Discover more from On the Level
tick, tick... Boom!
Finding climate inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jonathan Larson
Yesterday, I finally got around to watching tick, tick… Boom! the Netflix musical about the life of Jonathan Larson, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. For those who don’t know, Jonathan Larson was the writer of Rent, who tragically died of an aortic aneurysm the night before Rent’s first public performance. The movie is a beautifully shot and sung testament to the struggles of the creative life, but really, the movie spoke to me on a deeper level.
This is a film obsessed with time. I mean it is called tick, tick… Boom! Throughout, there a recurring ticking motif of a clock counting away — no matter what the characters are trying to fit into their lives, they can’t stop time. The question is, will they get to really live before it’s too late? This question is obviously all the more potent for knowing that Jonathan Larson had a ticking time bomb inside him all along, with no knowledge of it. The fear of passing time also can’t be separated from the setting of New York City in 1989/1990 during the HIV/AIDs epidemic. Throughout the movie, Jonathan’s friends are dying with little notice, little time, and no cure. Everyone’s lives are cut short when they just need a little more time, and Andrew Garfield’s Oscar-nominated, absolutely frenetic, performance as Jonathan Larson anchors this feeling. 30/90, a song about his fear of turning 30, is an excellent introduction to the theme of time in this film (which for the record, is one of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s favorites — just listen to “Non-Stop” from Hamilton.)
I simply have never seen anything that feels this urgent. It moves at a breakneck pace, with clocks abound, and a protagonist who thinks that to sit still would be to die. And in this way, it is the perfect movie for understanding how youth climate activists feel. We are constantly saying that we are running out of time, putting up literal countdown clocks, and bringing a sense of urgency to the climate movement. I would encourage you to watch this film simply for the amazing performances and music, but I can’t recommend it highly enough for building empathy with the youth of the world. Just this week, I’ve found myself struggling to sit still with “climate crisis” ringing in my head no matter whether I’m at work, ski practice, or trying to sleep. It is time to act.
One of the most prominent youth climate groups globally is Fridays for Future, started by Greta Thunberg. They are constantly pushing the envelope, forcing the public to recognize the urgency of this crisis. Just yesterday, they heeded the call of their Ukrainian chapter with huge global actions of solidarity.
It also must be emphasized that they bring climate urgency all while emphasizing the need for justice. Their great thread explaining the solidarity actions emphasizes both that this is a fossil fuel war directly relating to climate change and Ukraine must be supported, and that there are many other places in the world dealing with similar fossil wars (like Afghanistan) who also needed our support and came up empty-handed due to racism and colonialism.
I hope you’ll consider watching tick, tick… Boom!, because our climate is a ticking time bomb that is already starting to explode. If you care about Ukraine, the planet, young people, and justice — you need to really feel the sense of urgency. The best estimates suggest we have 7 years left before we emit so much carbon that we will not be able to limit warming to 1.5° C (this is not to say that there are not other scenarios where we overshoot 1.5° but eventually return below). Acting within this time frame is the best chance we have to avoid the most catastrophic effects of the climate crisis.
And remember, actions speak louder than words. Take action today with any of the more than 700 ways to get involved on our Climate Action Explorer.