Global warming of the hearts

 

 

Characters:

Leonardo DiCaprio – actor and activist, kind of God

Andrzej – Polish language teacher, kind of a loser

Bożena – biology teacher, kind of a hag

Crazy Disposable Bag King – Fool for Christ, Nietzsche’s last man

 

 

SCENE 1

Andrzej and Bożena watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s speech at the Climate Summit

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTyLSr_VCcg&w=560&h=315]

Andrzej: You believe him?

Bożena: I liked him better in Titanic.

Andrzej: He looked better without a beard.

Bożena: I just hope he hasn’t become one of those… What do you call them… Veganins?

Andrzej: Veganses.

Bożena: Vegans? Whatever… I mean those who don’t eat meat or even cheese.

Andrzej: Cheese? But that’s one of the best inventions of humankind. Barbarians, simply barbarians.

Bożena: Let’s hope DiCaprio has nothing to do with them, though looking at this beard of his, I’m not sure. I worry about him, you know? He used to be so cute and handsome.

Andrzej: They say that those veganses don’t even eat honey.

Bożena: Not even honey? Why don’t they eat honey?

Andrzej: They think it’s unfair to steal the fruits of bees’ hard labour.

Bożena: That’s really weird.

Andrzej: Isn’t it just? Bees wouldn’t even notice. And anyway they are given water with sugar instead. They have no right to complain.

Bożena: Everybody has the right to complain. If only those who were worst off complained… Only women who had to walk ten kilometres across the desert to get water from a well and got raped by guerillas on their way there and back. Raped so brutally that their water got spilled and they had to go back for more.

Andrzej: Do you always have to be so drastic?

Bożena: It’s not me; it’s the times we live in. I didn’t rape anybody.

Andrzej: No, you didn’t. But you talk about it as if you didn’t know a better way to spend an evening.

Andrzej and Bożena freeze in front of the screen.

Crazy Disposable Bag King crosses the stage as if looking for something. As if something was lost.

 

SCENE 2

Leonardo DiCaprio enters the stage.

Leo: Hello. Hi there. Hiya. I apologise, but Polish is not a natural language for me. Did I say hi the wrong way?

Andrzej: My students say “wassup”.

Bożena: They also say “later ago”. Some authority…

Andrzej: Chill. All I’m saying is that the language is fluid and formed by its users. And I wanted to help this guy here.

Bożena: I wanted this, I wanted that. You always have something to say for yourself. And for those rascals of yours. If I said “wassup”, you wouldn’t let me forget about it for a month.

Andrzej: I never laugh at you.

Bożena: All the time.

Leo: Excuse me, am I interrupting something?

Bożena: Not at all. We’re just talking.

Andrzej: Bożena, let it go. He must have come here for a reason, let him speak.

Bożena: Exactly. But first I’d like to know what you are doing in our home, sir.

Leo: This is not your home. It’s the home of us all. Planet Earth.

Andrzej: Technically speaking you are right, but, as it happens, you are in its 45-square-metre section which we like to call our apartment and for which we pay a substantial mortgage. If not for direct debit, I would cry every time I pay money into the bank. What I’m trying to say is that I work very hard to have those several square metres to myself, without unexpected guests popping in. Your sudden appearance evidently disturbs my space-time. That’s just to clarify Bożena’s question.

Leo: Of course. I was expecting that. Indeed. Narrow-minded clinging to private property. So pathetic when half of the planet is owned by several dozens of the wealthiest people. And anyway this apartment doesn’t belong to you but to the bank. You can be evicted the minute you cease being good citizens. But whatever you say. My name is Leonardo DiCaprio. People recognize me everywhere I go. They call my name, they say hello. But there are people whose lives mean nothing to most of us in the first world. They starve and die so that we can drive for a weekend in the Karkonosze Mountains and have a smartphone, which is always fully charged. I came to see you on their behalf, but in our common cause.

Bożena: Seriously? Nobody told you that you look better without a beard, sir?

Leo: Oh, stop it. Call me Leo. We are going to spend some time together over the next few days.

Andrzej: But we… We don’t even have a guest room.

Leo: I’ve been informed about it, of course, and that’s why I brought a mat and a sleeping bag with me. I’ll sleep on the floor in the kitchen.

Bożena: But Mr Leonardo! I’m sure there are hotels in this town, which would happily give you a room for free if you agreed to have a picture taken in front of their logo.

Leo: Leo, not Mr. My name is Leo.

Bożena: Leo. We have many excellent hotels here. Built for UEFA Euro.

Leo: Bożena, I think you don’t realise how much CO2 emissions are linked with tourism. Every room rented in a hotel affects the health of our planet forever. I have no intention of contributing to that. The floor will be just fine.

Andrzej: But we are not going to bed just yet, are we?

Leo: No, of course not. I haven’t told you about the most important thing yet.

Bożena: I thought so…

Leo: I will be brief. You have been chosen out of millions. The big lottery machine constructed by our best experts has picked you as extremely ordinary people, proper Sèvres prototypes of ordinariness. You are neither smart nor stupid, neither rich nor poor, neither skinny nor fat. All within the norm. What’s more, you live in this average country, with history neither terribly interesting nor very tragic. Just an ordinary history of an ordinary country located in the middle of everything. A place neither particularly good for dying nor for living. Though you can do it. Go through days like a zombie, happy that you have those days behind you.

Andrzej: You exaggerate. It’s not that bad.

Bożena: That’s true. We have no reasons to complain.

Leo: Exactly! That’s what pisses me off the most. This attitude of carefree negation. As if we weren’t on the verge of a climate disaster. As if we were not speeding in a jet straight to hell. Global warming is a fact, and it will forever change the future of life on Earth. But the size of the disaster is up to us. We can still avoid the worst. And you have no reasons to complain? Corporations kill you and make you infertile, they poison your children, get them addicted to their products. Millions of people on Earth will have to leave their homes as a result of wars, droughts and increased water levels. Soon some of them will knock on your door asking what you had done to our planet. But no, don’t complain. Keep thinking it’s not so bad. Why worry? What will be will be.

Bożena: Leo, please, take a sit. Let’s stay level-headed. We are all adults here, rationally thinking people. No need to get so upset.

Leo: You are right. I apologise. My sincere apologies to both of you. Sometimes I just don’t have energy to explain it all over again.

Andrzej: If I understood you correctly, we have been chosen for your programme. Are we entitled to some kind of a fee for our participation?

Leo: And saving the planet is not enough for you?

Andrzej: Planet aside, it will be us making fools out of ourselves in front of the TV viewers from across the world.

Leo: Wait a minute. Who said anything about TV?

Andrzej: Well, I know a bit about those programmes of yours. You think we don’t have MTV Cribs here?

Leo: I’m not here in a professional capacity. I came on behalf of myself and other people who think like me, who care about the future of the planet. We know less and less about what to do to avoid running the Earth into the ground completely within the next 100 years. Each year we know more and more about how we destroy the planet. And each year it gets worse. We can’t stop the machine of consumption and devastation.

Bożena: It makes me sad at times too, but I don’t quite know how we could help.

Leo: Your participation is key, I admit.

Andrzej: Is shit.

Leo: (to Andrzej) Very funny. (to both) If we could persuade people like you to fight for saving the planet, people so absolutely average and ordinary, then we would know we can persuade pretty much everybody. Planet Earth would be saved.

Andrzej: Ok. You’ve persuaded us. What now? You pay cash or by bank transfer?

Leo: (to Andrzej) I don’t think so. (to both) We have to come up with a plan to persuade people like you to get involved in active reduction of consumption, decarbonization and learning how to live with negative GDP growth.

Andrzej: A bit much.

Leo: Too late for it to be less than that.

Andrzej: And couldn’t we spread it somehow? Between several people perhaps? For example I could reduce consumption and Bożena could go into decarbonization. She cycles to work anyway. Bożena?

Bożena: Decarbo-what?

Leo: Eliminating carbon as an energy source.

Bożena: Miners would be very happy, I’m sure.

Andrzej: They would be so happy, they would burn tyres in front of the Parliament building and sing crude songs.

Bożena: I always wonder how they find time to come here and protest. Don’t they have jobs to go to?

Leo: But they can’t! They are on strike, after all!

Bożena:  Yeah, they are on strike and there is nobody to work.

Andrzej: And no way to get to work.

Leo: (to Andrzej) Seriously, man? You go to work by the Parliament building? Really?

Andrzej: You got me.

Leo: It would be worse if you weren’t following clichés you’ve heard on the radio for economically aspiring.

Bożena: Leave him alone, Leo. Let me remind you that you are a guest here. You really don’t need to be such a jerk.

Leo: You are right again. I have to say I was doubtful, but now I can see you were a good choice.

Andrzej: A choice? And who exactly have chosen us? What are we supposed to do? And is it going to hurt much?

Leo: So you agree?

Bożena: All we do is talk. And perhaps Leo would like something to drink? Tea? It’s too late for coffee, I think. We might also have beer. If Andrzej didn’t knock it all back.

Andrzej: I didn’t knock it all back. We have beer.

Bożena: Would you like a beer then?

Leo:  No, thank you. Tap water will do.

Bożena leaves for the kitchen, but comes back quickly.

Bożena:  Tap water? We don’t have tap water. We only have mineral water. Is that OK?

Leo: Of course you have tap water. You have running water here, don’t you? Or do you bring water from a well?

Andrzej: Of course we have running water. We aren’t barbarians.

Bożena: But that water is not good for drinking, is it?

Leo: Don’t you use the same water to wash vegetables, which you then eat? Don’t you drink that water in your tea?

Bożena: Yes, but after it’s been boiled. I can boil some and leave it to cool down, but that would take a while.

Leo: Thank you. No need. I will drink water straight from the tap. No boiling necessary. From a regular tap in the kitchen.

Bożena: OK, but I can’t guarantee quality. This is not Hollywood, we don’t have Dom Perignon coming from our taps.

Andrzej: Dom Perignon is not water.

Bożena: I know.

Leo: Me too.

Andrzej: Fab. All experts.

Bożena leaves for the kitchen again. Andrzej turns on the radio. It is playing Tomek Saciłowski’s song “W lipcu będzie maj”. The men sit in the living room in silence.

 

SCENE 3

Leo: So what would you do if you were to persuade people that global warming is a serious problem, which they need to face now?

Bożena: I don’t know.

Andrzej: Wait a minute. Not so fast. We haven’t agreed to participate in this circus yet.

Leo: It’s not a circus. It’s about the future of our planet and life on Earth.

Andrzej: Whatever. For you it is the future of the planet, for me it’s a regular circus. How often do you think Hollywood stars visit us?

Leo: I can only guess, but would rather not. I might have to be unpleasant again.

Bożena: Let me help you out then. Definitely not often enough to take your word for it. Do you have any ID, a proof that this is indeed an official visit? Ah, forget the proofs. It’s after evening news already. The offices have been long closed and you expect us to take it seriously?

Andrzej: Just because your name is Leonardo DiCaprio…

Bożena: And we can’t even be sure of that, I’m afraid. Yes, you look like DiCaprio, but after all we only know you from TV and everybody knows what TV is like.

Andrzej: TV lies.

Leo: I’m not a TV actor. I’m a film actor.

Bożena: And that’s all you can say for yourself?

Andrzej: My secondary school students are better in finding excuses.

Leo: That’s not an excuse. Just a casual remark, which doesn’t have much to do with the topic of our conversation. I didn’t come here as an actor, but as a human being deeply worried about the state of the world.

