The Climate Monologues

The effects of climate change impact law making, industry and community life, affecting people around the world. One educator is bringing those voices to the stage in the one woman show, “The Climate Monologues.” Joining me now is that one woman, Sharon Abreu, Executive Director of Irthlingz Arts-Based Environmental Education.


The effects of climate change impact lawmaking, industry, and community life, affecting people around the world.

Art imitates life as one educator is bringing those voices to the stage in the one-woman show, 'The Climate Monologues.'

Joining me now is that one woman, Sharon Abreu, Executive Director of Irthlingz Arts-Based Environmental Education.

This segment is part of our ongoing series of reports, 'Peril & Promise: The Challenge of Climate Change.'

Sharon, thanks for being here.

Thank you very much, Andrea, for having me.

So do you have, in your own personal experience, being impacted by the effects of climate change that motivated you to write this show?

Well, I do.

I grew up in New York.

I have been seeing it getting warmer and warmer, getting colder later in the year in New York over the years, you know, pretty dramatically.

The weather has changed quite a lot, and the climate, you know?


The bigger picture.

Also, where I live in Washington State, I've been living out there for 15 years, and I've also seen that spring is coming earlier and earlier every year.


So, you know, just in a short span of years that I've been seeing it, I've seen changes.


Even though, with climate change, you want to look at the longer-term changes.

But it's really interesting, you know, to see these short-term impacts.

We're starting to feel it day to day.

And how did you educate yourself about the science of climate change in order to talk about it and educate your audiences?

Well, it really started for me -- I had become an environmental educator back in 1993.

I had joined a group called the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater here in New York.

And so I joined that group, started learning about my drinking water.

And then you start learning about how everything is connected.

Every environmental issue is connected to people's lives, people's health, the economy, what's going on politically.

And you just can't separate anything anymore.

So that was where I got started.

And then in -- guess it was in 1999, I said, 'Gee, you know, I'm an environmental educator.

And I'm hearing all this stuff about global warning.

I don't know if it's really true or whatever.'

So I went to a symposium at the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity.

And it blew my mind wide -- wide open.

And it was terrifying, you know?

But I'm the kind of person, I discovered -- [Laughs] didn't know I was always this kind of person.

But, you know, I'll be, just, like, 'Oh, my god.

This is, you know, very, very scary.'

And in the next minute, I'll be, like, 'Okay, well, what can we do?'

So I got involved.

I started educating myself more about climate change.

And then I took an intensive training by a group called the Greenhouse Network, which was based at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, at the time, to be a speaker on climate change.

So I started doing presentations in 2000.

And in 2002, my partner Mike Hurwicz and I wrote our first musical about climate change.

We worked with kids in schools, sixth and seventh graders.

And then we made that into a musical revue, worked with high-school kids, brought the show to the United Nations in 2007 with kids from the High School for Environmental Studies here in the city.


And now I'm doing 'The Climate Monologues.'

And there you are.

And what... It's not a new concept to use art to tackle a tough topic, to make it more palatable.

But how did you decide the actual format of this as a musical and as a one-woman show?

Well, back where I live in Washington State, I had the opportunity to perform in a really dynamic and wonderful production of 'The Vagina Monologues.'


And I watched Eve Ensler do her show.

And I thought, 'You know, maybe this is time for me to just focus in on something that I can do that's really -- that I can take around with a very small carbon footprint, doesn't require a lot of technology, a lot of sets, props, doesn't have to involve a lot of people.'

And so I decided to create 'The Climate Monologues' because I was already meeting people that were telling me the most compelling stories.

And I thought, 'I can help get their stories to more people with the show.'

So these interviews, sort of informal interviews and kind of anecdotal research you were doing?


How directly did you bring those to the stage?

Well, I actually become these people onstage.

Most of them I've actually met personally, not all of them.

But I've spoken with all of them personally, asked them specific questions about what they've been dealing with, either with climate change or with fossil-fuel energy that's negatively impacted them where they live, and what they're doing -- you know, people that have gotten involved.

One of the things that was really striking me was, you know, you hear about activists all the time.

You know, I read an article -- I think it was in right after the Global Climate March in 2014 here in the city -- and they said, 'Activists were out in the street.'

And I thought, 'No.

These are concerned citizens.

These are people that have gotten to the point where they have to get off the couch, you know, get out of their houses, get out of their comfort zone, and go into the streets because they realize this is a critical issue.

And they're concerned about their children's future.'

♪ If I can do one good thing for this world ♪ ♪ For all of humanity ♪ I will give all my heart and use it to ♪ ♪ Fill the world with Renewable energy ♪

Can you tell me about your organization, Irthlingz Arts-Based Environmental Education?

What other kinds of works do you do?

Well, we'll do a project in the school with kids that will end up with a community performance, an open-to-the-public performance presented by the kids.


Or we'll go and we do our own concerts, you know?

We provide music for a whole variety of different events and audiences.

Do you have your eye yet on your next play or show?

Well, one other thing that's come up for us -- my partner Mike Hurwicz, when we were hearing a few years ago about, you know, people that were denying the reality of climate change and they were saying, 'Oh, this was something that was invented by Al Gore to manipulate people,' and we started doing research.

And actually, Mike really delved into the research.

And it was just fascinating to find out the history of climate-change science going back to the 1820s.


So he ended it up writing a -- it's sort of a graphic novel.

