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Can Live Theater Help Spur Climate Action?

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Left to right: actors Robin Gerber and Carl Thelander, with artistic director Robert Egan.

To get from the Pacific Coast to the idyllic, mountain-surrounded town of Ojai, California, you drive by a series of working oil wells, clearly visible just off the side of the freeway. They serve as a reminder that Ventura is the third-biggest oil-producing county in California—a fact that did not go unmentioned last Thursday night, as the Ojai Playwrights Conference, an annual event that attracts world-class talent, kicked off with an evening centering around climate change.

As several speakers noted, it has been nearly three decades since the publication of Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, which helped put the perils of climate change on the national agenda. Yet we’ve done relatively little to change the disastrous trajectory we are on. Scientists have not been effective in getting people to grasp the problem and take action. Can artists do any better?

That question was the focus of this hybrid evening event, which began with readings of six new, short, climate-related plays, and concluded with a discussion among climate scientists.

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