Andrzej: Shall I tell you something about people worried about the world? There are plenty of them everywhere! They do nothing all day long, just hang around town and worry – EVERYTHING worries them. They worry about the air, they worry about the water, they worry about the soil. They worry about GMO, pesticides, food additives and carcinogens. They worry about mercury in vaccines, they worry about gluten. They worry about animal species that are dying out. Let me tell you something about disappearing species, OK? Saving endangered species is just another arrogant attempt of man to control nature!

Bożena: Andrzej!

Andrzej: An arrogant intervention. That’s exactly what caused the problems. Doesn’t anybody understand that?

(Leo and Bożena don’t understand)

Meddling with nature! Over ninety per cent, well over ninety per cent of all species that have ever lived on this planet went EXTINCT! They vanished! We didn’t kill them all. They have simply disappeared. That’s nature. Currently they disappear at the rate of twenty-five species a day.

Leo: Two hundred…

Andrzej: Don’t interrupt me! Two hundred species disappear each day. What’s the difference? Let me stress that their vanishing has nothing to do with our actions.

Leo: You can stress whatever you like, but that doesn’t make you correct.

Andrzej: Regardless of our behaviour on this planet, two hundred species living today will not see tomorrow. Let them pass with dignity! Leave nature alone! Haven’t we done enough? Everybody is saving something now. “Let’s save the trees, let’s save the bees, let’s save the whales and snails!”. And the height of arrogance: “Let’s save the planet”! WHAT? Are you kidding us? To save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves! We still haven’t learned how to take care of each other and you want us to save the PLANET?

There is nothing wrong going on with the planet. The planet is just fine. It’s humans who are fucked. Compared to the humans, the planet is just dandy. It’s been there for four and a half billion years. And humans? How long? Hundred thousand, perhaps two hundred? The Industrial Revolution took place two hundred years ago. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the cheek to even think that we are the threat? This beautiful green and blue globe circling calmly around the Sun went through much worse stuff. Earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sunspots, magnetic storms, geomagnetic reversal. Hundreds of thousands of years of being bombarded with comets, asteroids, meteors, global floods and fires, tides, erosion, cosmic rays, temporary ice ages and we think plastic bags and aluminium tin cans can change anything?

The planet will exist long, long time after we’re gone. And it will heal itself and clean itself, because that’s its nature. It’s a self-correcting system. Air and water will get healthy, soil renewed. And even if it is true that plastic won’t decompose, so what? The planet will include it in its new formula: “Earth + plastic”. The Earth doesn’t share our prejudice against plastic. Plastic was created of the Earth and the Earth probably sees plastic as another one of its children. The Earth wanted to have plastic. It didn’t know how to create it, so it used us. And now it makes islands out of it upon which it can create some new, better and wiser form of life. Plastic already exists, our job is done and we can withdraw.

Leo: Try explaining it to people in India. They spend their whole lives sorting out your rubbish. Hi there. Hiya. Sort out this rubbish and die.

Andrzej: To be honest the planet most likely sees us as a minor threat. Something that can be dealt with. And I am sure the planet will deal with it the way large organisms defend themselves, like a bee or an ant colony. It will come up with a defence system.

Bożena: What would you do if you were a planet trying to defend itself against some pesky, troublesome species? What could it be? Viruses?

Andrzej: Viruses are clever. They mutate and create new strains every time a new vaccine gets invented. What would probably work well is a sexually transmitted virus attacking the immune system. That would make people a bit more reluctant to get involved in breeding activities.

Bożena: I’ve only just realised why I still have no children, even though I’m with such a hopeless romantic.

Andrzej: A person can dream, can’t they? That’s why I don’t worry about small things, about trees, bees, whales and snails. I think we are part of a larger sense, which we can never understand.

Leo: You have just delivered the most pathetic attempt at self-justification I have ever heard. Arrogance, ignorance, selfishness, hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness and plain laziness all swimming in a sauce of self-righteousness. Very funny indeed. And I would find it even funnier if it wasn’t so disgusting. This planet is heading straight to hell because of such smug males. There is nothing we can do, there is nothing we can do, they cry. As if you were not ruining the world by doing what you are doing. Just stop damaging the planet. But you can’t do that, because you would have to change your lifestyle. Fuck the planet; what matters is that we can go on for a little longer with our destructive lifestyle, which we like so much. The fact that species are dying out doesn’t mean it is necessarily us who contribute to their death. The fact that somebody will die doesn’t give us the right to kill them. Quite soon we will possibly share the fate of the dinosaurs. At our own request. The dinosaurs weren’t aware of it. We are. Or at least we like to think so. But you know best, of course. Why worry about the fate of worms? But what if those worms’ existence is crucial for our ecosystem? Murder the bees and you might never see flowers.

Bożena: Oh, stop arguing already. It’s not often that we have such a star visiting. Let’s not waste time on futile quarrels. Better tell us, Leo, what’s up in the big world. Chinese still going strong?

Leo: Contrary to common opinion, Chinese care more and more about climate policy. No wonder. The most polluted cities on Earth are in China. Residents of those cities never see the sun. They live in a land of ever-present smog. Landscape around them is like Mordor. No wonder they aren’t blind to the problem, because they see it right in front of their eyes. Last year China has become the largest producer of solar panels in the world. And it signed the climate change agreement, so we can’t fob the problem off any longer by saying that it all rides on China and China doesn’t do anything. It does.

Bożena: You are a very matter-of-factly young man, aren’t you? You must read a lot when you are not busy acting in films?

Leo: I try. Thank you. It’s very nice of you to notice.

Andrzej: If only our students read so much. When we sort out the issue of global warming, couldn’t we work towards increasing readership amongst Polish youth?

Leo: Don’t know. I would have to ask my supervisors.

Andrzej: Just kidding. Nothing can increase readership amongst the youth. You would probably have to scrap the Internet.

Leo: That can be done.

Andrzej: Seriously?

Leo: We are working on it. Going back to the Stone Age would undoubtedly be one of few practical and long-term ways of lowering emissions.

Andrzej: Seriously?

Leo: Nooooo. I’m pulling your leg. You are so naive. You think I would be here if it were enough to pull the plug on the Internet to sort everything out? You really think I would come to this muddy country if we had better ideas?

Andrzej: You are right. Sorry. There is no denying you must be desperate to have landed in Poland.

Bożena: Let me just remind you, Leo, that you have promised to be nice and you are again picking on Andrzej who hasn’t done anything wrong to you.

Leo: We all do wrong. Nobody is innocent. Nowadays we support depravity and suffering simply by living and consuming.

Andrzej: And supposedly it was different in the past?

Bożena: Andrzej is no more to blame than all the other residents of the planet, so calm down, please, and tell us exactly what it is all about.

Leo: OK, I’m sorry. Let me start from the beginning again. I was sent by a group of concerned citizens who care about the future of our planet.

Andrzej: You must be quite unpopular in this group if they sent you to Poland.

Bożena: Andrzej!

Leo: The group has been organising working meetings and conferences for years. During those meetings we deliberate on what to do to stop humankind from bringing destruction upon themselves.

Andrzej: And I presume you hold those meetings in 5 star hotels where you get by jets…

Leo: No. We meet on the Internet.

Andrzej: You’ve never seen those people live?

Leo: Some of them I have.

Bożena: You trust them?

Leo: More than I trust my own mother.

Bożena: You still don’t have a girlfriend, do you?

Leo: Why?

Bożena: Nothing. I’ve just been wondering how much you trust your own mother. Go on.

Leo: Very much. So while working in this group of people, who were getting more and more desperate, we came to a conclusion that to successfully save the planet we need to persuade ordinary people, people like you, to change their attitudes.

Andrzej: But what attitudes do we have?

Leo: You said it yourself a moment ago. Selfish, short-sighted and justifying everything with a shrug as if to say that the situation is what it is and it doesn’t make sense to do anything. But that’s not true. A lot can still be done. The fate of the world is in our hands.

Andrzej: Maybe in your hands.

Leo: Now in yours as well.

Bożena: We haven’t agreed to anything yet.

Leo: But you will. After all it is your only chance to succeed, to be recognisable in the press and perhaps even to save the planet. Why wouldn’t you agree? You want to go on with your boring lives of frustrated teaches?

Bożena: Excuse me, I like my job.

Leo: Yeah, yeah. And you wouldn’t leave it for a comfortable life paid for with dividends from your fee for saving the planet?

Andrzej: At last. We are getting down to business. So how much are you going to pay us?

Leo: If you succeed? Enough for you to never have to worry about anything.

Andrzej: Sounds like an offer we can’t refuse.

Leo: I wouldn’t have come with anything else.

Bożena: Is it moral at all?

Andrzej: What?

Bożena: To be paid for doing something that people should be doing on their own accord if they really care about beauty and good.

Andrzej: If somebody wants to pay me for saving the planet, I don’t see why I shouldn’t accept the money.

Bożena: You wouldn’t do it for free? Just to find your way into history textbooks?

Andrzej: I don’t know. I would have to think about it. Wouldn’t students ridicule us? Like they ridicule John Paul II.

Bożena: Andrzej! I apologise, Leo. In normal situations he isn’t so very cynical.

Andrzej: In normal situations he is just normally cynical, but this is not a normal situation.

Bożena: Tell us what you expect from us.

Leo: That’s a bit tricky. Nobody really knows that. What I do know is that you have been chosen from amongst all the residents of the planet as people who are perfectly ordinary. You activities are crucial for saving the planet. But I wasn’t told what exactly you are supposed to do. I think nobody knows it. You will have to come up with something. OK?

Andrzej: And where is to going to be broadcast?

Leo: I know nothing about any broadcast. This is not a reality show. But if you succeed, you can be sure you will be invited to TV stations all over the world.

Bożena: I knew I should have put more effort into learning English. It would come in handy.

Andrzej: Take it easy. First we have to save the planet. And I don’t expect us to succeed easily, so you might have done the right thing by not learning the language of the imperialists.

Bożena: But knowing the language might be useful in saving the planet too.

Leo: We’ll get translators if need be.

Andrzej: I would prefer to have it in writing.

Leo: What? Translation?

Andrzej: I meant the contract. Shouldn’t we sign something?

Leo: Of course. Give me five minutes.

Bożena: How about you write the contract in the kitchen, while I have a few words in private with Andrzej?

Leo: Sure. Think it through. Will five minutes be enough?

Bożena: We’ll see. We’ll call you. Make yourself comfortable.

Leo leaves for the kitchen and practices yoga there. He writes the contract while in a headstand

Bożena: So what do you think?

Andrzej: He looks like the real Leonardo DiCaprio.

Bożena: But we’ve never met the real Leonardo. It might be his very good doppelgänger?

Andrzej: So what? What do we have to loose?

Bożena: You really believe in this dud? We’ll never come up with an idea on how to stop climate change. We’ll just go through a lot of trouble for nothing.

Andrzej: How do you know? We’ve been chosen, there must be a good reason. Perhaps we really have some potential? To do something bigger. I always felt that I was meant to be a hero, a doomed soldier or something along those lines. I won’t miss such an opportunity.

Bożena: But you don’t even believe the planet needs saving…

Andrzej: The planet will do fine without us. But survival or extinction of the humankind is in part up to us. Though all in all I’m not sure if we deserve to survive.

Bożena: So you will engage in an active fight if they pay you for it?

Andrzej: Why not?

Bożena: That’s illogical.

Andrzej: Life is illogical. On the one hand I hate humankind, on the other hand I am part of it. I don’t wish to die that much. What do you think?

Bożena: I don’t know. It’s all a bit questionable. However I would be willing to do a lot just to have a chance to show up in town in the company of Leonardo DiCaprio. I would even try to save the planet, if it matters so much to him.

Andrzej: Let me call him back then.

Bożena: OK.

Leo comes back and gives the couple their contracts.

Leo: You need to add your details and sign here. And here. And here too.

