his design process,” Mr. Dawson said. “And it was the start of something that was sort of going off in my head.”After graduating from architecture school, he received his license to practice in India. But he lacked experience with digital tools used for design and fabrication. That led him to enroll in the master’s program in advanced architectural studies at the University of Southern California, where he met another key mentor, Alex McDowell.Mr. McDowell is a Hollywood film production designer with credits on “Fight Club,” “Minority Report” and “Man of Steel,” among others. His studio, Experimental Design, creates future-gazing story worlds for corporate clients, educational institutions and cultural organizations. He is also on the faculty of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is the director of the school’s World Building Media Lab, where students collaborate on immersive storytelling.“What’s exciting is when students come in from completely different disciplines with this very open-minded approach to storytelling,” Mr. McDowell said. “And Joshua was one of relatively few who really pushed against the edges of his discipline. He came into class as an architect, very open and excited, I think, by the idea of entertainment media. He came in ready to break down the walls.”Mr. Dawson’s graduation project was his first short, “Cáustico.” Set in the year 2036, in a computer-generated city of anonymous steel-and-glass structures, the film envisions a future where dwindling fresh water supplies are controlled by a fictional company called Turquoise, whose depletion of underground aquifers causes massive sinkholes, while some of the most privileged citizens start moving into a subterranean lower city to be closer to the water. For the audio, Mr. Dawson used snippets of actual news reports on climate and water issues from 2014 and 2015, reminding us that such a future might not be so far away.In “Cáustico,” Mr. Dawson conceptualizes the politics of water privatization. Eventually, he’d like to create real-world spaces but for now is focused on continuing to explore experimental, design-based projects.Joshua DawsonSince then, he has turned out films at a measured pace while working day jobs. He spent four and a half years as a designer at Price Architects and HKS (the two firms merged in 2019), and for the past two years, he has been a narrative visualization specialist at IBI Group, producing dynamic 3-D models that help planners study the impact potential infrastructure and development projects will have on future urban environments.Mr. Dawson said he eventually wants to create real-world spaces. For now, he remains focused on the films he thinks of as a critical design practice, taking inspiration from ’60s and ’70s radical architecture collectives like Superstudio and Archigram, which rejected building in favor of exploring experimental concepts in films, artworks and manifestoes that challenged the status quo.Funded with grants and his own savings, each short film has involved a handful of partners. Some he has known since his days at USC, like Ashton Rae, a cinematographer, who described Mr. Dawson as “an incredibly collaborative director” with “a clear and punctuated vision.” She noted that in addition to making films “about real-world issues that affect marginalized individuals,” Mr. Dawson prioritizes having a diverse crew on set and for postproduction work.Mr. Dawson said his own identity as an immigrant of color is an asset in his work, giving him “a different perspective on issues that locals can’t see or see in biased ways.” As a Christian and the product of an interfaith marriage in India, he described himself as a micro-minority who “always felt like an outsider.”Familiar with the religious, gender and caste-based discrimination that is widespread in India, he is still learning about racism in the U.S., where he said immigrants are often expected to feel grateful just for being here. Based on his name, people often assume he is white before they meet him, which can cut both ways.“Since the killing of George Floyd, there definitely has been an increase in the kind of space making for people of color to be given a place at the table,” he said. “But it can be a little bit like a quota, like tokenism, with one spot or two spots that all the marginalized groups of people within their discipline have to compete for.”His hope is to see more people like him doing the kind of work he loves. “I never had a road map set by someone who looked like me, who paved this sort of interdisciplinary path like the one I’m trying to forge,” he said.A conceptual image of Mr. Dawson’s upcoming project where he reimagines the Bradbury Building as an ancient Indian stepwell. He plans for it to serve as a backdrop for a full-length murder-mystery movie.Joshua DawsonHis next project is a feature film that will incorporate cultural references tied to his identity as an India-born designer. It started as a visual thought experiment, a reimagining of the historic Bradbury Building in Los Angeles — specifically its soaring interior court with a glass ceiling and ornate Victorian ironwork — as an ancient Indian stepwell. The fictional hybrid structure will serve as a setting for a story about an Indian American detective who threads through its spaces as she investigates a murder.While Mr. Dawson was working on the screenplay this winter, drought-stricken Los Angeles was being battered by heavy storms, with most of the rainfall washing into the ocean because of insufficient drainage and catchment infrastructure. His project is a provocation to city planners to look to India’s stepwells — subterranean structures that are admired as aesthetic as well as engineering marvels, which for centuries provided reserves of clean water for drinking and bathing — for creative inspiration, if not literal solutions.“The past can teach us a lot, not just in terms of how water histories are written but also how water is controlled by the state,” Mr. Dawson said.He attributed his decision to weave his cultural background into his work to finding his voice as a designer and storyteller, but he added that it probably also has something to do with an increased openness to diverse cultural narratives.“Personally,” he said, “I like to roll with this idea that it’s a beautiful synchronization between the two.” More

