MacWac Theatre Company


Crowd Science

This is a project with biomedical science at its heart.  We believe that the global human population explosion is one of the most challenging biomedical issues facing humanity, and that it is an issue not being given due attention.  We aim to raise awareness, promote debate & change opinions, to create a “work of fiction based on scientific theory”.

Overview: Our project was originally inspired by Jared Diamond’s book Collapse.  We were engaged by Diamond’s thesis that societies collapse because of a series of interlinked issues, and that these collapses can happen with disconcerting speed. We have retained Diamond’s emphasis on interlinked causes and seek to demonstrate through drama (the work of fiction) the effects of the complex interactions between the three scientific themes we have chosen. These are: the global population growth and global carrying capacity, married with an investigation into end of life choices in the context of an aging population. We feel the complex interplay between these issues will be made clearer by a theatrical treatment. We are not claiming that putting end of life choice into the hands of the individual has a direct effect on global population but believe that it has a role to play in terms of understanding per capita resource use in our society, will be a very real issue for our audiences over the next 60 years and helps us paint a realistic picture of the UK context.  We set our action in three different time frames (across 600 years) to allow audiences to better grasp the long-term impact of our chosen issues.  Additionally, the impact of our three themes on individual characters allows the audience to engage emotionally.  Our supplementary material is designed to capitalise on this emotional engagement and lead audiences deeper into the science behind the production. Our Aim is to spend 2012 developing the production and a series of ancillary elements that will allow us to showcase the science behind the script in more detail when the production tours in 2013. These elements are: a website, a phone app, workshops, education packs and interactive theatre foyer exhibits.  All will be supported in English & Cantonese.

Our Advisors Are:

Dr Diana Coole (Population Expert) is Professor of Political and Social Theory at Birkbeck, with four books and over 30 major articles to her name. A Leverhulme Fellow (2010-2013) her focus is modern political and social theory with particular emphasis on ageing policy and the politics & ethics of the world population question.

Dr Ian Montgomery (Biology & Climate Change Advisor) was Head of School of Biomedical Science, Queens, Belfast (1995-2010). Over 150 publications and reports including more than 100 in refereed journals, edited books and published symposia proceedings. Dr Montgomery has a keen interest in the impact of climate change on Northern Ireland.

Professor Frank Kee (Demographics & Aging, Health Policy) He is a public health physician and epidemiologist and directs the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (Northern Ireland) bringing many partners to support the project, including demographer Declan French and food security specialist Eimear Barratt. He has more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and has invited Terra Nova to the International Association for Official Statistics 19 August 2011 Conference on the Aging Population.

Tai Viinikka (Public Understanding of Science Advisor and Journalist) is an experienced science communicator who began his career at the Ontario Science Centre.  Mr. Viinikka worked on biomedical material for KidsHealth, for Focus Magazine, Harvard Medical School and on numerous biomedical radio and TV projects in his native Canada.

Join Us

We also have script readers who will provide more limited, but focused, input as the script develops. We would actively welcome input from other interested parties. Please email us to initiate discussion.

Inputs & Suggestions From Our Advisors

Our science advisors provide stimulating material at regular intervals, and assist by reviewing the "work of fiction" we are creating.  Our references include: 

Jared Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. p.6-7 Penguin.

Thomas McGovern et al., Northern Islands, human era, and environmental degradation: a view of social and ecological change in the medieval North Atlantic.  Human Ecology 16:225-270 (1988)

Microcosmic histories: island perspectives on ‘global’ change. American Anthropologist 99:30-42 (1997)

D. Zwieg. Internationalizing China: Domestic Interests and Global Linkages.  CUP 2002.

World population to reach 10 billion by 2100. UN Press release, 03.05.11

Feeding Sustainably 9 Billion People (Royal Society Lecture) Prof Charles Godfray FRS

UN Water Resource Information

Murtaugh, P.A. and Schlax, M.G. 2009. Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals. Global Environmental Change: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.10.007

Doctors break ranks and campaign to change the law on patient right to die. The Observer 03.10.10

Tim Flannery The Weather Makers, The History and Future Impact of Climate Change. Text.

Science advisor Prof Kee has invited us to the International Association for Official Statistics Conference on the Aging Population (extent and characteristics of population ageing and its impact on all aspects of social and economic policy).We are accessing demographer Declan French and food security specialist Eimear Barrat through Professor Kee.

Diana Coole. Too Many Bodies? Return and Disavowal of the Population Question in Developed Countries.  Submitted to the BJPS but not yet published.

Families ‘held captive’ in drive to sterilise 10,000. The Guardian 17.04.10

If you care about this, then don’t have one of these. The Guardian Weekend 13.02.10

Three score years and then? The new biology of aging. Royal Society On-line.

Land relations under unbearable stress: Rwanda caught in the Malthusian trap. Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation 34:1-47 (1998)

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    Stem Cells From Skin to Spine

    Sample of popular science writing by our advisor Tai Viinikka for "Sick Kids".
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    The hazards and benefits of eating dirt

    Sample of popular science writing by our advisor Tai Viinikka for "Sick Kids".
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    Too Many Bodies

    This is the as-of-yet unpublished submission by our advisor Prof Diana Coole to the BJPS, concerning policy on the global population explosion. This document may not be used without permission of the author.