It’s true, an allegorical play for a tiny audience in a cramped loft, about characters struggling with omnipresent little bugs, seems a curious approach to the temporal and spatial enormities of climate change. But this is precisely Kunkel’s point. The paradox of climate change is that the very thing that should planetize us, making us all global cosmopolitans under the hot sun of philosophical reckoning, instead drives us back into the cave—ideally, to a dark and isolated nook—even as ghosts of the blinding light dance on our retinas. Climate change is so big that we shudder and shrink.
Fertility against extinction; childhood against cynicism. These are old themes. You’ll find the pregnancy-vitality circuit everywhere in discussions of climate change, from op-eds to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything to the more opaquely allegorical Children of Men. There’s an unfortunate gender dynamic at play here. And we’ve all encountered enough stories and arguments that enlist the vulnerable child trope for too-easy emotional effect. In Canada, the last volley of anti-gay marriage ads demanded, “What about the children?” Yes, yes, yes, our grandchildren will suffer more from global warming than we will—not to mention the children overseas, in more vulnerable locales. The more difficult and interesting problem is: how should we, living, self-conscious beings, balance freedom, pleasure, and responsibility in our own selves, right now?