Andrzej: The world would be safe if it weren’t so full of bureaucracy, don’t you think?

Leo: I think that too sometimes, but on the other hand… Who would believe that Leonardo DiCaprio paid you a visit and promised a mountain of gold for saving the planet? Don’t you think it’s better to have it in writing?

Andrzej: Yeah, yeah. Just saying. Did you know there are over four hundred thousand civil servants in Poland?

Leo: Not enough, judging by the state of this country.

Andrzej: Civil servants won’t sort it all out.

Leo: Who then? Businessmen? Politicians? Putin?

Andrzej: That’s not funny.

Leo: OK. It’s getting late. I would like to get some sleep. Do you need anything from the kitchen? Don’t hesitate to come in if you do. I will try to set up the bed out of the way.

Bożena: I’ll go grab that beer.

Bożena and Leonardo go to the kitchen. Leo sets up his mat and sleeping bag. Bożena takes beers out of the fridge and leaves the kitchen. They drink in silence. The radio is playing Obywatel G.C.’s “Nie pytaj o Polskę”. Bożena and Andrzej start dancing. The lights fade slowly.

 

SCENE 4

Leo, Bożena and Andrzej are at a meeting in a classroom at school. They have dragged the actor here insisting that this is the best place to think.

Bożena: Did you see everybody staring?

Andrzej: Difficult not to notice.

Leo: That’s something you get used to. In time you even stop reacting to your own name. You think it’s just fans, so you don’t look.

Bożena: And you don’t look?

Leo: I try not to.

Bożena: What if you lost your wallet?

Leo: I would call my assistant and he would bring me a new one.

Bożena: And what if you lost your phone?

Leo: I’m sure they would let me make a phone call from a nearest café.

Bożena: And if somebody was dying and needed help?

Leo: Then they wouldn’t shout, “I love you, Leonardo” but “Help, I’m dying”.

Andrzej: Makes sense. Shall we get busy?

Leo: Let’s. Think what you could do to persuade people that if we don’t start acting fast and on a large scale, we won’t be able to stop or even slow down the global warming!

Andrzej: A social campaign, perhaps?

Leo: Indeed, a social campaign. I’ve tried that too. Why not try a social campaign? Exactly. Why? Because it doesn’t work! But we can always try. Why not? Let’s try. It’s worth giving it a go. So what would your campaign be like?

Bożena: It could be a film. We are seeing the sea, close-up on an ice floe. A polar bear is sitting on the floe. Close-up and we are seeing that it’s crying. It’s crying because its icy home has melted. The viewer identifies with the sad bear.

Leo: Great. Perfect. You should work in advertising, you know? For an idea like this Leo Burnett would charge at least 2 million.

Andrzej: But we don’t even have a camera…

Leo: Not to worry. My organisation will take care of everything.

Numerous statists come out onto the stage with filming equipment. When they leave, we see a sad polar bear in the middle. It’s singing Lebanon Hanover’s ”Ice Cave”:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVQSLEcIdVA&w=420&h=315]

The floe melts and the bear drowns.

Leo: I was moved. Do you think it will persuade all the people in the world to stop consuming so much electrical energy and generally change their attitudes to everything?

Bożena: No.

Andrzej: Don’t think so.

Leo: What now then?

Andrzej: Don’t know.

Bożena: Neither do I.

Leo: You have to come up with something. It doesn’t have to be anything on a global scale, not straightaway. Why not start with your own yard first?

Andrzej: Our yard has been recently sorted out as part of the Clean Up the World campaign. Though it wasn’t easy to persuade the kids to clean our yard before they went cleaning the woods. But we are teachers; we know how to use certain educational tools.

Leo: The yard was a metaphor of a kind. What I meant was that it might be worth to think about changing yourself and things around you before you start persuading the whole world that they should change.

Bożena: Exactly what I was thinking. That’s why I always unplug my charger when not charging the phone and I bought an extension lead, which allows me to switch all the electronics off instead of keeping them in a stand-by mode. Stand-by mode, as we all know, still uses energy. And quite a lot of it over a period of a year.

Leo: Very well. That’s exactly what I meant. Now we have to spread it wider. Persuade other people to do the same.

Andrzej: But why should they do it? To save 5 złoty? Come on. You spent more energy doing all the switching on and off, plugging and unplugging than you save in electricity.

Leo: But human energy is renewable and fossil fuels aren’t.

Andrzej: Perhaps yours is.

Leo: What?

Andrzej: If I spent my energy on something, I don’t have it anymore.

Bożena: That’s why you need to save it.

Andrzej: That’s why you should work little and in decent conditions. But nothing is that simple. For God’s sake. I teach Polish, I know something about it.

Leo: What, children don’t want to learn Polish?

Andrzej: What do they need it for? Some dying language of some barbarian country…

Leo: You, Poles… You always underestimated yourselves. What about Małysz? Copernicus? Skłodowska-Curie? Christopher Columbus?

Andrzej: None of them actually spoke Polish. Columbus spoke Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, Copernicus – German, Skłodowska – French. Małysz speaks Highlanders’ dialect. Perhaps that’s why we’ve invented Esperanto.

Leo: Which nobody uses either. A shame, as it would be easier if we shared the same language with words meaning what they should mean.

Bożena: You are talking about very interesting things but weren’t we supposed to come up with a plan?

Andrzej: I still think an advertising campaign is a good idea. If you can persuade so many people in the world to drink dark, carbonated, sweetened water, then you can persuade them to do anything.

Leo: Historically speaking you might be right, but mind that the development of neoliberal capitalism brought an overabundance of stimuli. As a result we simply ignore most of the information reaching us.

Bożena: Leo, you are so smart. I would never have thought.

Leo: I’ll take it as a compliment.

Andrzej: Oh, stop sucking up to him. He might be a well-known actor, but let me remind you that he came here asking for help.

Bożena: Because we are perfectly ordinary!

Andrzej: That’s an achievement too!

Bożena: Perhaps for somebody with your level of ambition!

Leo: Stop shouting as if you were in the theatre. We need to discuss something.

Andrzej: Yeah, we really needed somebody to tell us off. Thanks, Leo.

Leo: Oh, stop being so oversensitive. Don’t forget it’s me who is paying you.

Bożena: That’s not a reason to be so bossy.

Leo: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Let’s get back to the subject, could we?

Andrzej: Let’s make a huge bomb and drop it on almost everybody. We probably couldn’t drop it on everybody. Human beings are like rats. They survive everything. So all things considered, we could drop the bomb on everybody and some of them would survive anyway.

Bożena: Let me remind you that currently there are enough nuclear weapons to blow the Earth three times over, so I’m not quite sure where they could survive.

Andrzej: They would find a place, I know them well.

Leo: Stop it. We are not dropping any bombs.

Andrzej: Why not? It’s obvious that with the ever-growing population it is impossible to lower the emission of the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. People, who are born and get richer, want to consume more and not less than their parents. And who could stop them?

Bożena: But a bomb?

Andrzej: They won’t even feel anything.

Leo: Stop it!

Andrzej: Stop telling us off. Are we supposed to come up with a plan to save humankind or not? Surely you don’t want to limit us with political correctness?

Leo: You are planning mass extinction of humans. That’s not incorrect, that’s simply evil.

Andrzej: And?

Leo: It’s not right. We are here to save human race, not to terminate it.

Andrzej: And what if survival of the humankind required victims?

Leo: In the form of a massacre of civilians? I know that you, Poles, were always good at it, but I’m not sure if these are examples worth following.

Andrzej: Are you going to offend us now, on top of everything else?

Bożena: That is actually true.

Andrzej: Due to these sacrifices we managed to regain independence!

Leo: Or rather due to a geopolitical change.

Andrzej: I still can’t understand what you have against mass destruction of humankind.

Leo: There must be a better way.

Andrzej: Yes. Mass sterilisation. People don’t die, they just stop being born.

Bożena: And who will take care of all those old people?

Leo: That is indeed a problem.

Andrzej: So wouldn’t it be better for them if they just died?

A voice sounds through the loudspeaker: ”Mr and Mrs Waśniewski please go to the head teacher’s office”.

Bożena: Excuse us. Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be back soon.

The Waśniewskis leave.

 

SCENE 5

Andrzej and Bożena come back.

Leo: Everything all right?

Andrzej: The head teacher wanted to know if it was indeed you.

Leo: What did you tell him?

Bożena: The truth.

Leo: Which is?

Andrzej: That you are Leonardo DiCaprio’s doppelgänger and you act in our play about global warming which we will present at the school assembly.

Leo: I hope it is not actually true.

Andrzej: Are you worried that you are not a real Leonardo DiCaprio?

Leo: No, I’m just worried that a school play will not save the world.

Andrzej: But since you are here, why not act in a little play?

Bożena: And what about Dziady?

Leo: What?

Bożena: Adam Mickiewicz’s drama. After its staging in 1968 there were massive social protests across Poland.

Andrzej: The play was just a catalyst for the sense of oppression felt subconsciously by the whole nation.

Bożena: No, not whole. I don’t think Jerzy Urban felt oppressed.

Andrzej: How do you know it?

Bożena: “The government won’t go hungry.” Hello-o?

Leo: Perhaps nowadays the nation feels something subconsciously too and it needs space to let it out.

Andrzej: I know this nation a little bit and somehow I’m not seeing it.

Leo: And have you seen a million dollars?

Andrzej: What?

Leo: Have you ever seen a million dollars with your own eyes?

Andrzej: No.

Leo: But you still believe it exists?

Andrzej: Sure.

Leo: Then why don’t you believe that the nation has a need to rebel? How is it that you can imagine a million dollars, but the revolution is beyond your imagination?

Andrzej: Are you serious?

Leo: Yes!

Andrzej: You know, we had Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Che Guevara. Quite a few people tried the revolution and I don’t need to tell you what the results were.

Leo: And a million dollars never hurt anybody? If you count properly, you will find that more people have died for money than in the name of ideals of equality and justice. Money has better PR.

Andrzej: Don’t blame money; it’s just a symbol.

Leo: Indeed, but that’s not a reason to believe in it.

Andrzej: Who says to believe in money? It’s just worth having. The more, the better.

Leo: The planet is worth having too. And the healthier, the better. Do you know that this year the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is above 400ppm? According to the scientists the safe level is 350 ppm and before the Industrialisation era it was 280 ppm.

Bożena: And how could we decrease the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if it is already high?

Leo: I was hoping you would tell me.

Bożena: Artificial photosynthesis? I read somewhere that scientists from Lublin have found a method of extracting methanol from water and carbon dioxide using catalytic converter and ultraviolet radiation.

Leo: Sure, but to radiate carbon dioxide they need to use more energy that they would produce.

Andrzej: Why are you such a pessimist? You don’t believe in Polish scientists’ innovativeness?

Leo: Their nationality has nothing to do with it. Scientists have been working on the artificial photosynthesis since the 1970s and so far nobody managed to find an economically viable method of turning carbon dioxide into fuel.

Andrzej: Which doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in the future.

Bożena: I read about it a good few years ago. I think they haven’t succeeded so far.

Andrzej: You can always call and ask.

Leo: They would probably brag about it if they succeeded. After all that would be a revolution in the power industry, a dream technology of tomorrow. Bill Gates would lick their feet to get his hands on it. Richard Bransons would have already landed his private jet in Lublin. Has he?

Andrzej: Who?

Leo: Richard Branson, British businessman, billionaire, founder of the Virgin Group consisting of over four hundred companies.

Andrzej: Haven’t heard of him.

Leo: Which means he probably hasn’t landed in Lublin yet. Which means your innovative technology is shit.

Bożena: Talking about shit, don’t you think that obtaining methane from manure is quite promising? We eat more and more meat, so we have more and more livestock. The animals could be walking biogas power plants.

