INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Drawdown, Act Up!

Youth Performance for Communicating Drawdown Solutions to Climate Change at the Drawdown Learn Conference

by Beth Osnes

“What did the scientist say to the 1950s refrigerator?” “Are you Freon Friday night?” That joke wouldn’t land with a lot of crowds, but at the Drawdown Learn Conference, that groaner got a hearty laugh. This play on words was prompted by research conducted by Project Drawdown stating that refrigerant management is the top solution for reversing global warming.

Facilitated for youth performers, this joke was part of a ten-minute musical comedy performance, Drawdown, Act Up, featured during the plenary Saturday night Expo/party on October 20, 2019. Inside the Greenhouse was invited to present a workshop at the Drawdown Learn Conference for performance-based spectacle as a method for youth engagement. Our session shared field-tested methods for embodied youth engagement. The process is time-efficient and encourages creative participation. The joy experienced through the creative process carries over to the audience and can sustain commitment to climate action. Framing the performance was a giant Moving Mural, the pieces of which provided the transitions between songs and skits and, when brought together, revealed a final culminating message. This design gained inspiration from Stephen Duncombe’s open-source book Dream, “Ethical spectacle demands a different sort of participation. The people who participate in the performance of the spectacle must also contribute to its construction…popular participation not only can happen but must happen for the spectacle to come to fruition.”

At the conference, we also launched our new Inside the Greenhouse open educational resource, Drawdown, Act Up! for creatively engaging students in communicating Drawdown solutions. Our research on this project shows that the use of ‘good-natured’ comedy and fun helps young people process negative emotions regarding global warming, feeds hope, and sustains commitment to climate action. Additionally, embodying concepts is beneficial to learners. Each of the activities included is linked to a PDF of a ‘grab and go’ lesson plan that is classroom-tested, ready for easy implementation in the classroom or informal learning environment. 

Co-director of Inside the Greenhouse Beth Osnes, Associate Professor for Theatre and Environmental Studies at CU was joined at the conference by CU students Sarah Fahmy (Theatre PhD), Lianna Nixon (Education MA), Patrick Chandler (Environmental Studies PhD), and Emmet Norris (Geology BA).