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    Climate Change Threatens Summer Stages and Outdoor Performances

    ASHLAND, Ore. — Smoke from a raging wildfire in California prompted the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to cancel a recent performance of “The Tempest” at its open-air theater. Record flooding in St. Louis forced the cancellation of an outdoor performance of “Legally Blonde.” And after heat and smoke at an outdoor Pearl Jam concert in France damaged the throat of its lead singer, Eddie Vedder, the band canceled several shows.Around the world, rising temperatures, raging wildfires and extreme weather are imperiling whole communities. This summer, climate change is also endangering a treasured pastime: outdoor performance.Here in the Rogue Valley, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is seeing an existential threat from ever-more-common wildfires. In 2018 it canceled 25 performances because of wildfire smoke. In 2020, while the theater was shut down by the pandemic, a massive fire destroyed 2,600 local homes, including those of several staffers. When the festival reopened last year with a one-woman show about the civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, wildfire smoke forced it to cancel almost every performance in August.“The problem is that in recent years there have been fires in British Columbia and in the mountains in Washington State and fires as far as Los Angeles,” said Nataki Garrett, the festival’s artistic director. “You have fire up and down the West Coast, and all of that is seeping into the valley.”Even before this year’s fire season began, the festival moved the nightly start time of its outdoor performances later because of extreme heat.Wildfires, which generate smoke that pollute air quality over long distances, have already begun burning this year in parts of Europe and the United States. In July, the Oak fire raged near Yosemite National Park.David McNew/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesRecord rainfall in the St. Louis area caused flash flooding. Among the effects: The Muny, a major outdoor musical theater, had to cancel a performance of “Legally Blonde” because of flooding on its campus.Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated PressAshland is not the only outdoor theater canceling performances because of wildfires. Smoke or fire conditions have also prompted cancellations in recent years at the Butterfly Effect Theater of Colorado; the California Shakespeare Theater, known as Cal Shakes; the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in Nevada and the Getty Villa in Malibu, Calif., among others.“We are one giant ecosystem, and what happens in one place affects everywhere,” said Robert K. Meya, the general director of the Santa Fe Opera, which stages open-air productions against a striking desert backdrop each summer, and which, in an era of massive wildfires near and far, has installed sensors to gauge whether it is safe to perform.The reports of worsening conditions come from wide swaths of the country. “Last summer was the hardest summer I’ve experienced out here, because fires came early, and coupled with that were pretty severe heat indexes,” said Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, which stages free performances in rural communities in five Rocky Mountain West states, and has increasingly been forced indoors. “And the hailstorms this year have been out of control.”Road signs in Ashland, Ore., guide drivers along wildfire evacuation routes.Kristina Barker for The New York TimesIn southern Ohio, a growing number of performances of an annual history play called “Tecumseh!” have been canceled because of heavy rain. In northwest Arkansas, rising heat is afflicting “The Great Passion Play,” an annual re-enactment of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In Texas, record heat forced the Austin Symphony Orchestra to cancel several outdoor chamber concerts. And in western Massachusetts, at Tanglewood, the bucolic summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, more shade trees have been planted on the sweeping lawn to provide relief on hot days.“Changing weather patterns with more frequent and severe storms have altered the Tanglewood landscape on a scale not previously experienced,” the orchestra said in a statement.On Sunday, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of the nation’s first major climate law, which, if enacted into law, would seek to bring about major reductions in greenhouse pollution. Arts presenters, meanwhile, are grappling with how to preserve outdoor productions, both short-term and long-term, as the planet warms.