Leo: A herd of cattle can produce 250 to 300 litres of pure methane a day. Enough energy for 24 hours for something like a fridge. But fridge is probably not the only appliance hungry for power in the same 24 hours.

Andrzej: And you don’t have a herd of cattle.

Leo: And I don’t think we will soon get to the point when every person has a herd of cattle powering their fridge.

Bożena: But perhaps it’s not such a stupid idea? In Argentina, one of the largest exporters of beef, cattle is responsible for about 30 per cent of emissions of all greenhouse gases. If all cows had mini biogas power plants installed in their asses, at least the level of emissions would be lower.

Leo: Not necessarily. Methane from cows’ farts is just part of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere during the production of meat. Most of the production is on the industrial scale. Forests are cut in Argentina to make space for pastures. Forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, are cut so that you can have a steak!

Andrzej: Maybe you. We can’t afford Argentinian beef.

Leo: I haven’t eaten meet for years.

Bożena: You eat it in films.

Leo: And I kill. But that’s just films.

Bożena: But you still contribute to making meat consumption fashionable. People see Leonardo DiCaprio eating a steak. Which means eating steaks must be cool.

Leo: What do you want me to do then? Only accept scripts in which my character is vegan? Perhaps I should call the writers? Hi, listen, it’s DiCaprio. Great script, but could you please change it so that my character is at least vegetarian?

Bożena: Why not? If you want to change the world, why don’t you start with yourself?

Leo: But I don’t eat meat.

Andrzej: People think that you do. Same difference.

Bożena: If eating animal flesh contributes to increased emissions of greenhouse gases, then giving up on eating meat and promoting meat dishes in Hollywood films could have a positive effect on the planet.

Andrzej: Sorted then. Can we have our reward now, please?

Leo: Not sure if converting humankind to veganism will completely sort out the global warming problem.

Bożena: But it’s a step in the right direction.

Leo: It’s not enough to come up with the idea and suggest what to do. You need to actually do it.

Andrzej: No problem. As of today I’m vegan. Or even as of yesterday. I didn’t have any ham yesterday.

Bożena: You were making fun of vegans yesterday.

Andrzej: I didn’t know that ham produces so much CO2.

Bożena: And you won’t have honey ever again?

Andrzej: Don’t push it. And anyway bees don’t produce greenhouse gases, do they?

Leo: No idea. Do you have a phone? I’ll talk to my supervisors.

Bożena: You don’t have a mobile phone?

Leo: Indeed I do.

Leo takes out his phone and leaves the room to make a call. He comes back a moment later.

Andrzej: And? Have we won?

Leo: Not quite. It’s true that animal farming is responsible for 18 per cent of the world emissions of greenhouse gases, which is more than is caused, for example, by transport, so veganism is a good idea, but, as I suspected, for us to transfer money into your account, you would have to persuade a larger group of people to become vegans.

Andrzej: A larger group? Like Chinese?

Leo: Or Indian. That would be best. But you can start with your compatriots.

Andrzej: I think I would rather teach veganism to Chinese. In this country, if you don’t serve pork for lunch on Sunday, everybody thinks you are poor.

Bożena: Or Jewish.

Andrzej: Or Jewish.

Leo: Perhaps the time has come to change the state of things. I suggest you think about it for a while and let’s meet in 2 hours time in the gym. You will tell me then what you came up with, OK?

Andrzej: Can we say no?

Leo: Well, if you want to pull out, feel free. I’m sure there will be other people happy to take your place. You are perfectly ordinary, but there are others as ordinary as you are who could replace you.

Bożena: Thanks, Leo. It’s very nice of you to say.

Leo: No time for niceties when the future of the world hangs by a thread.

Bożena: There is always time for niceties, regardless of the circumstances. Why save human beings if they are not nice?

Leo: You are right. I’m sorry.

Bożena: It’s not the first time you are apologising. I would rather you stopped behaving like that. You wouldn’t have to apologise.

Leo: I would rather that too. But, believe me, it’s hard. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a difficult task.

Bożena: OK. As you wish. Go and think about your behaviour and we will think about what to do to stop people eating meat.

 

SCENE 6

In the middle of the gym we see a reconstructed piggery with pens on a slatted floor. The size of the pen is so small that pigs can’t move. Bożena and Andrzej, dressed up as pigs, sit in the pen, which is covered in manure and urine. There are also some bloodstains. Leonardo enters.

Bożena: Oink, oink.

Andrzej: Oink, oink.

Leonardo: Are you out of your fucking mind?

Bożena: Oink, oink. I’m a pig and I can’t speak like a human.

Andrzej: Oink, oink. I’m a pig too and I can’t speak like a human either. Though I would really like to say that the conditions they rear me in are outrageous. Humans, who allow this to happen, shouldn’t be called humans anymore.

Bożena: Barbarians, not humans. Oink, oink.

Leonardo: Barbarians were humans too.

Andrzej: Holocaust is a piece of cake in comparison, oink, oink.

Bożena: To maximize their profits the farmers ignore our most basic needs. We never see the sun, we never see outside world, not to mention the forest floor, which our ancestors liked to dig in so much. Legends are told about it in the piggery.

Andrzej: Nobody believes it though. Some pigs claim that it’s just the propaganda spread by the farmers who want to give us some hope. They say that the forest floor with roots to dig out did not in fact exist. They say that there is no world outside of the piggery and our fate is to be slaughtered.

Bożena: That is actually true, oink, oink. Slaughterhouse is our destiny.

Andrzej: True, oink, oink. They treat us like cannon fodder.

Bożena: Andrzej, we are cannon fodder.

Andrzej: I’m not Andrzej; I’m a pig. I have neither first name nor surname. I only have a reference number. My dead body will be minced and made into hot dogs.

Bożena: The truth about our fate is hidden from the eyes of the public, because the most sensitive part of the public might not be able to bear the truth and would stop eating hot dogs.

Andrzej: We are fed high-protein feed, full of growth hormones and antibiotics, which make us so fat we can barely stand. We have so little space in the pens that we suffer arthritis and sometimes our bones split when they can’t support our obese bodies.

Bożena: We shit and piss on the floor. We stand in our own waste, urea burns our skins.

Andrzej: Ee are naturally very clean animals but we have nowhere to wash ourselves.

Bożena: We are also very intelligent, so those conditions, an insult to the honour and dignity of humans, are even more painful for us to bear.

Leo: If you were indeed so intelligent, you wouldn’t let people put you in those pens.

Andrzej: Would you say the same thing to the concentration camp prisoners? Oink, oink.

Bożena: Devoid of contact with nature, isolated from our friends from the drove, we become unsociable, dazed, aggressive and bored. We don’t even want to oink.

Andrzej: Don’t want. Oink, oink.

Bożena: Our short lives are marked with contempt, exploitation and suffering.

Andrzej: Nobody respects us as individual pig beings.

Bożena: Each of us is just a number in the books.

Andrzej: Dinner on the table.

Bożena: But before we get there, we are given an electric shock, which is supposed to kill us.

Andrzej: It doesn’t always work though.

Bożena: Sometimes the shock only knocks us unconscious for a while, but our torturers are not bothered and they skin us alive.

Andrzej: Oink, oink.

Leo: Poor piggies. But I’m not the one you need to persuade. I know it all.

Bożena: We just wanted to tell you about our sad existence.

Andrzej: It’s not you who is our main target though.

Bożena: In less than half an hour there will be a special school assembly here.

Andrzej: Which will be transmitted on the school radio.

Bożena: Thankfully the head teacher is on holidays, so there was nobody to say no.

Leo: Are you sure that showing such things to children is a good idea?

Andrzej: They see far worse things on TV.

Bożena: And on the Internet. Recently one student has shown me a clip on the computer where a beautiful 8-year-old girl executes two grown-up men. She simply shoots them in the backs of their heads. And then she says she did it in the name of God. This was no film; it was a commercial encouraging people to join the army. I told the student not to worry. I told him it was obvious it was edited. But it wasn’t really edited. She really did kill them.

Leo: Why don’t you persuade her to fight against global warming instead of infidels?

Bożena: Are you kidding?

Leo: Not really. We need determined activists.

Bożena: But not 8-year-old murderers.

Andrzej gets up from his knees and leaves the pen.

Andrzej: I’ve had enough of this fucking pen and the pig costume. It stinks of manure.

Bożena: And what can pigs say? That’s how they live their lives. Bear it for another 30 minutes, until the children come…

Andrzej: Children, children. I know these children very well. You can’t persuade them to do anything. They like ham sandwiches too much to worry about the fate of piggies. They will just enjoy seeing us making fools out of ourselves.

Bożena: An hour ago you liked this idea.

Andrzej: An hour ago I wasn’t sitting in a small pen in a pig’s costume covered in excrements and urine. On top of that I’m sweating terribly. Could somebody open the window here?

Leo: Has somebody said something? I thought I’ve heard some “oink, oink”.

Andrzej: Don’t pretend you don’t understand what I am saying.

Leo: Yes, I was right. A piggy is oinking.

Leo approaches Andrzej.

Leo: What are you oinking about, piggy? You would like to go for a walk, eh?

Andrzej: Oink, oink.

Leo: Walks are not for pigs, go back to your pen. Now! Or we will organise a ritual slaughter for you and you will bleed in a kosher way in front of your relatives.

Andrzej obediently goes back into the pen

Leo: You have to be tough with pigs. You give them a finger and they will bite the hand off.

Andrzej: How long to the assembly?

Bożena: Don’t know. I’m a pig. Pigs don’t use watches.

Leo: I’ll put some music on for you for entertainment and I’ll go for a walk. See you soon. I will, of course, be back to see how your attempt at persuading young people goes. By the way, aren’t you afraid that they will kick you out of school?

Bożena: Oink, oink.

Andrzej: I never liked that fucking school anyway.

Leo puts on Closer” by Nine Inch Nails with chorus: “I want to fuck you like an animal” and leaves.

I want to fuck you like an animal

I want to feel you from the inside

I want to fuck you like an animal

My whole existence is flawed

You get me closer to god

 

SCENE 7

Lights in the room go off.

Bożena: Why is it so dark here?

Andrzej: We are saving energy. People have long forgotten how to live without energy at their disposal. Enough for the strong wind to break electrical wires and we are completely hopeless. Do you know that two days without electricity in Europe would be enough for people to start dying in the streets? Anyway I want to check how it is to live without having a negative effect on the environment. We will sit here in the darkness until we have solar panels installed.

Leo: Production of solar panels is not without a price for the environment. Some of their parts are made of rare noble metals.

Andrzej: It won’t happen anytime soon. With our wages we would have to save for years for solar panels.

Bożena: Fortunately there are various ways to get some financing.

Leo: So they haven’t kicked you out of school after all?

Bożena: It was close. Parent board was outraged. There were even rumours that we exposed our genitalia in front of the students.

Andrzej: But in the end we’ve managed to persuade them that a performance aiming to show children the cruelty of breeding animals on the industrial scale is within our school’s curriculum which attempts not only to teach, but also to show values.

Bożena: According to John Paul II: „Freedom can not be had, it can not be used. It has to be constantly won and created through the truth”. You will find this line above the entrance to the school. And everybody knows the truth about the conditions of breeding animals on the industrial scale. The students of this school saw it yesterday.

Leo: Well, you are lucky that the Pope has helped you. HIV positive children in Africa, where you can’t use condoms, were not that lucky.

Bożena: Have you just suggested that John Paul II was a mass murderer?

Leo: You said it. I’ll admit though that I appreciate your reasoning and I have no intention of arguing.

Andrzej: A local TV station has called. Very interested in our little piece of performance art. They want us to talk about it in the studio.

Bożena: There is one condition though. We need to be dressed as pigs. Could we switch the light on now?

