Last weekend, climate advocates and activists in more than 180 countries performed in over 2000 showings of what may very well have been the world’s largest production to date: Moving Planet. Billed as “A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels” and built on the backs of tens of thousands of impassioned participants, “energy” was both the central theme and the real star of this show. The production—massive in size and yet purposefully carbon-light—focused on moving our world from dirty energy to clean energy while showcasing the human energy powering the movement.
In keeping with that focus, here in Iowa City, our local production opened with a march and a bike rally, the latter of which consisted of a 3.50-mile route (in honor of the parent production company, 350.org), which featured a brief interlude at The University of Iowa’s Sustainable Energy Discovery District. Passing by the UI’s old coal- and gas-burning power plant (which in recent years has been retrofitted to also burn biomass) and pausing at the university’s new solar EV charging station and wind turbine, the riders reconvened with the marchers in City Park. There they ended their respective journeys and gathered for a celebration at the Riverside Festival Stage.
Looking back, on a day for moving the planet, on a day when all the world truly was a stage, it seems fitting that we staged our local production in a space modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. To an audience of about 150, our players—educators, entrepreneurs, and elected officials—gave us their monologues, and our musicians sang us their ballads. For those four hours, friends, Iowans, and countrymen lent their ears—and their voices—to a rallying cry for climate change solutions.
And thus concludes Act One. What’s to come in the second and final act? That is yet to be written, and how it all unfolds is entirely up to us. If our work, like the Bard’s, is to stand the test of time, if Moving Planet is to have any lasting effect, we must move from playing at action to becoming agentic actors, fully embodying our roles as climate advocates.
This means not just putting on a show to celebrate the Earth a couple of times a year, but celebrating it every waking hour. This means not only making changes in our own lives, but also working toward the necessary cultural changes and demanding the necessary policy changes. On a more concrete level, this means staying current, continuing to educate ourselves on these changes and speaking up in defense of their necessity, and moreover, in defense of their inherent advantages.
In the U.S., this means contacting our lawmakers to let them know our priorities and writing to our media to spark the discussion. In Iowa, this means attending one or more of the frequent appearances of the presidential candidates and pressing them about climate change and sustainability, asking, for example, how they propose to mitigate the economic, environmental, and human costs of our current dependence on fossil fuels. Wherever we are in the world, this means joining the cause or renewing our commitment to it—seeking out eco-minded individuals and organizations and working together with them to positively effect change.
In this tale, we are both the villain and the hero, both the victim and the victor. Which persona will prevail in the end is yet to be determined. What’s at stake is nothing less than our very survival: “To be, or not to be?” really is the question. Moreover, if we are not just going to survive, but actually thrive, we need to act now, and we need to move quickly.
Moving Planet’s Second Act will determine just what story we’ve been writing here. Will it be your stereotypical Shakespearean drama where everyone dies in the end? Will it be a not-so-funny comedy of errors? A tragedy? Or will it be an epic tale—where the good guys, pitted against seemingly insurmountable challenges, persevere to save their people and their home, and ultimately come out victorious, triumphant, at peace?
A native Iowan, Ryan received his Bachelor’s degrees from The University of Iowa, where he studied psychology, communication, and theatre. He combines this background with his interest in healthcare as a research specialist for the Iowa City VA Health Care System and a communication instructor for The University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy.
In his free time he enjoys spending time outdoors, running, cycling, or reading up on wellness and sustainability. He sees personal well-being and planetary well-being as two sides of the same coin.