Twenty-one tons of sand are transforming the Brooklyn Academy of Music into a day at a beach for the staging of the global warming opera Sun and Sea.”

NEW YORK — How do you turn a performance space in Brooklyn into a day at the beach?

Answer: Truck in 21 tons of sand from New Jersey in 50-pound bags and dump them out onto the floor — all 840 of them.

That’s how the production crew at the Brooklyn Academy of Music set the stage for a prize-winning opera about global warming, “Sun and Sea,” which is having its U.S. premiere this month.

Created by three Lithuanian artists, the hour-long opera features 13 singers sitting or lying on beach blankets under a hot sun. They portray characters identified in the libretto — sung here in English — by generic titles like Wealthy Mommy and Workaholic. Non-singing extras fill out the scene, building sandcastles, playing cards, walking a dog or just strolling around.

“It started from the image of a beach watched from above and the people gathered there,” said director Rugilė Barzdžiukaité, speaking from Lithuania via Zoom. “We see them in their very fragile condition because they are half-naked … just like the cosmic body of Earth which is also very fragile. And the beach is getting warmer and warmer every year. That’s how it came together.”

Once they decided on global warming as their theme, the question became how to explore that through characters who are mostly oblivious to the problem.

“We were thinking how can you write about climate change because it’s such a big and anonymous topic,” said librettist Vaiva Grainyté. “So for these characters and singers it’s like different clouds of thoughts, inner monologues about very mundane and simple things.”

But troubling hints of impending doom creep in.

An example Grainyté cites: one lady complains about messy dogs at the beach, but also mentions how she found three edible mushrooms out of season in December. “This little paradox somehow gives a hint of the disorder in nature. The feeling of the tragedy and apocalypse is very present but it’s subtle, not direct.

“There’s nothing like, ‘Oh my God, the world is about to end,’” she added.

Lina Lapelyté, who composed the music, said, “We wanted to have this very bright beach, almost too bright to believe it’s possible.

“And so the music is also very light,” she said. “It’s not heavy, quite poppy. Sometimes maybe it reminds you of a pop song that you know, but it’s actually none of the songs you know.” The musical accompaniment is provided by a recorded phonogram synthesizer.

The opera premiered in Lithuania in 2017 and was invited to the Venice Biennale 2019, where it won the Golden Lion for best national presentation.

“Rarely has an environmental message been so subtly, humorously, tellingly conveyed in an artwork,”

The COVID-19 pandemic has ground the aviation industry to a halt over the last year and a half.

Airline emissions were unprecedentedly low throughout this period and are only just starting to rise again as international travel resumes.

But the nature of travel is changing, and this time it’s as a result of climate change. From increased turbulence to frequent flyer taxes, what is in the store for airline passengers as the climate crisis gets worse?

Turbulence could get worse on flights

‘Head-slamming’ turbulence is steadily increasing on flights, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US.

Over 65 per cent of severe injuries logged by US accident investigators from 2017 to 2020 on planes resulted from turbulence, triggered by atmospheric conditions that could be worsening due to climate change.

“Turbulence is the most common airline accident type today and it’s high time we reduce turbulence-related injuries,” says NTSB acting Chairman Bruce Landsberg.

Because they have to be on their feet for longer than passengers, flight attendants are the most vulnerable – in fact, they are 24 times more likely to be seriously injured.

They’ve been “slammed off ceilings, walls and floors, suffering broken vertebrae and other fractured bones as well as head injuries”, according to NTSB accident reports.

The problem has been exacerbated by insufficient weather reporting and outdated guidance to airlines.

You can also experience ‘clear air turbulence’, according to Dr. Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading.

In 2019 Williams told CBC, “Flying through a cloud, when at least you can see it, you know it’s there and you’re going to expect some turbulence in the next few minutes.

“But clear air turbulence is generated by instabilities in the jet stream because of very rapidly moving air currents at 35,000 feet. The wind speed increases with altitude.”

If the wind is too strong, says Dr. Williams, then “the atmosphere just can’t contain the stresses and strains. It becomes unstable and breaks down.”

“Because of our CO2 emissions, it’s modifying the jet stream and just increasing those instabilities,” he concludes.

More flights could be delayed due to extreme weather

​​Imagine boarding a flight only to be told that the airline needs a dozen passengers to get off because it’s too hot outside for the plane to take off fully loaded.

This could become a common experience for passengers at the world’s 19 major airports as extreme heatwaves get worse, according to a study by Columbia University in the US.

“As air temperatures rise at constant pressure, air density declines, resulting in less lift generation by an aircraft wing at a given airspeed and potentially imposing a weight restriction on departing aircraft,” the study details.