Andrzej: Unfortunately not. If you need light, there should be candles somewhere here. Though I would rather suggest using my own method of providing light by using the muscle power.

Bożena: What?

Andrzej: I’ve installed our old bike on a handy contraption, which turns it into a stationary bike. There is a lamp powered by a dynamo. You can even read a book. If you cycle fast enough.

Bożena: Can I use my mobile to produce light instead?

Andrzej: You can. But I’ve blocked all the plugs, just in case, so you won’t be able to recharge it. If I were you, I would use the battery sparingly.

Bożena: You are crazy. Don’t you think we should discuss it first?

Leo: We’ve been discussing it long enough. And you still haven’t managed to come up with anything. That’s why Andrzej’s proposition has my support. It’s time to stop talking and start acting.

Bożena: We got dressed as pigs. That’s nothing for you? Try sitting for a few hours in a small, stinky pen. You would appreciate our commitment.

Leo: I do appreciate it, but I still think we need more radical solutions.

Bożena: That’s just great. And how long are we supposed to sit in the darkness?

Andrzej: Don’t know. Until further notice.

Bożena: And what are we supposed to do in the darkness?

Andrzej: Don’t know. You could get on the bike and read a book. I got some books on ecology from the library.

Bożena: You know what? You read them yourself. I’ll go visit my friend. If I sit with her and she has the lights on, which she would have on anyway, I won’t add to the climate change, will I?

Leo: Seemingly not, but it would be good if you could use the time spent with her to explain the scale of the problem. Perhaps you don’t have to have the lights on at all?

Bożena: If you don’t mind I will decide what to talk to my friend about. Anyway I’m not convinced that consumers’ individual choices can change the current state of affairs. What we need is a system change. And now, if you excuse me, gentlemen, I am temporarily fed up with those antics. I’ll go have some fun.

Bożena leaves. Andrzej gets on the bike and starts reading a book in its light.

Leo enters. He asks if there is a woman with a child amongst the audience who cares about the environment. If there is one, he delivers his monologue. If not, he delivers it anyway.

Leo: Do we have a parent, a mother or a father amongst us, who care about the environment?

Do we have parents who think that we are all responsible for the future of the planet?

If not, where do children come from?

If so, why did you procreate it, Sir? Why did you give birth to it, Madam? Why do you make children? And another one? Why?

In its lifetime your child will produce five hundred and fifteen tonnes of carbon. That’s forty large trucks. One child is an equivalent to almost 6500 flights to Paris. You could go to Paris ninety times a year back and forth and that would still have a smaller effect on the environment than bringing offspring into the world. Not to mention pesticides and detergents, plastic and fuels, which will keep them warm. By having a child you’ve been selfish. It’s cruel to bring suffering onto others. If you care about the environment, you would cut their throats straightaway. Or I could get a knife and do it for you. And then I’ll disappear; and you will have served the future generations.

Yes? No?

Perhaps a mutated flu or some other rotavirus will get them and that’ll be it. Yes, that’ll be it. Sorted. It might be even better if it was never born. I won’t argue, as it’s not in my nature, but the environment will eventually retaliate. And your child will have to watch it. And let me tell you, it will blame you for it.

Leo leaves.

 

SCENE 8

Bożena comes home slightly tipsy.

Bożena: Oh, the light is back. Have you come up with an idea how to produce electricity without damaging the environment?

Andrzej: I didn’t really have to come up with anything. People have known those methods for centuries. For example hydroelectricity. After all watermills are nothing more than ecological generators of free power.

Bożena: God, I hope you haven’t turned our home into a hydroelectric power station and we don’t have a river running through our bathroom, do we?

Andrzej: No. For now I’ve decided to use conventional energy. I’ve been thinking about what you’d said and indeed, it’s pointless to focus on individual consumer choices. And anyway, our mission is so important that we can afford to emit a small amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. If we succeed, the environment will be more than compensated.

Bożena: Everybody thinks that about their own actions. They think that their actions matter for the world and for them, so they can afford to further pollute the environment. And that’s why we’ll never stop the climate change. Because we have too good an opinion about ourselves. What are you actually doing here?

Andrzej: Building an artificial volcano.

Bożena: You are completely fucked up in your head.

Andrzej: No. I’ve been reading a lot about it recently, I’ve been exploring the topic. American geoengineers think that is the only way.

Bożena: Artificial volcanoes? We are really fucked.

Andrzej: Stop swearing, please. There are children here.

Bożena: What children? You really are fucked up in your head. There are no children here. We are not at school.

Andrzej: No? I thought I heard their laughter.

Bożena: Perhaps it wasn’t laughter but silent cries. Perhaps it wasn’t children but IVF embryos sold to Germany straight from a freezer.

Andrzej: Please, stop joking like that. I know you hate Gowin for his ignorance of the basic biology rules, but that’s not a reason to make fun of his religious sensibilities.

Bożena: I think that’s good enough a reason. And anyway look at yourself. You are building an artificial volcano. That’s an artificial, unnatural way of combating global warming. Jarosław Gowin would be very unhappy.

Andrzej: Who cares about Gowin?

Bożena: Enough people to make him an MP. And you? Who cares about you? What have you achieved in life?

Andrzej: Do you have to have a go at me right now? When I’ve finally found a way to save the planet and stop global warming?

Bożena: Haven’t you just said it was some American geoengineers who found a way, not you?

Andrzej: True. But I am the one gutsy enough to make it happen. You know how it is in America. Plenty people have plenty brilliant ideas, but to be able to patent something you need a thick wallet and well connected friends. Meanwhile in Poland I can build an artificial volcano in my yard and nobody will even blink an eye. Everybody will thank me for it when I save the world.

Bożena: How is this brilliant idea of yours supposed to work?

Andrzej: Simple. Because we can’t seem to find a way to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we have to find a way to limit the amount of light reaching the Earth and, as a result of that, we will also limit global warming. Thanks to my artificial volcano we will emit sulphur into the atmosphere, which will in reflect sunlight. And that’s it. Less light gets through to the Earth. The planet is saved.

Bożena: Have you told Leonardo about it?

Andrzej: Not yet. He’s disappeared somewhere.

Bożena: That’s good. Because I haven’t heard anything equally stupid in my life. Do you really think that the solution to littering the atmosphere with carbon dioxide is shoving sulphur there on top of everything else? Really? Really? Biology was never your strong point, but you don’t need to know biology to understand that. A bit of common sense is enough. Which have clearly evaporated from your brain as a result of overheating. Ha ha. You must have experienced a global warming of the brain. You really want to win so much that you are willing to shoot sulphur into the atmosphere? I don’t know what books you’ve read, but if you’ve read them carefully you would know that global warming is not just a problem of rising temperatures, but also of acidification of the oceans. Growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased the acidity of the oceans by 30 per cent. The Great Barrier Reef is dying! And all the beautiful creatures living there are dying with it. You won’t save it with an artificial volcano.

Andrzej: You are such an expert in putting a damper on people’s ideas. A real Polish mother.

Bożena: You’ll thank me for it. I simply protect you from you own male idiocy. If women ruled the world, the planet would never have got so damaged. But of course you, guys, always have to dominate everything. For you mother Earth is just a common hooker that should be shagged. And if she doesn’t want a shag, then let’s at least blow your load into her atmosphere. Well done you!

Andrzej: Could you stop yelling at me and blaming me for all the mistakes of the male kind?

Bożena: No, I couldn’t. I’ve had enough of this circus. I want my boring life and my cynical Andrzej back!

Leonardo enters. He too is a bit tipsy.

Leo (burps): Oops, sorry. Am I interrupting something?

Andrzej: Yes.

Bożena: No.

Leo: So? I haven’t realised that I had so many female fans in this city. I thought they were going to rip me apart.

Andrzej: But they only got you drunk, eh? I hope it wasn’t one of my students and you didn’t get her pregnant?

Leo (burps): Never. I never fuck my fans. And I always use a condom.

Andrzej: I hope you had your own. Many girls here would do much more than prick a condom with a needle in order to have a child with such a star.

Leo: As I said, I don’t fuck children. I mean fans. And I certainly don’t fuck fans who would like to have children.

Bożena: So why do you have condoms?

Leo: Best to be on the safe side. Never say never.

Andrzej: Don’t worry. We need good genes in Poland. They won’t be wasted, I’m sure.

Leo: I better go lie down. It was a tiring day.

Leo goes to the kitchen to go to bed. Bożena and Andrzej have quiet make-up sex.

 

SCENE 9

Leo (stretches): Another beautiful spring day. How good it is to live on this wonderful planet!

Andrzej: Shame it’s going straight to hell.

Leo: Yeah, they did say something about it in some bestseller. I think it was called “The New Testament”. Have you read it?

Andrzej: No, but I know what you are talking about. You think that global warming is the hell we are condemned to for the sins committed on this planet, don’t you?

Leo: Makes sense.

Bożena: There is one thing we can be sure of. Road to hell is definitely not straight but winding and bumpy. A lot can still happen.

Leo: Since you mentioned travelling… I forgot to tell you yesterday that I have a great surprise for you. Better start packing; we are going on a trip!

Andrzej: Where to? Isn’t transport a big factor in increased emissions? Wouldn’t it be better to stay at home?

Leo: Not to worry. We will take a train to the harbour where a catamaran with solar cells is waiting for us.

Bożena: But where are we going?

Leo: Our destination is the Arctic. We will watch melting glaciers! On our way we might even visit the first artificial island made entirely of rubbish thrown into the sea.

Andrzej: Who lives there?

Leo: Nobody yet, as far as I know. But I do know that plenty of fish and birds die because they think plastic is something to eat. If you know somebody who can live on plastic, it could be a perfect home for them.

Andrzej: I always wanted to have my own island.

Leo: As I said. If you learn to eat plastic, it’s all yours!

 

SCENE 10

Our protagonists are on a yacht in the Arctic Sea. They sip drinks. In the background a film is screened showing glaciers disintegrating: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU&w=560&h=315]

Andrzej: When you said there was a catamaran waiting for us, I imagined a small sailing boat, but I see it’s a proper yacht.

Bożena: With a generously stocked bar.

Leo: Evenings out in the sea can be long. You need something to make them bearable.

Bożena: How much of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the alcohol production?

Leo: I’ve restrained myself from checking it. One needs some pleasures in life.

Andrzej: Tell us, Leonardo. Now, when we are going across the sea on our own, you can tell us. Do you really believe in this whole global warming thing? Look around, see how beautiful it is. You really think humans could destroy it all?

Leo: You are pulling my leg, aren’t you?

Andrzej: A tad, but I’d really like to know. We can’t be so very bad, can we?

Leo: We are even worse than that. We hide the facts from each other on purpose, to feel better about ourselves. That’s how human brain works. From millions of pieces of information it receives, it carefully selects those it can live with considerably safely and comfortably. If we really wanted to face the truth, we would see the reality so cruel it would wipe us out in a second. You can’t live when you know the truth. Bożena, could I have a bit more of this delicious vodka, please?

Bożena: But you know the truth, don’t you?

Leo: I’d lie if I said yes. Nobody can know it in depth. But sometimes I think that I’m getting dangerously close. My knees give in, I get dizzy, my hands want to hold on to something solid, but they just flap in the air chaotically.

Andrzej: I know the feeling. That means you are drunk and it’s time to call a cab.

Leo: No, no. I like a drink so I know what it’s like. But that’s something different. Much worse. Seriously. It’s like peeking into God’s head and seeing that he is dreaming about small children being anally raped by horses.

Bożena: I don’t know what you’ve been taking, but you should stop.

Leo: I don’t take anything. I just have a drink every now and then. O, my glass is empty again. Where is the bottle?

