March 2010 Archives

Container Ships

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As resident ocean expert, part of KC's research involved tracking down pictures of, and info on, container ships. A few entries ago, Becca gave us a banana-flavored preview of these vessels. Now, a little more information, complete with greatly impressive and immensely beautiful pictures:


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According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the Orient Overseas Container Line Shenzhen of Hong Kong is the world’s largest container ship (see above).


ulstein-x-bow-container-ship.png The Norwegian ship-building company Ulstein has redesigned their container ships to incorporate what they call a Ulstein X-BOW (above), a pointed style of bow inspired by Viking ships from over 1000 years ago.


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Above, a container ship moving through Miaflores Locks of the Panama Canal.



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Super Panamax ship built in Denmark. It carries 15,000 containers, requires a crew of only 13, and consumes 317,000 gallons of diesel per year as it travels back and forth across the Pacific. This is the equivalent of 3,041,400 pounds of CO2.

Emissions calculations.


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“Container ship APL Panama ran aground just south of Ensenada, Mexico on Christmas Day 2005, because the captain didn’t wait for port pilot and tugs. The captain was irritated that the port pilot was 1 hour late, so he decided to steer the ship into port himself.

Tug boats after tug boats were dispatched to free her, but the ship was too heavy: first, 30,000 tons of cargo must be unloaded, using a sky crane helicopter:


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Finally, 2 months later (remember, this whole thing happened because the port pilot was 1 hour late), with the help of an armada of tug boats, the APL Panama was finally freed.”


ship 8.png Above, a container ship in Montreal.








"You gotta label your graphs" and Other Thoughts

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Like Erin and the rest of our classmates, I found myself conducting interviews with peers about climate change and then transcribing these interviews from memory, an exercise that got more fun every time. Part two of these assignments was reciting the interview as a monologue in class. I am sorry that you, dear blog readers, don’t get to experience that half of the experience, which consisted of particularly hilarious or moving interpretations of the words our friends spoke. Instead, you will have to make do with these snippets from two interviews I did.


The first came from Ivy, Japanophile and Johnny Depp fan:


I have this, like, fear of getting old. So I don’t really think into the future past when I’m fifty.




Will things be different for my children? Probably not. Will things change for my grandchildren? Probably not. Beyond that—and, I mean this sounds pretty cold, but that’s just so far removed I don’t care what happens to my DNA. I’ll be dead. My children and grandchildren will be dead, so… (shrugs) I don’t really buy that whole 2012 thing. The planet exploding isn’t something, I mean… It is hard to think of the world not being there any more. And, I mean, we can’t even get to Mars. I thought we had but we haven’t. And we lost the technology to get to the moon even.


Environmentalism. […]  I don’t do that. There are other things I do with my time and my studies. But, I guess everyone’s like me and that’s why it’s falling apart?


I guess one thing we learned from George Bush was how to say we were doing one thing and then doing another. So if we end up fighting over the Artctic or whatever we could probably get a bunch of penguin lovers to go up there and they think they’re saving the penguins but they’re actually going to war. (laughs) Or not.


Then I interviewed Janie, pre-med and shamefaced Glamour reader:


When I make decisions I look at the pros and cons, and whether it will make me happy and sometimes I talk to people like me who have made the same decision and see what they did. No, not experts. I said people like me. Making myself happy is part of the pros and cons, though. It’s all part of the pros and cons. Aren’t we supposed to be talking about energy or something?


I guess I heard about global warming in high school. That was still when they called it global warming, not climate change. Sometimes I still slip up and call it global warming but (points out the window at the snow) it really is climate change. And people were talking about air freshener…no. What are those…? Aerosol! Thank you! People were talking about aerosol and CFCs—chlorofluorocarbons—and the ozone and baby seals. And then we watched An Inconvenient Truth and I just remember being bored. And they showed the graphs and they didn’t even have axes! And I was just watching it like a skeptic. So, yeah, I think we had just read this really skeptical Michael Crichton book before seeing it. So I had that in my head and…


Axes are important. You can have a two percent increase and if you don’t label the axes that can look crazy. I’m not saying I don’t believe in climate change, but you gotta label your graphs.


People are going to be skeptical watching documentaries. When people are talking, talking, talking and not engaging you all you’re going to do is (sits back and points at an imaginary TV screen) “Hmm. Really? Really? I don’t know…” Doubt is people’s way of looking at the material.