And it's a parody of 'The Maltese Falcon.'

It's called 'The Meltese Dodo.'

[ Laughs ] Okay.

So this is done in his unique way, which is very entertaining, actually.

And so he ended up publishing a kind of a short form of it in a book form now.

So it actually exists now as a book.

And we've done some readings.

And, you know, we have to bring to life a whole variety of characters.

And people have been saying, 'You know, you should do that as a radio show, a radio play, you know, onstage.'

So I think that may be what we -- We may be doing that next.

The next thing you're cooking up.

Sharon Abreu, thanks very much for being with us.

Thank you very much.

Earthquakes are a powerful force of nature, but nature isn't always responsible for causing earthquakes.

Some earthquakes are man-made.

A new type of 3-D software can now help estimate the likelihood of these man-made earthquakes.

We go inside the lab at San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute to learn more.

It's a common effect when you produce oil and gas that you co-produce water.

And then, so you split that.

You take the economically valuable material, the oil and gas, and you take that away.

And then you have the problem of disposing of the excess water that you've just produced.

It's very common to get that back into the ground by re-injecting it.

And typically, it's re-injected into horizons that are porous and permeable.

In other words, they're able to accommodate that fluid being injected back into it.

'Cause oil and gas companies do a lot of -- put a lot of money into understanding where faults are.

And they don't want to waste their time injecting fluids into faults.

They don't want to waste money injecting fluids into faults when that could damage their reservoir.

Or it could produce problems with other wells nearby.

So they want to, when they're injecting, they want to have a good bang for their buck.

They don't want to waste money and resources.

And the other aspect is that if they are disposing of fluids that need to be injected into the ground, they can evaluate the potential of that site for its ability to generate an earthquake.

So they can do a -- again, it would be a pre-activity simulation to see if that site is likely to produce earthquakes that might be either damaging or felt at the surface of the earth.

This provides a way of parameterizing those problems and saying, 'Well, we may have a problem here.

So we need to think about reducing the pressures, the volumes that we're injecting.

We may want to move the well site to somewhere else because it's not a good location.'

Or we could say, 'Looks good.

We should be fine.'

Now we have this software.

It's an integration of structural geology and hydrogeology, with a little bit of seismology on the side.

So what we've tried to do is get the best we can in terms of analytical solutions to these situations.

And combining these things gives us a way of understanding the likelihood of induced seismicity based on what we know about pressure effects in the earth and size and orientation of pre-existing faults.

North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to rare fireflies that can synchronize their flashing-light patterns.

Six flashes at a time, at first independently, then in unison, make up an elaborate mating dance that can only be seen for two weeks each year.

Here's a look.

There is no place on Earth in a temperate climate that is the size of Great Smoky Mountains National Park that can match the rich biodiversity found in the park.

So, having all of that variety of different habitats allows you to have great places for a wide diversity of animal species to live, plants and animals.

And we are continuing to discover just how great that diversity is in the park.

And to date now, in 2016, we have over 20,000 recognized species in the park.

And even more impressive, 900 of those species are newly discovered to science.

And for two weeks every June, for only about two hours in one small corner of the park, one of those rare species creates a kind of nocturnal magic.

And it's all about love.

The firefly display is -- yeah, it's all about courtship.

And it's their way of finding each other and recognizing that they're -- it's the same species.

This is the synchronous firefly.

This is what the firefly's display looks like in a time-lapse still photo using a wide-angle lens.

You can see the blanket of light across the forest floor.

This is what it looks like on video.

We've brightened the video just a bit to help you see the fireflies.

Just keep watching.

As more and more fireflies rise up from the ground where they live, they will light and gradually synchronize their flash, linking together on and off, on and off, all together.

And so the male will be primarily the one that you will see flashing.

It does six to eight flashes and then a period of darkness.

And then it flashes again and keeps repeating that pattern.

The female will be on the ground and will respond with a double flash.

And then when they find each other, they can reproduce.

And then they don't live much longer after that.

So their primary role as adults is to reproduce.

Becky Nichols is the entomologist for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

She's recorded 19 species of fireflies living in the park, including But it's the only one of the few firefly species in the world that synchronizes its flash pattern.

And the park's synchronous fireflies weren't discovered until 1994.

So, all fireflies have a different pattern of flashing.

And so in order to recognize each other in the dark, they have to have a specific pattern for that species that they can each recognize.

Some fireflies soar at different heights above the ground.

Some fly in a specific flight pattern.

The common evening firefly repeats an upside-down J pattern.

But the synchronous firefly doesn't have a pattern.

Its flash sets it apart.

And like all fireflies, that light is created through a process called bioluminescence.

I don't know if you can see these couple segments here that look a little bit lighter.

That's where the light production occurs.

It's a chemical reaction.

And it's incredibly efficient -- lots of light, no heat.

Fireflies combine the chemical luciferin with an enzyme called luciferase in the presence of oxygen.

When all three are combined in the firefly's abdomen, light is produced.

Every time the firefly flashes, a little more of the chemicals are mixed.

They don't feed as adults.

So what they have in reserve is all they're going to have.

And so once they do their flashing behavior and reproduce, then that's the end of their life span.

[ Insects chirping ]

It's a sad story in a way.

But it's also beautiful.

And it makes the Smoky Mountains even more of a treasure.

And that wraps it up for this time.

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Until next time, I'm Hari Sreenivasan.

Thanks for watching.

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