Review: Sea Sick an urgent warning of perils of climate change

Alanna Mitchell's climate change production Sea Sick is required viewing for everybody - especially politicians
Jane Hardy

Sea Sick

The MAC, Belfast

GAIA, to borrow Lovelock's term for the planet, is in trouble - big trouble.

We knew that, but possibly not how near to the edge we are. In inspired programming with COP26 nearly here, the Belfast International Arts Festival brought Alanna Mitchell's piece on the state of our oceans to The MAC over the weekend.

The Canadian journalist proved an engaging guide. Her inspiration was her scientist father, who turned family breakfasts into discussions on Darwin.

Apparently, the Victorian thinker delayed for a decade but felt he had to share the evolutionary truth.

Mitchell tells us, with incredulity, that many people at the time believed the earth to have been created 6,000 years ago.

So no fossilised dinosaurs, no worries about extinction, as one or two people here also believe.

Mitchell then took us on a very worrying journey. And it's nothing to do with plastic, although that isn't good - it's all about chemistry and the increase in carbon.

She has followed scientists to the ends of the earth to witness the coral mating rituals, with intense "sexual energy". Then Mitchell revealed reproduction rates were down because of sea warming.

We heard about her journey to the bottom of the sea in a super-modern diving bell. If the surface had been damaged, the four voyagers would have died "instantly", apparently becoming jam under the pressure.

We learnt about the hero-scientists and their Cassandra-like efforts to warn us.

Interestingly, during Covid19, the drop in emissions caused by people working from home and not flying about has been a mere 7 per cent.

As she said, we need systemic change.

This wasn't a play, more a dramatised monologue cum one of the best Open University lectures you've heard (plus chalk and figures on a blackboard at one point.).

Cousin Patricia used to describe man as the "killer species"; maybe we're now the killer, suicidal species.

But Alanna Mitchell ended with the possibility that her, and our, quest might find some kind of happy ending.

The music was great, with Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' bursting in as an anthem of protest.

So thanks to Mitchell (and Greta and indeed Extinction Rebellion) but although the celebs talking about Prince William's estimable new Earthshot award didn't talk about oceans, one of the Costa Rican winners is growing coral.

Everybody, especially the politicians, really needs to see this piece.

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