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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Ten Billion
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs    Summer 2012

This is not a play. It is a lecture by an eminent scientist (not an actor playing a scientist – the guy himself) about why we're all doomed.

Let me begin by saying I believe just about everything Professor Stephen Emmett says about overpopulation, climate change, food production and the rest. I just don't know why he is telling me these things. 

Emmett is the head of a Cambridge-based think tank that analyses complex systems – that is, not just overpopulation, global warming and the like, but the way they jigsaw together. He explains in clear and convincing detail how the Earth is approaching the point of being unable to sustain life, and then considers and rejects all the technological and political solutions that have been offered. 

His conclusions? Surprisingly, we have enough carbon fuel reserves to hold us for quite a while. But there is no way in hell that we will be able to feed the exploding population of three or four decades from now. That is, unless droughts, rising sea levels, tons of methane released from beneath the polar ice, hunger-driven wars and swine- or bird-flu pandemics – all of these things far more likely than not – kill most of us off first. 

And Nothing Can Be Done. 

And my question is why is he in a theatre? If what he says is true, why is he telling this to ninety effete arty types in a Sloane Square attic instead of a scientific conference or the UN or Wall Street or shouting from the rooftops? 

The strong impression that he is wasting his time and expertise seriously weakens his credibility. 

Still, if you want to know exactly how much water it takes to produce a Big Mac or the birth rate in Niger or how much carbon is burned with each Google search, or if you want to be reassured that Nothing Can Be Done and therefore you needn't bother trying to do anything, here's your man.

Gerald Berkowitz


Review - Ten Billion - Royal Court 2012 
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