Bożena: Here. But perhaps you should stop drinking now?

Leo: You asked if I believed in global warming. That’s not a question of belief. 97 per cent of climatologists agree that global warming is the result of the actions of a man. Amongst them are scientists from around the world, from Greenland to South Africa. You think they’ve met at some secret conference and agreed to form a conspiracy in order to slow down the economic development of the European Union? Why would they do that? To get research grants? They can research anything. And they would probably prefer to research something else, not the phenomenon, which shows what a fucked up species humans are and what they can do to the planet if given the tiniest amount of power. Really, it’s nothing nice. And it’s even less nice when you have to tell people about it. For example politicians who, while working towards deregulation of markets, only increased the scale of the disaser. And are still increasing it, because they refuse to accept that their policies are wrong. What kind of politicians would they be if they admitted to making mistakes? Wusses, not politicians. The logic of the world we live in is based on the economic development. We won’t give it up in the name of protecting some plants. And by the time the right people realise that it is not just plants that are fucked, but also animals, including the animal called human, it will be too late. It’s already too late.

Andrzej: You are drunk.

Leo: So what? Does that mean I am not telling the truth? If I am wrong about something, then, please, go ahead, correct me. I’ll be happy to know.

Bożena: I don’t know if you are wrong but you definitely seem down. If I can give you some advice, I would suggest seeing a doctor or a therapist.

Leo: Everybody tells me the same thing. It’s not me who is not right, it’s the world.

Andrzej: What a beautiful world it is though.

Leo: Yes. Those glaciers are indeed stunning. That’s why I wanted to see them melting. Your grandchildren will not have that pleasure. Climate change is speeding up. There are huge deposits of methane below the ice of the Arctic. It’s a greenhouse gas much more damaging than carbon dioxide. When enough ice melts, it will get into the atmosphere. God only knows what effect it will have for the planet, but one thing is certain. The effect will be disastrous. And nothing can be done about it.

Bożena: Then why did you come to us and got us involved? Why did you say that something needed to be done about it?

Leo: They pay me handsomely for that. And it’s a pleasure to speak on behalf of the good cause, even if I know we can’t succeed. At least at the end I will be able to say to everybody “Didn’t I tell you so?”

 

SCENE 11

The Final

In the background Celine Dion sings, My heart will go on: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmbw8OycJrE&w=420&h=315]. Or perhaps it’s the melting glacier singing? Leo pours more vodka into his glass and then jumps out of the boat onto the drifting ice floe. He hugs it.

Andrzej: What now? Should we come to the rescue?

Bożena: Do you know how to do it? I have an impression that he brought us here on purpose so that we witness his death in the embraces of the melting glacier.

Andrzej takes his camera out.

Andrzej: Let’s immortalize it at least. This way his death won’t be wasted.

Bożena takes her mobile out and starts filming Leonardo with it.

Bożena: You are right. That’s the least we can do.

Andrzej: And then what? What are we going to do?

Bożena: Same as earlier, Pinky. Keep saving the humankind from self-extinction.

Andrzej: You think we will succeed?

Bożena: I’m afraid I don’t know. But I think we have no choice.

 

THE END

 

Translated by Anna Hyde

How I didn’t stop global warming. The Climate Diary of a concerned consumer

I started writing The Climate Diary encouraged by Claus Leggewie and Harald Welzer. In The End of the World as We Once Knew It they wrote: “every day we do things that go against our deepest beliefs. This book is about energy consumption, which we increase despite the fact that we know better and often don’t have to do it. We do it by using taxis, cars and planes. There are plenty of examples showing how easy it is for us to gloss over the contradictions between our beliefs and our behaviour. Proof? If you are aware of the climate protection issues, start writing your own climate diary, noting how often, in what way and in which situations you break your own principles stemming from that awareness.” As a person aware of the climate protection issues, I have decided to start my diary.

 

20150102_111203-e1420246164789

This is my old mobile phone which I lent to a friend to avoid feeling guilty that it’s just collecting dust.

2 December, 10:30 a.m.

I have turned the radiator up. Because I was feeling unwell. And today I really don’t want to get ill. I don’t have time to be ill. Isn’t my health more important than turning the radiator up to generate a bit more heat?

 

2:30 p.m.

I met a friend for lunch and got some soup to go. I didn’t bring a container, so I was given a disposable one made of Styrofoam. And I didn’t bring a container, because I wasn’t planning to get any takeaways. But the soup was part of the 5 złoty set and I felt like it, but I was afraid that if I ate it straightaway, I wouldn’t be able to eat the main. So I got it to take away.

 

3 December, 3 p.m.

I went to the shop to get tobacco and some linden tea, because I was coming down with a cold. There is nothing like cigarettes for colds. Joke. When you have a cold it’s best to stay under a blanket and drink tea. I wasn’t planning to get anything else, so I didn’t take my shopping bag with me. But when I was out and I got my tobacco, I decided that it might be a good idea to buy some fruit as well. After all fruit is a natural source of easily absorbed micro-elements and vitamins. But because I didn’t bring my shopping bag, I had to take a plastic one from the greengrocer.

 

4 December

I bought a new computer. Well, not exactly new, as it is second hand, but new for me, because I still have the old one. I got the old one a good few years ago and it really was on its last legs. Kept freezing all the time and stuttering, so I thought it was time to get a new one. Now I’m in a quandary, because the old one still works, even though it likes to freeze and stutter. Well, I’m not going to throw the old one away, I will give it to my brother who will find it some use, I’m sure. To make it worse, the new computer came packed in bubble wrap. And I don’t know what to do with it now. It’s a shame to chuck it, so it is sitting on the armchair, sending me reproachful looks.

 

5 December, 12 p.m.

I went shopping. In the greengrocer I told the shopkeeper that I didn’t need the plastic bag just for two onions. “Always a decagram more,” he cracked a joke. He meant that he would make more money thanks to that plastic bag. It took me a while to get his joke. So we were there, laughing and in the end I took the plastic bag, which I didn’t want. I hope he really did make some money on it.

 

1:18 p.m.

A courier brought a parcel, which reminded me about my dilemma on how to use courier services in an ethical way. As if it wasn’t enough that they increase traffic on the roads, couriers’ working conditions (as well as sorting departments employees’) are truly dismal. But since stating it doesn’t help them at all, perhaps I should instead cycle to get all those things, which are so easy to buy online with one click of a button? They might be more expensive, but all in all it would be cheaper, because I wouldn’t buy half of those things.

 

9 December

I have changed the phone and now I’m guilt tripping again. I’m thinking about all those children forced to work in gold and platinum mines, thanks to whom I can enjoy a new mobile phone every other year. I would like to be able to shake their hands one day. To thank them for all those years which kept my life on a steady, technologically advanced level. But I will probably never have the chance; I can only lament their fate fleetingly. Perhaps I should light a candle for them? Or perhaps I shouldn’t have changed the phone? After all the old one still works and if I put some work into it, if I got rid of all the junk, it would probably keep working well for quite a while longer. Admittedly I was annoyed with the crappy camera, but if I want a good camera perhaps I should get a camera and not keep changing my mobile every two years in the hope of finally getting a snapper that is good enough. Perhaps I should do just that, but for now what is done, is done. I bought a new mobile and extended my contract with the operator for two more years. Poor us.

 

grandparents house in the mountains is the one in the middle with the red roof

My grandparents’ house in the mountains is the one in the middle wight the red roof.

10 December

On my way to Lubomierz (a village in the mountains where my grandparents left me a cottage) I bought a yeast pastry and a bagel. Both were put in plastic bags and I was too much in a hurry to object. There was this experiment once when young pastors were asked to prepare a sermon on the Good Samaritan and then told to go to a different building to deliver it. Most of them were in such a hurry that they didn’t even notice a man lying on the pavement, pretending to have an epilepsy attack. Only a few of them stopped and checked if he was alright.

 

12 December

I’ve travelled into the mountains and I’m sitting here writing a book. I came by train and coach, which wasn’t too bad for the climate. Today I took a coach to Mszana Dolna, a slightly bigger town than Lubomierz where my grandparents’ house is located. I’m wondering now if it was a stupid idea. I bought a lot of things, which I will most likely need, but some of them I could have bought in the village shop (though not most of them). And anyway even if I couldn’t buy some of those things in the local shop, perhaps it is time to learn how to cook good meals using products that I can find in the nearest shop. And not just soya milk and sun dried tomatoes from Biedronka supermarket all the time. After all tinned beans are also an excellent product, one that I have not appreciated enough in my cooking up until now. Perhaps it is time to get more friendly? Non-tinned beans would be better, of course, but who has time to soak them? On the other hand if climate matters to me, perhaps I should find the time needed?

Basically I went to town, because I made an attempt at climbing yesterday, but gave up quickly. The crampons I fastened to my boots were broken and I had to adjust them all the time. So I thought I would buy myself new crampons. You would expect to be able to buy them in every other shop in a little town located in the mountains, wouldn’t you? After all a lot of people go climbing here and surely they need that kind of a product? But I found out it was not the case. Clearly people have better boots and are more skilled in walking on ice than I am. Nobody here needs crampons. In the end I bought myself a new pair of boots. One good thing is that they are not made of leather, but still quite pretty. I did indeed need a new pair of boots, as I only have a pair of riding boots for winter. And I can’t wear riding boots everywhere I go. Or perhaps I can? Perhaps I don’t need new boots at all? And some other things I bought? For example, if I had more forethought I would have brought my sunglasses from home and I would not need to buy a new pair. But I didn’t have enough forethought. I was too busy doing other things. I didn’t think about what I might need in the mountains. As a result I bought even more things, things, which I don’t need in a longer run. And the GDP keeps growing and growing, and growing. One day it will bury the old world.

There is one more thing that worries me. Usually I don’t think about it. It’s electricity. I can’t live without electricity; I understood it today. It was very windy and suddenly the lights went off. It was 9 p.m. The idea of spending the rest of the evening without power, by the candlelight, was unbearable. Even more so when I finally found and lit candles, which were just some pathetic stumps. You couldn’t even read. I wrote on Facebook that I had a power cut and asked what to do. A friend inquired how much battery I had left. (That’s quite telling too – that I can be without power, but still have enough power to write on FB.) I thought about her question and wrote: “Do you mean my laptop, tablet, mobile phone or the other mobile phone?” Of course while writing those words I was fully aware of their dubiousness. As a person concerned with the climate issues I shouldn’t be showing off with my technological overindulgence, should I? But I feel like doing it, exactly because I shouldn’t. I constantly think about reducing my energy consumption. I tend to switch off my computer, tablet and mobile when not using them. Ok, one of the mobiles. But still.

 

15 December

I’m still in the mountains, which supports my ecological lifestyle. I haven’t left the house for the second day in a row. Of course I’m still emitting CO2 by using the fireplace, my computer, and so on, and so forth. After reading another text on balanced development – on the economics of waste, to be precise – I stumbled upon the idea that it doesn’t make sense to flush the toilet after a wee; we should only do it after a poo. I agree with this thought. Getting the water to the top of the mountain just to let it out mixed with urine seems quite absurd. But it can be difficult to change one’s instinctive reactions. I still catch myself flushing after a wee. There is a long way from the resolution to the actual change.

I found out that my mobile can take panoramic pictures. That’s what it looks like.

I found out that my mobile can take panoramic pictures. That’s what it looks like.

16 December

I have to go to Kielce to stand as a witness in a case about a photo I once took of myself with the inscription that read: “Pope is a dick and Poland is a whore”. I don’t know if they can find the perpetrators; I don’t know who wrote it. And I presume I’m the only witness, as this photo was taken in Berlin. If I wasn’t in the picture, there would no case at all. At least I am not the suspect. But I still have to go to Kielce, which is stupid, because that will increase my carbon footprint. Not to mention the footprint of the prosecutor’s office, wasting fuel on such stupid cases.