And it’s not just the heat that is starting to cause delays – storms and extreme weather are also a problem. Just this month, one airline passenger wrote about her experience of violent storms in Texas.

“Uncharacteristic tornadoes and severe thunderstorms had wracked the

Lithuania’s Golden Lion-winning performance at the 2019 Venice Biennale, which drew snaking lines around the pavilion, is going on a world tour.

Sun & Sea (Marina), a poignant live performance that sees opera singers and volunteers sing songs that address our delicate relationship to the planet, will travel to the U.S. after its showing in Berlin this weekend.

The performance will premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from September 15 to 26. (Tickets go on sale July 27.) After its New York run, the production will tour Arcadia Exhibitions in Philadelphia, the Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, ARTnews reported. (Dates beyond New York have yet to be confirmed.)

The collaboration between Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, and Lina Lapelytėm, struck a chord with the public as they looked down from a balcony to watch performers stretch out on an artificially sandy beach, bake in fake lights, and sing harmonies about their mundane existences, which the pavilion’s curator Lucia Pietroiusti described as “songs of worry and of boredom, songs of almost nothing.”

Only slowly does the reality of climate change set in for the viewer, as a wealthy mother brags about seeing the “bleached, pallid whiteness” of the Great Barrier Reef and a young man complains that it did not snow on Christmas, and instead “felt like it could be Easter.”

Co-Artistic Directors, Helen Turner and Pablo Wendel with their dog Coal in the Bauhaus swimming hall, which will be the location of the <i>Sea & Sun</i> performances in Berlin this weekend. © Lukas Korschan for The FACE.

Co-Artistic Directors, Helen Turner and Pablo Wendel with their dog Coal in the Bauhaus swimming hall, which will be the location of the Sea & Sun performances in Berlin this weekend. © Lukas Korschan for The FACE.

The performance is likely to resonate even more after the pandemic, a time when our anxieties about natural calamities reached a fever pitch and immersive performances were impossible to stage.

The Berlin chapter, set to take place July 17 and July 18 at an abandoned Bauhaus swimming pool outside of Berlin, sold out in two days. (Walk-ins may be accommodated, organizers say, but there are no guarantees.)

“It’s been two years in the making, and after four postponements, it’s completely surreal that its finally happening,” said Helen Turner, the director of E-Werk Luckenwalde, which is organizing the event. “The piece is powerful, especially in the location we have, an abandoned swimming hall, which speaks to ecological catastrophe and increasing feelings of fragility and vulnerability.

While 5,000 people normally would have been able to attend, social-distancing restrictions will limit that number to 1,500. Masks must be worn on site.

The performance is well-suited to the E-Werk location—an arts center that doubles as an electrical power station, fueling both the surrounding area and its own art projects.

But even with clean energy, the production is… quite the production. For just two days, it cost €130,000 (around $153,500) to get off the ground, according to Turner, and involved 60 performers and cultural workers (not to mention tons of sand, which was carted in from nearby). Organizers in Venice estimated the original version cost $3 a minute 

Biden lined up a cast of Cabinet members and enthusiastic business and labor figures to praise his infrastructure and jobs plan, highlighting the president’s message that building a carbon-free economy can create new jobs — “good union jobs,” as his administration members this week said repeatedly — rather than destroy them.

Flanked by White House adviser Gina McCarthy, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Biden listened as an electric school bus maker, a commercial building energy controls manufacturer, an electric grid expert and two union representatives — spanning the political horizon from the Business Roundtable to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — reaffirmed their support for the president’s domestic strategy and legislation.

“I used to drive a school bus,” Biden said to Jack Allen, chief executive of Proterra, which has sold more than 1,000 electric school buses and which would benefit from the jobs act. “I want to drive one of your electric school buses.”

Erica Mackie, CEO of Grid Alternatives, said solar jobs were “meaningful” and paid well.

George Oliver, CEO of Johnson Controls International, said his firm has already helped clients save $6 billion and that the firm stood ready to help Biden meet his goal of slashing emissions at 4 million large commercial and residential buildings. “Absolutely,” he said. “We know that that can be done. We would be foolish not to do so, because inefficient buildings are a climate hazard.”

Lonnie R. Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said “many existing energy jobs are good jobs for one reason: that’s because they are union jobs,” and he praised proposed legislation that would make it easier for workers to join unions.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union. “We will work with everyone for a living planet.”

Buttigieg said a majority of the “millions” of transportation jobs redesigning roads, laying rail lines and installing electric vehicle charging stations “will be available to workers without a degree,” a group that has acutely suffered during the pandemic-driven economic downturn.

