The Clown of Death: FAQ

Planet Hospice Tampa

(Preface: Apologies for the title. I wanted to say I was the ‘angel of death’ but that brings up Holocaust imagery in a way I didn’t want. I feel like I was representing Death, the character in the movie ‘Seventh Seal‘. But I wasn’t sure people would remember the movie. Remember this scene? I thought not.

Death plants

(And if people aren’t familiar with the naming convention in the Bergman film, my original title seems a bit… presumptuous. A title like “DEATH: FAQ” seemed to imply I know about the issue of death. I don’t think anybody except Elizabeth Kubler Ross can claim real knowledge of death, and not just because she’s a famous author on the topic but because She’s DEAD. The dead can write a FAQ because they’re dead and have inside knowledge. The Clown of Death also draws on my play PLANET PHUCKETT, coming to Atlanta in June. Sorry for the extra words. I am Death… The Clown)

Last Friday was the Youth Climate Strike, a worldwide event organized by the Extinction Rebellion folks to mark the fact that young people face the worst threat from global warming. There were protests all over the world. Here’s a link to photos from London, Santiago, Ediburgh and other places (I’m a bit shy about copyright things). You can see my friend Elliot in costume here. He’s costumed as a figure of capitalism, and he’s eating the world off a giant fork.  

This is my favorite shot in NY–the protesters made their way to the front of the Natural History museum. I’ve heard estimates of 5,000 people having made the march from Columbus Circle.

Image may contain: 17 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor

I attended the start of the Event at Columbus Circle, garbed as death and sporting a protest sign that read HEY, KIDS! ASK ME ABOUT MASS EXTINCTION!!.  The weather was extremely cooperative all things considered, and I gave up on the march only because my death-shroud gear made it too difficult for me to march (visibility behind the mask is limited, and I was afraid of tripping over my skirt). In retrospect I shoulda just gotten on the train and gone uptown and re-donned the costume. 

Several people took me up on my offer, including large numbers of young people. As people who read this blog know, I am the simple artist, and most of whatever science I lay claim to is thanks to a certain conservation biologist. So this is what I told them:

  • Why are we facing extinction? (see my article here)
  • When is extinction going to happen? (Best guess is a few months after loss of Arctic Ice. I explained it here). 
  • Why can’t we do anything about stopping Fossil Fuels and preventing more CO2? (I explained that here, courtesy of Dr. Guy McPherson)
  • What do you look like behind the mask? 
selfie mona

sorry you asked?

  • Why can’t we evolve to deal with global warming? (I had to borrow from the Dr. McPherson article above) Global heating outpacing the ability to evolve by a factor of 5,000.  

So that’s pretty much what you heard from me Friday. If you were one of the teenagers I talked to, I also apologized for my Generation not doing more to stop this. I mentioned that the reality of the Global Warming climate disaster meant they probably would never be parents or have aspirations for the Pursuit of Happiness that the boomer generation took as their due. I told them if there was any chance of our survival (or even if there wasn’t), being an activist might take away their sense of despair. Quoting Edward Abbey, Action is the antidote to Despair.  

I was surprised at the absence of push-back on my assertions. XR has been accused of giving into ‘hopium’–of trying to make people hopeful even when there’s nothing to be hopeful about. The people I talked to seemed jaded about the lies they feel they’re being told. 

And that was Friday. I hope things change. I hope people can be nicer to each other if they know we’re in a state of hospice.

(PS: if you were at the demo and you took a pic of me, would love to see it. People clicked a LOT of pictures of me (or actually, a LOT of people took pictures). I find it strange that my message brought a thumbs-up. I’m telling you you’re going to die! “thanks bud” See ya next time. The world is truly gone mad). 


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