Climate Change and the Inescapable Present

Jeanne Tiehen


The crisis of climate change is a difficult phenomenon to conceptualize, particularly in light of how we experience time and how our consciousness works. It is an event that spans tense in ways that are difficult to pinpoint, and it provides no past precedent to shape our future anticipations. Furthermore, climate change encounters us at a moment when time also feels compressed. This paper explores climate change and its relationship to time by assessing how theatre, with its own phenomenologically unique qualities of time and experience, has portrayed these tensions. Utilizing phenomenological theories of time from Husserl and Heidegger, and drawing on philosophical and cultural theories of presentism, this paper examines how these ideas manifest in two climate change plays: Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner, and Jack Thorne’s Greenland (2011) and Stephen Emmott’s Ten Billion (2012). In conclusion, it is argued that theatre’s own conventions of time and space allows an inescapable present to exist, in which audiences are given a phenomenological experience of climate change that is otherwise unparalleled.


Phenomenology; Time; Theatre

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