One thing I’ve noticing about green now is that it’s really in. Ever since I started reading (uneasily) fashion magazines, I’ve noticed that being green is really cool right now. They always have that Kermit the Frog quote, “It’s not easy being green,” only they change it to “It IS Easy to Be Green,” or something and that’s a headline. So I think that’s good. If all these celebrities and people are doing something just because it’s cool then that’s good, because what they’re doing is making them good people, even if they’re just doing it because it’s in.




There’s plenty I don’t know about it. Like, I’ve heard about everyone’s carbon footprint, but I’m not quite sure what that means. Is it the same as carbon dioxide emissions? And I wonder if—when I’m older I want to live in an apartment forever and I wonder if since that’s less space it’s better for my emissions. And I plan to drive a cheap old climate-friendly Toyota, and if its brakes fail then whatever.


interview with an urban agrarian futurist

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Earlier in the semester, I interviewed a friend of mine on the role of the humanities in addressing climate change. This is (approximately) what she had to say:

[as she speaks, waves hands emphatically as though they’re holding large, crumpled wads of paper, one seeming to represent natural science, the other social science; winds the imaginary bundles around each other as if to represent an interaction] Social science is so important, because you can’t get anything done without understanding the social system. Resilience! SES’s! Yeah, “resilience” has become one of those words I just want to shout at people sometimes. Like, this kid in our class was talking about using a farm’s resources to maximum capacity and I just wanted to scream at him. Like condoms! Sometimes I just want to shout it at people. Condoms, man! It’d solve so many problems.


The humanities’ role in sustainability . . . hmm. . . [she puts on a comically thoughtful expression and taps her finger against her jaw] I have such a hard time with the humanities. I didn’t used to. They just seem so . . . [she weighs imaginary things in her hands, purses lips, looks up and away] wishy-washy. But I mean . . . communication is important, so you can tell people clearly the best way to do something. For cultural discourse, the humanities are important. I think the impartiality, the statistics, correlations in science – they make it kind of antiseptic. But if you can add colorful language and images, you can appeal to people’s emotional . . . uh . . . you can appeal to people’s emotions. There we go.


I really like framing things in terms of going to the moon in the 60’s, because I love it – I love President Kennedy and doing things not because they are easy but because they are hard. Anyway. You had this enthusiasm, we went to the moon, and it was stupid, but it was awesome, and everyone wanted to go to the moon. Or maybe a better comparison is with the war – World War II, and getting everyone to save and send in bottle caps. [long pause] But we were beating someone then. We’re not beating anyone with climate change. World War II, we’re beating Nazis! Cold War, we’re beating Russians! Climate change, we’re beating . . . Nature? . . . ah, no, we’re trying to save nature, eeeh . . . we’re beating . . . no one? . . . no . . . we’re beating . . . ourselves? I’ve thought a lot about it, really – who are we beating? People are naturally competitive. We could be beating our neighbor – if you’re the most energy-efficient in your neighborhood for an entire year, you win . . . a boat! ‘Cause that’d be cool, right? . . . or a cash prize, or something, you know.


Or we could be beating China. I think the country Americans fear most right now is China – no offense [to Shanghainese friend in the room]. Fear works. Fear is a great motivator. Science can say what is, you know, present the facts, and the humanities can tell you how you should feel about it – or maybe push you in that direction. And, I mean . . . as little as I like to manipulate people . . . [smiles, shrugs back and forth, shoulder to shoulder, for a few seconds] Sometimes you have to manipulate people. [pause] For the greater good. That’s dangerous. Slippery slope. I hate that phrase.



Bang or Whimper?

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KC is back again, this time with a glimpse into popular (depending on who you are talking to) views of ways the world could end. She writes:

This one is from Fox News' finest scientists and cites spontaneous black holes, expanding sun, and super-volcanoes as being more deadly to Earth's future than global warming... even though it seems to be implied that Earth can handle more than the human species can.

[On] there is also a slightly more colloquial version of the story that describes a super-volcanoe as posessing such "incredible force that it launches gigantic rocks into f***ing space."

However, the good news is that Fox News also reports that scientists ARE working on the sun problem:

"Is there any way our future descendants can save themselves? Why, yes, explains Smith.

"He cites a recent study emanating from the University of California, Santa Cruz. It proposes taming an asteroid to swing by the Earth every few thousand years, slowly nudging the Earth into higher solar orbit, enough to outpace the sun's own outward growth.

"'This sounds like science fiction,' says Smith. 'But it seems that the energy requirements are just about possible and the technology could be developed over the next few centuries.'"