Biden touted the new jobs that combating climate change could bring, including building electric cars, installing charging stations, upgrading schools and commercial buildings, constructing energy-efficient homes and producing solar panels and wind turbines.

When we invest in climate resilience and infrastructure, we create opportunities for everyone. That’s at the heart of our jobs plan that I proposed here in the United States,” Biden said. “It’s how our nation intends to build an economy that gives everybody a fair shot.”

Thursday’s marathon virtual summit was primarily intended to highlight a new U.S. pledge to make deep cuts to its carbon emissions this decade, mend the nation’s diplomatic reputation and rally other nations to embrace more ambitious climate goals of their own in coming months.

Friday’s session — which once again featured heads of state, business executives and labor representatives — was meant to underscore the administration’s assurances that combating climate change should not inflict economic pain, but rather help lift up communities across the country and the world.

Republicans for years have forced Democrats on the defensive by portraying climate action as a concession to fuzzy environmentalism at the cost of jobs for ordinary Americans. Biden is pushing hard to redefine the debate, arguing that renewable energy is at least as much an economic opportunity as an environmental imperative.

It’s a message that Biden has repeated over and over again on the campaign trail, in interviews, in speeches and in articulating the motivation behind his proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which would include massive new investments in clean energy, electric vehicles and weatherization.

Biden’s pledge this week to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels, would require far-reaching changes that impact how Americans power their homes, how they travel and even how they grow food.

To meet that goal, the administration ultimately must rely on assumptions about the future that are hard to guarantee. Will a sharply divided Congress, home to some Republicans who say such policies risk leaving behind communities that rely on fossil fuels, fund Biden’s proposals? Will future administrations keep in place any new regulations aimed at curbing emissions? And will such policies survive inevitable court challenges?

On Friday, those questions would have to wait.

Biden lined up a cast of Cabinet members and enthusiastic business and labor figures to praise his jobs plan, highlighting the president’s message that building a carbon-free economy can create “good union jobs,” as administration officials said repeatedly this week.

Flanked by White House adviser Gina McCarthy, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Biden listened as an electric school bus maker, a commercial building energy controls manufacturer, an electric grid expert and two union representatives reaffirmed their support for the president’s domestic strategy and legislation.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union. “We

WASHINGTON — The White House is bringing out the billionaires, the CEOs and the union executives Friday to help sell President Joe Biden’s climate-friendly transformation of the U.S. economy at a virtual summit of world leaders.

The closing day of the two-day summit on climate change is to feature Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg, steelworker and electrical union leaders and executives for solar and other renewable energy.

It’s all in service of an argument U.S. officials say will make or break Biden’s climate agenda: Pouring trillions of dollars into clean-energy technology, research and infrastructure will jet-pack a competitive U.S. economy into the future and create jobs, while saving the planet.

“Climate change is more than a threat,” Biden declared on Thursday’s opening day of his climate summit. “It also presents one of the largest job creation opportunities in history.”

The new urgency comes as scientists say that climate change caused by coal plants, car engines and other fossil fuel use is worsening droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters and that humans are running out of time to stave off catastrophic extremes of global warming.

The event has featured the world’s major powers — and major polluters — pledging to cooperate on cutting petroleum and coal emissions that are rapidly warming the planet.

But Republicans are sticking to the arguments that former President Donald Trump made in pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate accord. They point to China as the world’s worst climate polluter — the U.S. is No. 2 — and say any transition to clean energy hurts American oil, natural gas and coal workers.

It means “putting good-paying American jobs into the shredder,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Thursday in a speech in which he dismissed the administration’s plans as costly and ineffective.

“This is quite the one-two punch,” McConnell said. “Toothless requests of our foreign adversaries … and maximum pain for American citizens.”

In an announcement timed to his summit, Biden pledged the U.S. will cut fossil fuel emissions as much as 52% by 2030.

Allies joined the U.S. in announcing new moves to cut emissions, striving to build momentum going into November’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, where governments will say how far each is willing to go to cut the amount of fossil fuel fumes it pumps out.

Japan announced its own new 46% emissions reduction target, and South Korea said it would stop public financing of new coal-fired power plants, potentially an important step toward persuading China and other coal-reliant nations to curb the building and funding of new ones as well. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his nation would boost its fossil fuel pollution cuts from 30% to at least 40%.

Biden was scheduled to address the summit Friday at a session on the “economic opportunities of climate action.” Leaders from Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Nigeria, Spain and Vietnam also were scheduled to participate Friday, along with