“We’re in a world that we have never been in as a species, and we’re going into a world that is completely foreign and new and will be challenging us in ways we can only dimly see right now,” said Kim Cobb, the director of the environment and society institute at Brown University.The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is an important driver of the local economy, but smoke and heat associated with climate change have become a growing challenge.Kristina Barker for The New York TimesSome venues are taking elaborate precautions. The American Players Theater in Spring Green, Wis., now requires performers to wear wicking undergarments when the heat and humidity rise, encourages actors to consume second act sports drinks, and asks costume designers to eliminate wigs, jackets and other heavy outerwear on hot days.Many outdoor performing venues say that, even as they are bracing for the effects of climate change, they are also trying to limit the ways that they contribute to it. The Santa Fe Opera is investing in solar energy; the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is planting native meadows; and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is using electric vehicles.The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which before the pandemic had been one of the largest nonprofit theaters in the country, is, in many ways, patient zero. The theater is central to the local economy — the downtown features establishments with names like the Bard’s Inn and Salon Juliet. But the theater’s location, in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon, has repeatedly been subject to high levels of wildfire smoke in recent years.At the Santa Fe Opera, which offers majestic desert views at sunset, concern about wildfire smoke prompted officials to install air quality sensors. Ramsay de Give for The New York TimesThe theater, like many, has installed air quality monitors — there’s one in a niche in the wall that encircles the audience in the open-air Allen Elizabethan Theater, where this summer “The Tempest” is alternating with a new musical called “Revenge Song.” The device is visible only to the keenest of eyes: a small cylindrical white gadget with lasers that count particles in the passing breeze.The theater also has a smoke team that holds a daily meeting during fire season, assessing whether to cancel or proceed. The theater’s director of production, Alys E. Holden, said that, ever since the time she opposed canceling a performance mid-show and later learned a technician had thrown up because of the air pollution, she has replaced her “show must go on” ethos with “If it’s too unsafe to play, you don’t play.”This year the festival reduced the number of outdoor performances scheduled in August — generally, but not always, the smokiest month.Air quality monitors, now in use at many Western venues including the Santa Fe Opera, can help presenters protect not only audience members but also performers. The opera is particularly concerned about its singers.Ramsay de Give for The New York Times“Actors are breathing in huge amounts of air to project out for hours — it’s not a trivial event to breathe this stuff in, and their voices are blown the next day if we blow the call,” Holden said. “So we are canceling to preserve everyone’s health, and to preserve the next show.”Wildfire-related air quality has become an issue for venues throughout the West. “It’s constantly on our mind, especially as fire season seems to start earlier and earlier,” said Ralph Flores, the senior program manager for theater and performance at the J. Paul Getty Museum, which has a 500-seat outdoor theater at the Getty Villa.Air quality concerns sometimes surprise patrons on days when pollution is present, but can’t be readily smelled or seen.“The idea that outdoor performance would be affected or disrupted by what’s happening with the Air Quality Index is still a fairly new and forward concept to a lot of people,” said Stephen Weitz, the producing artistic director at the Butterfly Effect Theater of Colorado, which stages free shows in parks and parking lots. Last summer the theater had to cancel a performance because of poor air quality caused by a faraway fire.The coronavirus pandemic also remains a concern, prompting crew members in Santa Fe to wear masks as they met before a performance of Bizet’s “Carmen.”Ramsay de Give for The New York TimesAnother theater there, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, is now working with scientists at the affiliated University of Colorado Boulder on monitoring and health protocols after a fire more than a thousand miles away in Oregon polluted the local air badly enough to force a show cancellation last summer. Tim Orr, the festival’s producing artistic director, recalled breaking the news to the audience.“The looks on their faces were surprise, and shock, but a lot of people came up and said ‘Thank you for making the right choice,’” he said. “And when I stepped offstage, I thought, ‘Is this going to be a regular part of our future?’”Planning for the future, for venues that present out of doors, now invariably means thinking about climate change.The Santa Fe Opera’s stunning outdoor location is one of its great attributes, but also makes it vulnerable to climate change.Ramsay de Give for The New York TimesOskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, which produces Free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in New York’s Central Park, said that the 2021 summer season, when the theater reopened after the pandemic shutdown, was the rainiest in his two decades there. “I could imagine performing more in the fall and spring, and less in the summer,” he said.In some places, theater leaders are already envisioning a future in which performances all move indoors.“We’re not going to have outdoor theater in Boise forever — I don’t think there’s a chance of that,” said Charles Fee, who is the producing artistic director of three collaborating nonprofits: the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland. Fee has asked the Idaho board to plan for an indoor theater in Boise.“Once it’s 110 degrees at 6 o’clock at night, and we have these occasionally already, people are sick,” he said. “You can’t do the big Shakespeare fight, you can’t do the dances in ‘Mamma Mia.’ And you can’t do that to an audience.” More