Plot Points: Monkeys and Bananas

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Our very own Becca Scharfstein took these photos during her visit to Panama.

The first gives me the opportunity to sing some Gwen Stefani to myself as I type B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Chiquita bananas, to be exact, carried on a passing container ship:




Next came a visit to Monkey Island off the Panama Canal:

Thumbnail image for IMG_0980.jpgContainer ships figure prominently in The Great Immensity; the play takes its name from one such vessel. White-faced monkeys are less integral to the plot. Still, if we have established one thing over the course of our readings this semester it is that no one can resist charismatic megafauna.

How to track lost things, lesson 1: take pictures

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Our flowcharts from a few weeks back, save one involving an enormous Canadian ice storm, have mysteriously vanished from the shelf labeled "The Great Immensity" in the back room of our workshop. We blame the people responsible for the hats. (Well, I blame the people responsible for the hats, anyway.)


Fortunately for posterity (or something), I was so full of pride at the completion of the flowchart on drought in Somalia - a collaboration between Mademoiselle Hedeman and myself - that I took loads of pictures of it before its disappearance. This chart, also known as "deathbox," is gone, but not forgotten.


I wonder who actually took or tossed our beautiful charts? Maybe we could make a chart to figure it out, although how exactly we would make such a chart is up in the air. Suggestions for onstage flowchart dynamics include projectors with layered, multicolored transparencies and possibly ribbon falling off of the projector and intruding into three dimensions, a gigantic mobile, a crime scene corkboard that outgrows its space, schematic labels stuck unwittingly onto actors, dominoes, and more!



TED Talks

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Also from Carolyn come these links to a variety of TED Talks. TED, in case you're wondering, stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design." Their website lists their mission statement:

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

I think we can all agree with that.


Carolyn's selection of TED clips:

1) "Climate science in 4 minutes."

2) A "volcanic eruption solution to climate change."

3) "Jane Goodall on (what else?) chimps, conservation, environmentalism, and integrating it all in African livelihoods."

Throat Singing

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Courtesy of Andrea Grody, this clip of throat singing. (If you're sitting in public, making sure your computer is not at full volume is recommended.)

Andrea writes, "Throat singing, otherwise known as katajjaq.  In Inuit tribes, this is less a musical form than a game between two women, who sync up their sounds (this clip is presumably two people) and keep going until someone laughs or otherwise breaks, leaving the other woman as the winner. "

A Comic Interlude

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A classic xkcd comic, brought to our attention by Carolyn Edelstein.



And KC Wade found this one pretty hilarious: a cartoon by Mike Luckovich using one massive problem facing us as a metaphor for...another massive problem facing us.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - by Jackie Hedeman

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Creepy Catches
Warning! This post is not for the extremely squeamish. It details strange and often graphic fish-feeding practices.
Take a journey with me, if you will, into another world: the world of snakehead fish and their owners. I first became acquainted with this new world as part of my very first assignment as production dramaturge: get permission to use a YouTube clip of a snakehead fish being fed by, and accidentally (on purpose?) biting, its owner.
The owner of this original clip never did get back to my query, so one Monday, having returned from my early-morning tutoring in a nearby prison and having begun the caffeination process, I sat down at my desk and started watching clip after clip of snakehead fish activity.
A brief history of the snakehead is probably necessary before I go much further. Snakeheads were formerly confined to Asia and Africa, but as recently as 2002 northern snakeheads were found in a pond in Crofton, MD, according to The Baltimore Sun. Since then, the fish has proliferated in the Potomac and has been spotted in twenty-five of the fifty states. Dubbed the “creepy catch of the day” in The Washington Post, snakeheads look like, well, I’ll just let Wikipedia do the talking in what is probably my favorite new quote: “These predatory fishes are distinguished by a long, sensual dorsal fin, small head with large head, large mouth and shiny teeth.” They feed mostly on other fish, but anything from insects to small mammals is fair game.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has labeled these fish an “Injurious Wildlife Species”. Perhaps due to their categorical creepiness, perhaps because it has been pretty much proven that Americans cannot be trusted not to release these fish into the wild, it is illegal to keep snakeheads as pets in the United States. If YouTube is any indication, however, this ruling has done nothing to slow down the snakehead craze. If anything, it’s possible it lends snakehead ownership an illicit cachet.
Sleep deprived and building a caffeine buzz is not how I would recommend venturing into the world of snakehead feeding videos. A typical film will either be set to a techno or death metal soundtrack, or simply a background chorus of (usually male) spectators cheering on the action. And what action! In one clip, an eight-inch long koi is placed into a fish tank with a snakehead and is eaten slowly from tail to head. The koi remains alive for far too much of the process. In another video, goldfish get the same treatment. Yet another is a snakehead vs. snakehead battle attempt that, thankfully, doesn’t get much of anywhere.
And then came the mouse and the hamster. I steeled myself and watched the mouse get devoured in one clean gulp. I knew I wouldn’t be as lucky with the hamster video when, within the first few seconds, viewers are shown a fat and happy hamster in a shoebox completely oblivious that its days are numbered. I stopped watching before it hit the water.
As I write this, I am waiting to hear back from the owner of the goldfish video, who granted permission with a very enthusiastic, “Use it, dude,” with information on where to download a higher resolution version. The idea is to have the video projected as part of the play; characters talk about it, and read some of the comments aloud. In order to project it, the owner has to give us a better quality copy than the grainy YouTube version. Maybe in near-crystal clarity the video of snakeheads eating goldfish will lose some of its shadowy menace. Maybe not.
It will be interesting to see what the audience reaction to this video will be. Will they, like the sleep-deprived and half-caffeinated me, watch openmouthed, pessimistic thoughts about human nature coalescing in their heads? Or will they have a different reaction entirely? The comments on these videos range from shocked to congratulatory to jubilant. “TOTAL CARNAGE!!!” shows up beneath the koi video. The mouse video is host to several comments on the hot pink gravel in the snakehead’s tank, one kind soul with advice (“you should make a bunch of videos of you feeding it different animals”), and one very informative, “They don't adapt well, they just have no natural predators to limit their population size. They are destroying American ecosystems, hence the reason we have to be careful to not introduce foreign species.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that last comment had received the most thumbs down.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - by Erin "The Future" Sherman

