Friday, October 08, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work

The National Science Foundation is an "independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 'to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.'" In Fiscal year 2010, its budget was about $6.9 billion. Last year, most of the NSF's awards went to colleges and universities.

This year might be a bit different. NSF has (get these 1984-esque names) a "Directorate for Education and Human Resources," which, in turn, has a Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL). And, on August 25th, starting August 25th, NSF's DRL awarded grants totaling $700,000 to subsidize The Great Immensity, "a touring play with songs and video that explores our relationship to the environment, with a focus on critical issues of climate change and biodiversity conservation." The awardee, an off-Broadway theater company called The Civilians, describes the show's plot and purpose:
Exploring the environment and the future of our planet.

Polly, a photojournalist, disappears while working in the rainforests of Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal. Phyllis, Polly's twin, embarks on an international search for her lost sister that spans the North American continent, from the tropics to arctic Canada. The play weaves actual interviews with locals from the two regions and some of our nation's top scientists into the twins' story, as the sisters struggle to survive polar bears, tundra buggies, snakes, and a Chinese pimp -- all while grappling with the harsh and seemingly hopeless realities of climate change.

The Great Immensity explores the themes of climate change, deforestation and extinction in two distinct locations: Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in the Panama Canal and the city of Churchill in arctic Canada. Both of these extraordinary places have natural ecosystems already deeply affected by the shift in climate, centers of scientific research, and relationships to global shipping: the Panama Canal and the Port of Churchill. The play takes its name from an enormous Chinese Panamax ship that the authors observed crossing the Panama Canal.

Drawing on interviews with individuals such as botanists, paleontologists, climatologists, indigenous community leaders, Polar Bear Tour guides, and trappers, The Great Immensity gives voice to real people whose stories make the reality of present crisis tangible and viscerally felt, inspiring us all to make the profound changes this moment demands.
Admittedly, based on this summary, The Great Immensity isn't going to make theater-goers forget Tennessee Williams or Sam Shepard, much less any of my favorites from the stage. But, having been outraged about government-funded pointlessly offensive shock-art, I was unsurprised when this Administration attempted to politicize the National Endowment for the Arts. (This isn't because I'm old-fashioned; I prefer modern art: my current favorite is Arman.)

After being caught red-handed at NEA, the Democrats are doing it again, indirectly, via funding for the sciences. Yet, NSF was supposed "to initiate and support specific scientific and engineering activities in connection with matters relating to international cooperation, national security, and the effects of scientific and engineering applications upon society." An off-Broadway play about Polly-the-warming-shill seems beyond the agency's statutory scope, if not blatant propagandizing. Neither comports with Obama's promise to "restore science to its proper place."

Princeton University previously funded The Great Immensity. The NSF award is projected to expand the audience to about 75,000 people. In the midst of a lingering financial meltdown and an expanding Federal budget deficit, is a enviro-pushing play (or a climate change-inspired mission to Mars) the best use of taxpayer money?

(via reader Warren, Wizbang)


Warren said...

Liveblogging rehearsal of The Great Immensity.

Complete with quotes from Paul Krugman.

whitehall said...

Didn't the Democrats learn anything from the Depression-era WPA Artist and Writers Program?

They threw money to the "artistic" community and found they had hired a bunch of Communists who spent all their energies in Stalinist/Trotskite battles.

The ratio of dreck to art was far too unpleasant to most of the American public.

Government has little role in art.

OBloodyHell said...

> Government has little role in art.

Not in the least. They can play an important, ending part in "Virgin Mary of Elephant Dung"...