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A CurtainUp London Review
The population growth chart is an inverted L, population growth that is causing, in Professor Emmott’s view, an unprecedented planetary emergency. He discusses the various revolutions which have brought about population growth, the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the so-called Green Revolution allowing us to mass produce food with the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers and the costs in terms of the loss of plant and animal species. He looks at the cost to the environment of today’s lifestyle, cheaper food, mass air travel, global shipping and climate change, unusual drought and unusual flooding.
This will lead to shortages of food and water and Professor Emmott illustrates the extravagant use of water in food processing so that to make one bar of chocolate it will take 27000 litres of water. He shows the miles involves in making tyres, rubber grown in Malaysia crossing the world several times before achieving the finished product of a tyre for a car. Emmott talks about the land grab with Western countries buying up parts of sub Saharan Africa to produce food and about methane bubbling up from the ocean linked to melting sea ice. He predicts that there will be climate migrants as people try to move to the UK from areas which are no longer habitable.
Emmott then goes on to examine some of the proposed answers to this global catastrophe. He calls for a radical behaviour change, he said “a Google search uses almost as much energy as boiling a kettle.” He decries the solutions of the “rational optimists” who point to artificial photosynthesis or nuclear or alternative forms of energy and comes to the conclusion that this planet and the human race are not sustainable. A global pandemic which may spread through air travel and kill millions, ironically looks like the only hope
Set in a reproduction of Professor Emmott’s office in the Cambridge University laboratory, Ten Billion doesn’t fit into our concept of traditional theatre being a lecture in form presented by an academic and illustrated with visual aids, charts and the like. However, if using theatre helps to get the message across then Katie Mitchell and Stephen Emmott’s efforts will have been worthwhile.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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