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Welcome to the Great Immensity blog! This site will serve as a hub of dramaturgy for students of ATL/ENV/THR 496 as well as a collection of musings, anecdotes, and general goings-on concerning the production. It is prudent to make known that documenting not-exactly-documentary theater is a strange business, and that this blog may therefore wax strange from time to time. It may not report the truth intact and whole. This is art, not science.
On that note, allow me to introduce myself: I am The Future – or, rather, Erin Sherman ’11, majoring in psychology with an eye to environmental studies, the production’s mini-dramaturge specializing on the way people think about – and, through action, create – the future. I will be one of your hosts for this thrilling blogventure (TTB).
The Great Immensity Atelier is inhabited by Steve “Versus Hope” and Michael “The Magnificent” in addition to eight Princeton students, four of whom serve as environmental experts and mini-dramaturges, while the remaining four – including your second host for TTB, Jackie Hedeman – are directly involved in the production. You will hear many more interesting nicknames in good time, I suspect.
We began with the Great Immensity itself – with climate change, the Pacific Ocean plastic gyre, shifting baselines, failed discounting methods, and every other element that, while perhaps conceivable in its own right, connects with its cohorts to form an entangled mass whose ins and outs no one can hope to grasp entirely. Then we tried to make flow charts of it. They weren’t bad, but they could have used a zoom feature and an additional dimension or two. With the assistance of good coffee, plenty of “oh my gosh, really?” and a pinch of hope, we have plowed through the basic human and ecological elements of the Great Immensity to arrive, some of us rolled into cognitive and emotional fetal positions, at an overwhelming question: is there hope?
Steve “Versus Hope” has been asking this for years: he has asked natural scientists and climate psychologists, social entrepreneurs and public servants. For his students, however, the question is, if not new, newly pressing. We have plied our peers with this question and variants thereof in interviews, listening and nodding and prodding. Is there hope? No, sometimes – and sometimes, “hope seems to be winning, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.” After all, what is hope without action?
In the course of interviewing, we practiced the skills of the investigative playwright: trust in intuition, patience, and (above all) listening – listening closely enough so that, on Monday afternoons, we could set aside our notes and become the people whom we interviewed, introduce our other selves to the class, and speak their words anew. We learned what makes a drama and what does not make a drama; we learned not to write scenes involving choirs singing about the tragedy of the cod; we learned that endings matter; we may or may not have killed a cat. That may or may not be important.
Now that even the less enthusiastically treehugging of us are appropriately horrified with the state of the world, and the less theatrically inclined of us (e.g., me) have the beginnings of a grip on drama’s key elements, we are preparing for the plunge from orientation and preparation into the production itself. Rehearsals begin soon – check back for updates! I hope I have your attention.
The Future

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