I made hummus sandwiches for the road and packed a salad, which I have been eating for the third day in a row. It’s a leftover from the visit of my Auntie and Uncle and their kids. I had to change in Krakow. The railway station in Krakow has been practically turned into a shopping centre, so there is nowhere to sit down if you don’t want to sit in the chain coffee shop, a bakery or a restaurant, but in the end I managed to find a bench where I could perch and eat my meal. I was very proud of doing something so naff like eating home-made food in the middle of this retail temple. Nobody paid any attention to my act of resistance, but that wasn’t important. Perhaps today nobody notices it, but tomorrow they might themselves think that it doesn’t make sense to buy a hamburger if they can bring a home-made sandwich, which is cheaper, tastier and healthier.

The hearing went on for so long that I didn’t even have time to buy anything else to eat. At least I didn’t get another plastic bag.

 

18 December

I went to see a friend in Cieszyn, where more resources are wasted than at home in Lubomierz. For example I bought three pairs of socks just because they were decorated with an inscription saying: “fuck you”. There was one thing there that made me happy (apart from the fact that trips are generally cool, my friend is cool and it was generally nice there). The friend’s toilet was broken and it was not enough to press the button to flush, you had to open the tap too. So flushing the toilet required a moment of reflection, which gave me time to remember that flushing after a simple wee is a waste. It stopped me from doing just that. I only flushed after a longer session.

 

19 December

I went shopping and forgot to take my cotton shopping bag, because I was only supposed to buy a bread roll and a paper but, of course, there were other things: apples, pickled peppers, another bread roll. I couldn’t stuff it all into my pockets but I still refused to take the offered plastic bag.

 

20 December

I’ve come back to the house in the mountains and now I’m wondering if sitting here on my own is indeed ecological. I buy fewer things, that’s true, but heating adds more to the global warming than making plastic bags which I sometimes accidentally take. Admittedly winter this year is particularly warm, but not so warm as to sit there just in a jumper. Luckily the family will come down soon, which will make it more energy efficient.

 

27 December

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. We ate from morning till night, we managed not to resort to a fistfight, and I was called a fascist only three times. Luckily my mother has done most of the shopping, so I didn’t have to concern myself with calculating the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air. But I did tell her off for trying to burn plastic in the fireplace. We have recycling systems; we don’t need to burn rubbish. But I don’t think I convinced her and she still burns rubbish when I’m not looking. I’m a bit worried about putting weight on, but fortunately I have a metabolism of a 15-year-old, so pretty much everything is out of my system soon after I’ve eaten it. Let’s see what the scales in the gym show though. When I finally get there. Not flushing after a wee is proving more difficult than I expected, but I am slowly getting used to it. And stopping myself.

 

30 December

I came back to the city and the plastic bag problem returned. Everybody wants to give them to me. I try to decline, with varied results. It’s not always easy to say no, sometimes it is easier to take it and just live with it. I mean, it is always easier, but I don’t give up. Luckily there is a shop on my street where they sell different types of grains, dried fruit and nuts or spices packed in paper bags. So I try to shop there. Not that this shop wasn’t there before, but I didn’t like going there because there used to be a guy who liked to wear a nationalists’ t-shirt working there. What’s the point of fighting against global warming if you support nationalism? Luckily the staff has changed. I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but I might become a vegan. That will surely decrease my carbon footprint. Meat industry is responsible for over 20 per cent of CO2 emissions. Well, when you buy vegetables, it is difficult to stop the shopkeepers from putting them in plastic bags, but I’m sure there must be a way around it. I will tackle it in the New Year. That’s my resolution.

 

Translated by Anna Hyde

10 things I have learned during my fight against global warming

fot. Anna Novotny

fot. Anna Novotny

It’s impossible to list everything I have learned and understood, everything the Global Weatherstations project has given me, but I will try to make a list of the ten most important things:
1. I was reminded about the importance of the issue of global warming and also why most people couldn’t care less about it. Or, if they could, they still don’t care enough. But despite everything, it is not completely alien to them, it affects them..
2. I have learned to take my water bottle with me everywhere I go, but I have also learned to drink all the water from it before getting on the plane. You can refill it pretty much straightaway with tap water in the bathroom.
3. Tap water is tasty and healthy, but people still prefer to buy bottled water, which costs 2000 times more and leaves unbelievable amount of plastic on the planet. There is a nice film about it.
4. There is so much plastic in the world that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was formed. There is a nice film made about it, called Plastic Paradise. Albatrosses eat plastic, which can be seen in photos made by Chris Jordan from Midway, and as a result they die. As do fish. Population of numerous species of fish has decreased within the last forty years by 90%. Eating fish, which have eaten plastic, can cause various diseases. Including cancer.
5. Industrial farms seen from a satellite are more beautiful than Salvador Dali’s paintings. And more terrifying. No wonder conceptual artist Mishka Henner exhibits them in galleries. You can see it on his website.
6. Meat consumption is killing the planet. Meat industry is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport. Forests are cut and monoculture GMO plants cultivated for animal feed, generously sprinkled with pesticides, which cause death of millions of insects and birds. And meat consumption is still on the increase.
7. In the space of the last few years population of animals living in the wild decreased by 50 per cent, but population of animals reared in cages went up. Those animals never see the sun, never touch the soil. We have organised a little animal Auschwitz for them, but on a larger scale. What’s more, we pump them with antibiotics and as a result those same antibiotics will stop having an effect on us.
8. Sometimes you have to travel by plane, even if it is against your deepest beliefs. Though there are people who think that we don’t have to fly at all. And I agree with them.
9. I’m cool, I’m smart, I’m inspirational. Even at events in London or Berlin. Though I think I should learn English properly. Or should I? There are so many great translators. Perhaps it’s better not to take the work away from them. Anyway poetry read in Polish sounds beautiful. So let’s have it in Polish.
10. Everything is possible. I still don’t know how to write about global warming to captivate the attention of owners of companies, which pollute our planet, or the politicians, who are paid by them, but I’m not giving up. And anyway – as far as I know – they do understand the problem. But we still don’t exert enough pressure on them, so it’s worth writing about it to make a change.

The Hel Peninsula is a place

IMG_7975-2The Hel Peninsula is a place where fishing and tourism provide a chance to survive – because they pay. But we are beginning to think that tourism is as horrible an industry as fishing is. It always stinks in the port and it’s polluted. We got used to it, but the dreams of a different everyday reality have been maturing in us. We want it to be different even though we are the residents of the place, which is a tourist destination. Hel is still a home for us.
Why do we have to accept the noise, trampled plants by the beach, loud music and bad-mannered tourists? Are these the inevitable costs of earning money? It is us, the residents of Hel, who clean the beaches in springtime and in autumn, because we love relaxing there all year round. It is us who accept sleepless nights in summertime in the name of earning money, which is enough to survive all year round. It is us who can only smell fried fish in summer, the odour stronger even than the odour of the port. Accepting all that is our conscious decision taken under the financial pressure, but what about the animals? What advantages are there for the animals living in the Hel woods? I don’t think they ever wanted to live in the woods littered with bottles, plastic, paper and chocolate wrappers. Although it might still be better than setting the forest on fire, which does happen when playful tourists start a bonfire and lose control over it. One of the summer attractions of Hel is a tree decorated with empty bottles. For us it’s a monument of despair…
Every year we remove rubbish from military bunkers – several dozens bags worth of rubbish; and fromIMG_7881-2 one of the most untouched beaches – another several dozens of bags and some tyres on top of that. Do tourists who come here in summertime spend their time in cities in a similar manner? We don’t think so!
Some will say that these are the extra costs we pay for living in a tourist destination. But these are costs, which we don’t understand and don’t accept. After all people come here seeking nature. Why don’t they notice its assets? Why do they destroy the woods? That’s where the animals live; they can’t pack their things and go back to their clean and tidy cities? We thought fishing nets were the biggest nightmare. They kill seals, porpoises and birds, which get entangled in them together with the fish. For a while now though we’ve been wondering if the tourists who have no respect for nature aren’t even worse?
Another summer holiday will start in a short while and we would love Hel to be a place where people can be close to nature, where they come to spend several days on the beach, respecting each and every creature. This is the Hel we want to create.

Climate poetry slam

1.

Global warming, it calls for a warning,
The ice is melting, the planet’s drowning.
We burn up tonnes of coal, gallons of oil too,
You love airplanes, they’re guzzlers, it’s sad but true.

Global warming, it’s time for a warning,
Earth’s surface’s burning, it’s alarming.
Water reserves drying up –
Let’s drink water from the tap.

Could good old cooperation
Save us from deterioration?
A filter for your chimney, that’s right!
Fight to spread it nationwide.

Start recycle and repair,
That’s our way out of despair.

2.

Global warming, it calls for a warning,
The ice is melting, the planet’s drowning.
We burn up tonnes of coal, gallons of oil too,
You love airplanes, they’re guzzlers, it’s sad but true.

Carbon dioxide’s the villain,
That’s who stands behind this killing:
Storms and draughts and floods and tides,
Creatures cannot live their lives.

Let’s plant green plants, shut down your greed-plants,
Trees are the best filters, now give them a chance.

Flooded by plastic and cows’ greenhouse gas
We soon may forget the looks of the grass.

3.

Global warming, it calls for warning,
The ice is melting, the planet’s drowning.
We burn up tonnes of coal, gallons of oil too,
You love airplanes, they’re guzzlers, it’s sad but true.

Don’t eat hamburgers in bed,
Better take a walk instead.
Are you brave enough to smoke?
What if those around you choke?
Our atmosphere’s our common good
Don’t see it yet? Well, you should.

The ozone hole, up there, is a real evil badass,
It’s mean as methane, the cow-produced bad gas.
Methane makes the Earth keep heat,
We’ll all end up as sizzling meat.
Save the planet’s water now,
Ask not why, start thinking how.

Translated by Mikołaj Denderski

Hello from Hel

IMG_3740The Polish Substation of the Weather Stations project is situated at the far end of the Hel Peninsula on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The Substation’s team are students of the Zespół Szkół Ogólnokształcących im. Obrońców Helu (General Education School Complex in Hel).

Participants of the project go to school at one of Poland’s most frequented summer resorts. In the town of Hel there are many tourist attractions, such as a cycling route that runs all the way through the Hel Peninsula, lovely beaches, an observatory pier from which one can view the flora of the dunes, remnants of the bunkers and casemates of the Hel Fortified Area, the Seal Sanctuary, where Poland’s population of the grey seal is being restored, run by the Hel Marine Station of the University of Gdańsk, Hel’s Seaport, the beaches, the Museum of Fishery and many others.

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In the summer, every day several thousand visitors want to experience Hel’s tourist attractions. Is it a blessing or a curse? Certainly obliterated during the summer holiday season is the charm of Hel, a place which at other times invites peaceful recreation.

The participants of the project say: “Thanks to the Weather Stations project, in which we have been involved for more than a year now, we are getting to know more and more about our peninsula. Early in March we watched birds near the seaport and the peninsula’s tip. With Mikołaj, an ornithologist from the Marine Station, we went on an excursion equipped with binoculars. We learnt about the lives of cormorants, mallards and long-tailed ducks, and the names of the several species of gull living in the seaport: the herring gull, the black-headed gull, the Caspian gull, and the common gull. Thanks to the trip we now know that long-tailed ducks frequently fall victim to what is known as bycatch, trapped in the nets cast for fish. We were also fortunate to encounter rare specimens: robin and snow bunting.”

photoAnd what is the everyday life of the school like? Throughout the school year there are many events, such as school fairs, drama productions, visits from interesting people, and more. The students develop athletically and artistically. They have staged several times the play The Story of the Blue Planet, whose author, Andri Magnason, visited the nearby city of Gdańsk.blekitnaplaneta

The students staged a guest performance of the play for children at Gdański Archipelag Kultury.

