That lifetime has mostly involved the comprehensive study of a particular world that first intrigued him way back when: the world of ants. Much of what we know about social insects and the “superorganism” of the hive and nest has been a result of Wilson’s research and observation. Over six decades and 20 books he has detailed every aspect of ant societies: how they divide labour and spread knowledge, how they mate and fight, live and die. Wilson has used this wisdom – “sociobiology” – to make arguments about genetics and conditioning that have applications thoughout the living world, and which extend to our understanding of human nature and society. Much of that wisdom he has now brought to bear on Anthill, his debut novel, which has at its heart an extraordinary ant's eye view of the world, a social realist book-within-a-book of the rise and fall of a particular ant colony.
The impact of individual actions spreads out, very diffusely, across time and place. It’s hard to see how this can be addressed within the classical dramaturgical model of cause and effect. It’s one reason whyno major theatre has staged a play on the subject.
But there are five other reasons why theatres don’t touch climate change.
1. Theatres think climate change is about science and so it’s going to be extremely technical. But it isn’t. It’s about drama’s core themes: human relationships, the way we live, what we value.
2. Theatres are worried they’ll be accused of hypocrisy, so they are going to need to get their house in order first. But this is not a ‘them and us’ subject where you have to be whiter-than-white before you can talk about it. Everyone’s implicated, everyone’s involved. Theatres should be open about that.
3. Theatres are holding off engaging with this subject (as one theatre director told me) because they’re not sure what they think about it.But not knowing what you think about something is the perfect moment to engage with it.
4. Theatres imagine the plays will either have to be agit-prop orapocalyptic and they don’t want to do either. But climate change is driven (as the great American biologist E.O. Wilson has said) by our high levels of per capita consumption: where stuff comes from and where it goes. Climate change is about everyday life.
5. Many of the leading fossil fuel companies are prominent sponsors of the arts. Oh yes, good point.
Originally Appeared in the Ashden Directory Blog as Posted by Robert Butler