Rap Guide to Climate Chaos Review

Near the end of his alarming and charming rap guide to climate change, Baba Brinkman, who describes himself as a Canadian tree-hugger and the world’s only peer-reviewed rapper, stops his rapping to address the audience in unrhymed prose at the SoHo Playhouse. “What have I not talked about that’s crucial to this discussion? I’m not really a guide unless I cover all the bases.”

To which I wanted to shout out: You’ve said enough, bro!

Now, I must say here:

  1. Baba Brinkman’s solo “rap guide” shows are an often dazzling mix of smart, informative, inventive and witty, as I learned when I saw his Rap Guide to Religion, which offered a perfect balance of entertainment and enlightenment.
  2. I accept everything Leonardo DiCaprio said in his Oscar acceptance speech: “Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” Or, to paraphrase the movie Jerry Maguire, they got me at “An Inconvenient Truth.”
  3. Baba Brinkman has an impressive grasp on the topic of climate change from many angles, and is able to present his knowledge of the science, history, economics, psychology and politics of climate change clearly and rhythmically. This is surely why he was invited to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, held late last year in Paris, which led to 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement

So Baba Brinkman vividly describes the scope of the pollution problem – each individual American emits 20 tons of carbon a year, for example, and “two hundred and forty Hiroshimas” get added to the planet’s atmosphere every minute – and provides a rap verse summing up the damage this will soon cause:

Wars, famines, droughts, floods
Hurricanes, heat waves, murders, thugs
Chaos, refugees, stress, disease
Extinctions, disasters, I-P-C-C

(IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)

He provides a history of climate science that begins two centuries ago, and he explains what must be done – for starters:

Only coordination of the whole species
Will keep coastal cities from sinking below the deep seas

He also takes on climate change deniers:

People with a free market ideology
Don’t like the implications for public policy
So they hire lobbyists and paid operatives
Whose job is to undermine public confidence
In the science, and people buy into it


Yet, he sympathizes (somewhat dryly) with the everyday citizen, including himself in that group:

If you’re earnin’ somethin’, well then you’re burnin’ somethin’ Prosperity is driven by internal combustion…

And maybe one day solar will supply us
I hope so, it’s better for global climate
Just don’t make me choose between solar and diapers
And don’t make me switch off my amplifiers

He also imagines a rap from The Pope on climate change, and offers arguments in rap by those opposed to doing anything about climate change.

There are 24 raps in all, according to the program, and, as wonderful and/or well-meaning as each is, this winds up being too much to absorb at one sitting. Unlike his rap guide to religion, the many graphics in the climate change guide don’t clarify the science or the history or the politics – they just add to the feeling of being pummeled into submission.

In fairness, I was invited to the very first public performance of “Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Climate Chaos” at the SoHo Playhouse, which is scheduled to run through April 24th, and I have faith that Brinkman will do what he can to improve his show, preferably using the same basic principle behind efforts to stem climate-damaging emissions — less is better.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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