Beside Weather Stations there are also other educational projects going on at school, e.g. meetings with the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre. Whenever possible, there are excursions for students, from which they return to Hel inspired.
The school’s involvement in the project brings to Hel writers also engaged in Weather Stations. They run workshops for the youth and pose questions about the future of our planet. Recently Hel was visited by Xiaolu Guo from London.

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Postcards from the Baltic Sea

  1. The Palace of Culture

Before heading towards the Baltic Sea, I have to stop in Warsaw and stay in one of those over heated small hotel rooms which stink of smoke. Well, each time I visit Poland, I get a mixed sense of desolation and nostalgia. Even though this time I come here for the Weather Station’s project to do with the issues of climate change, still, I feel I am a cultural tourist – wandering in those foreign streets reminiscent of some old Polish films I watched when I was in China.  From a historical point of view, one can say Poland is a sorrowful land, that gives an impression like the solemn landscape of Siberia seen through a Dostoevsky novel. As a Chinese growing up in a communist house, we had some interesting ideological connections with East European countries. Bolesław Bierut’s name is still mentioned a lot in post-Mao era China. As I walk along some stately broad street in the center of Warsaw, I feel I am back again in Beijing, passing through a gigantic brutalist urban space, trying to find somewhere agreeable to sit and think. Actually, the more I walk around Warsaw, the more the city resembles for me Harbin – the northern capital of Chinese Manchuria. Harbin has this particular style of architecture that shows up in Warsaw: a mix of classical European mansions and brutalist socialist buildings.

The Palace of Cultural and Science was the place where I screened my film UFO In Her Eyes some years ago. I thought it was a perfect place (a gift from Soviet Union) to screen a film about totalitarianism. The building itself reminds me of my mother. For about twenty years, my mother worked in the Cultural Palace of our hometown Wenling in South East China. The Cultural Palace of my hometown was not as grand as the one here, but its function and its style were very similar – serve the people with well intentioned entertainment. And my mother was proud of her job, until one day the building was torn down along with other socialist buildings in my hometown. For some nostalgic reason, I do hope this grand building survives in Poland, not only symbolically, but also pragmatically, despite its complex ideological background.

  1. Czesław Miłosz

Last night I was drinking with some obscure Polish artists in Café Amatorska, discussing the gloomy future of our planet. ‘Stop worrying! Humans will die, but the planet is not going to die! That will be the scenario. It’s a good scenario as far as other species concerned.’ They told me in Vodka infused loud voices: ‘Human species are over-rated! The most selfish species should have been wiped out long ago’. Obviously this bunch of Poles was not Christians. ‘You know what’s the most ecological way to live?’ A painter stared at me earnestly: ‘It’s this: we humans must stop giving birth. So the most destructive species can eventually die out. Charge me with the crime of Against Humanity? Oh yes, please!’ He concluded bitterly. Perhaps they were right, and were more absolute than me. The night continued with sarcasm. But I have never been a good drinker, nor do I like to indulge in fantasies of an apocalyptic world. So I left early with a headache.

This morning, on a train to the Baltic Sea, I am clear-headed, and want to write again. I enter the dinning car, ordering a bowl of Zurek – Sour Soup – meanwhile reading a book from Czesław Miłosz. Is there any connection between this sour soup and Milosz? There must be. Both are great stuff. Sour soup is one of my favourite Polish dishes. The thick broth comes with a boiled egg and sausages, a hearty thing to eat in the cold weather. Miłosz, the exiled poet, essayist and Nobel Laureate, was someone whose poetry I loved reading when I was still writing poems in Beijing. He was hugely important in China with his books – especially ‘The Captive Mind’ and ‘Miłosz’s Alphabet’. Exiled in France then in the USA for 30 years, his writings examined the moral and psychological pressures of life under a totalitarian regime. In that respect, Milosz is similar to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, except the latter went through a much harder life in Stalin’s gulags. I, naturally, feel akin to these writers, especially when they talk about the dilemma of the impossibility of returning to one’s homeland, and the alienation of living in the western ‘free’ world. Even though Miłosz had a good professorial position in California, he still referred to himself as ‘The Wrong Honorable Professor Milosz who wrote poems in some unheard-of tongue’. He returned to Poland after decades of life in the west and died in Kraków at the age of 93.  Some of best lines from Milosz in my opinions are these:

On the day the world ends

Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,

A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,

Vegetable peddlers shout in the street

And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,

The voice of a violin lasts in the air

And leads into a starry night.

 

And those who expected lightning and thunder

Are disappointed.

And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps

Do not believe it is happening now.

As long as the sun and the moon are above,

As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,

As long as rosy infants are born

No one believes it is happening now.

I close the book, thinking back to the conversation we had in Café Amatorska last night about the end of the world. Yes, no one believes it is happening now, as long as the sun and the moon are above.

  1. Gdańsk

It’s a three hour train ride from Warsaw to Gdańsk. I pass the grey yellow plains of April. Ah, northern landscape, I sigh. How ironic that a southern person like me has ended up in the north. All my adult life seems to be about living in the cold and big northern cities: Beijing, London, Berlin, Zurich. And how I dream everyday about returning to a warm and lush semi tropical land. I miss the heat and those big leaves and smelly flowers. In my eyes, those small-leaved northern trees are never as beautiful as the big-leaved tropical plants. But probably there are fewer and fewer big leaved plants surviving in my tropical land. This is not only a metaphor but a reality: the tropical land is going. It only exists in our memory or imagination. It only remains in an anthropologist’s photo archive. The Amazon rainforest appears only enchanting in those well-angled expensively-produced documentary films. Perhaps the day when Claude Lévi-Strauss finished ‘Tristes Tropiques’, the tropical land had already been swallowed by the northern civilization – the process that began in England with the pre-Victorian era factory chimneys.

Gdańsk is another sorrowful place. The most famous thing in recent history about the town is perhaps its German character. After the World War One, Germans formed a majority in the city and Gdańsk was not under Polish sovereignty. In accordance with the terms of the Versailles Treaty, it became the Free City of Danzig. In  1939, Germany invaded Poland and the attack began in Danzig; later on the Soviet Union trashed the city entirely. Double rape! No wonder the country has produced those incredible poets and artists in the last century. But the future of Gdansk looks uncertain – the houses have been re-built after the war but most of houses are empty and unemployment is high. People are poor here, with all their good qualifications fading in their drawers.

I stand by the once famous port, now abandoned, with broken ships and messy cranes lit along the bank. The area by the water is waiting to be ‘developed’, to ‘shine’ again. I try to stretch my imagination, visualizing the newly built budget hotels one after another along the harbor in the next five years, with the holiday makers from all over the word coming here to kill their summer days.

  1. Sopot

This is where the famous ill-tempered German actor Klaus Kinski came from. One could not be totally convinced that the eccentric German cinema icon actually was born in this calm and pretty little Polish beach town. Now the city has a population of 40,000. Most are elderly people, and then many tourists. On the beach, the Royal Hotel stands proudly on the white sand facing the peaceful blue bay. Somehow, those grand family houses remind me of the rich town of Deauville in northern France. Maybe Poland’s Sopot is the Deauville of France, if you restrict the comparison to landscape.

In the local library I meet a little group of readers who were given some photocopied pages of my novel. In fact, three pages out of my four hundred page long novel. They admitted that they didn’t have time to read through my book. One woman told me she hadn’t read a single book for years after she had her baby. ‘Of course, I understand that,’ I reassured her and everyone else: ‘Don’t worry, we will just chat.’ So we talked about the reality of being Polish, being Chinese, being in between German power and Russia power. It seemed to me that everyone preferred to be under German influence rather than Russian influence. ‘And what about Communism?’ I asked. A blonde woman shook her head violently: ‘No, communism kidnapped our freedom. We prefer to hide in the religious’. Then a man from East Germany added: ‘And capitalism. It’s better. There is no freedom anywhere anyway.’

  1. Hel

Hel is a pine-tree covered beautiful peninsular. ‘It is the end and the beginning of Poland’, as the locals jokingly claim. It is so long and slim that nearly every house is located right next by the water, with a great sea view.

We stay in the Marine Station where they have kept members of many endangered sea species in their lab. The grey seal is a big thing in the Marine Station. They even have four infant seals in the pool at the moment. As I stare at one of the large, fat, young seal babies diving in the water, I am almost sardonically surprised that this big sea mammal has managed to survive alongside human world for so long. And their great whiskers! I can only admire them. I am told that when they sleep, if they are in the water, half of their brains remain awake, so they can detect any danger around them. But if they sleep on the land, both sides of their brains go into sleep mode. I wonder, given human’s barbarian nature, wouldn’t the seals be killed more often on the land than in the water? In order to survive, perhaps they have to learn to not sleep at all.

In the noon, there are about 20 middle school students around the age of 15 walking me through the forest by the sea. Most of them are local, born in Hel with their parents working on the island for the fishing and tourism industry. The boys impatiently want to show me all the war remains on the peninsular. The girls are talking to me about the pollution in the sea. We enter the ruins of bunkers which were built during World War II and look at the burnt forest in the southern end of the land. Young, beautiful, but vulnerable, they seem to be hopeful but also fearful to leave this place and to enter the big cities for their future.

‘Hel is the most beautiful place in Poland. Look the sea and the forest here! But I think maybe California is better.’ A 14 year old boy remarks while I gaze into the shimmering sea shore.

Standing by the edge of the water, a naïve but profound question rings in my ears: where is our future? What is our future? Well, I think the sea is our future. The sea is the place that gives birth to everything. Yet, humans don’t want the sea, Humans want the land, the useful land. One of the ancient folksongs from the Baltic Sea region goes like this:

Now I’ll sing the sea into grass, the seashore into fish,
The sea sand into malt, the sea bottom into a field.

‘Can we imagine a human world without the sea? Or, the Planet without the sea?’ I ask the students around me. They look gloomy when hearing such a question. We wander about some more, strolling by the abandoned fortifications one after another under the bright burning sun of Hel.

Bladderwrack R.I.P.

IMG_5428malyWhen I was I child, I used to go with my parents to Jurata at the Hel peninsula. I don’t remember much. Running around in the woods, looking for amber and finding bubbly brownish seaweed on the beach. I almost forgot about the seaweed. Why would I remember it? Seaweed is seaweed. It’s everywhere. Or at least, it was everywhere.

These days I also relatively often go to Hel. I no longer run around in the woods, I rather stroll, but I’m still interested in what can be found on the beach. I even managed to find amber in a spot where you’re not supposed to normally find it and a few rusty coins. But there is almost no bladderwrack (the seaweed, or algae’s actual name) in the Polish Baltic Sea anymore. It felt weird to find that out. After all I’m not that old, yet I remember from childhood something that no longer exists. The world is changing, of course. New blocks of flats and supermarkets are being built. At this very moment a new house is being built next to mine and is going to block my view of the river. I understand why. People have to live somewhere. But who did the bladderwrack bother?

There are various theories. Some of them became extinct, because the Baltic Sea is becoming more and more polluted and less and less transparent. Some of them were pulled out of the sea to be used in the production of cosmetics. Mrs. Bogumiła thanks to a supplement made of bladderwrack lost 26,5 kg in two months. Also swans and crustaceans like eating seaweed. No wonder – they contain lots of minerals and iodine. But because of all this they are no longer in the Baltic. They were here, and now they’re not. They will remain in my childhood memories and on the list of endangered species. It feels weird.