What do the Wizard of Oz and Climate Change have in common?

The towns Yulan and Highland in upstate New York put on a show called the Weather Project about climate change - Wizard of Oz style – last weekend. The key message? Live with less.

The show, organized by members of the not-for-profit North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) theater company, brought together all sorts of skills, from painting to dancing to singing, and more importantly brought the whole community out. They were partially funded by The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts and other members and organizations in the region. About 600 people came to see the show, which was organized and produced by 73 community members of all ages.

© The Cast, courtesy of the Weather Project

“The joy and absolute beauty of collective artistic work shared between the participants was totally transferred and absorbed by the audience,” Tannis Kowalchuk, artistic director and flower farmer of Willow Wisp Organic told TreeHugger. “The message about climate change was received along with the concept that when humans work together for good, great things will happen”

The Weather Project tells the story of three students who are blown away from their science fair in a tornado. They find themselves in the clouds and are told if they want to get home, they need to find the Great Scientist. As they wander down the solar brick road, they encounter clouds, solar munchkins, a mermaid counting extinctions, learning more and more about climate change and how to live with alternative energy. But they have to be careful because the Fossil Fuel Gang lurks around every bend, driving their Mercedes and laughing their evil cackles.

© The Fossil Fuel Gang, courtesy of the Weather Project

When they finally reach the Great Scientist, a beekeeper, they finally learn the trick to going home. She teaches the travelers to live with less, and they promise to wash their tinfoil, car pool, and stop buying plastic bottles. We're big fans of the message.

The Great Scientist was acted out by an actual scientist, Elaine Matthews of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who told TreeHugger, “For a long time, I've been a strong advocate for scientists - paid with public dollars - to contribute to the public's understanding about our research. With so much information and misinformation about climate, it is important that scientists help to sort out facts from fiction, provide explanations for apparently conflicting information, and just do our part to contribute what we can to the public discussion about climate.”

© The Great Scientist, courtesy of the Weather Project

For those who wanted more information about living in an environmentally friendly way there was an expo before the show with games, face painting food and more. Expo booths covered some of our favorite topics, like passive house systems and compost, giving people tools to improve their lifestyle.

“If there’s going to be a change, it won’t come from a politician like me or from Washington,” said Andy Boyar, Supervisor of the town of Highland, to the community. “[Change] will come from the grassroots and you can’t get more grasslands than Yulan and Highland, New York.”

© Artistic director Tannis Kowalchuk and Highland Supervisor Andy Boyar, courtesy of the Weather Project

Kowalchuk said she hoped to make a touring version of the show, using local communities wherever they go. She also plans to take a contingent of the Weather Project to New York City for the People’s Climate March on September 21st. For more information, check out the NACL website.

Tags: Actors | New York State

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