In 1991, Angels in America was one of the first major American dramas to
take on the impact of human lives on the environment, as the character Hannah Pitt
fretted about the hole in the ozone layer. Eighteen years later,
the US is on the verge of major negotiations over another, still more intractable instance of environmental degradation caused by humans, in Copenhagen this December. The
Nation asked playwright and Editorial Board member Tony Kushner to
reflect on the environmental legacy of Angels in America, and to discuss
the artistic challenges of coping with an issue like climate change.
In this VideoNation feature, Kushner argues that Angels wasn’t
prescient in its warning about the consequences of industrialization. Rather, the play is part of a legacy of
artists and writers sounding a warning to their audiences about the dangers inherent in the exploitation and misuse of natural resources. Kushner speculates on
why it’s so hard as an artist to write meaningfully about environmental issues, including climate change–and why policy change has come so slowly, even decades after the hole in
the ozone layer focused the public imagination on the environmental consequences of human lives.
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