ATEC - Episode 24: Symphony for the Planet ft. Terra Nostra

Episode 24: Symphony for the Planet

The creators of the climate change symphony and film Terra Nostra knew their work had to unflinchingly acknowledge the impact of climate change while also leaving room for hope.


Their multimedia creation is a musical and visual history of the earth’s evolution, its last 150-year human-led demise, and a powerful call to action. For this episode marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day Susan Lubetkin, scientist and musician, and Christophe Chagnard, musician and climate activist, discuss the relationship between climate change and the current pandemic, how people do change their behavior and act when they are personally impacted, and share some of their favorite movements from Terra Nostra.

Terra Nostra is a multimedia artistic creation that shows the story of the earth from its creation to present day. The goal of the piece is to use the emotional power of the arts to help people commit to action in the face of the urgent crisis of climate change. Terra Nostra’s architecture is based on a timeline spanning from before the Big Bang, through present time, and on to an unknown future. The music and visuals begin with Pre-Big Bang and move to depictions of the early earth and life, starting with plants and progressing from animals to humans and early civilizations. Musical quotes from different historical eras are used to travel through time before coming to the Industrial Revolution, mass production, and accelerating population growth. The effects of climate change become apparent in rising seas, drought, and wildfires and their aftermath. Even as many deny the science and pursue business as usual, the rates of extreme weather events, severe air and water pollution, and melting polar ice increase. We are facing a clash between the constant, rapidly expanding world-wide growth and the need for sustainability. However, nature is resilient, each individual can make a difference, and humanity has the capacity for resolve and greatness. With a musical SOS sounding, Terra Nostra shows that the point of no return is near, warranting immediate, global action of the greatest magnitude. The piece ends with a poignant violin duet symbolizing the possible and necessary return to a state of harmony between humans and nature.

Susan Lubetkin is an environmental statistician who studies Arctic and climate issues. Susan received her PhD (2008) and MS (1997) from the University of Washington in Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management and her undergraduate degree in Biology (1994) from Harvey Mudd College. Her current work is focused on evaluating risk assessments, specifically for hazardous material spills, that are used in environmental impact statements, and advocating that the science used in policy making be held to the same rigorous standards as research science. Susan began playing cello in 5th grade and has been a member of the Lake Union Civic Orchestra (LUCO) since 1995. Susan lives with her husband and four children in Seattle, WA.

Christophe Chagnard is a French composer, conductor, musicologist and guitarist. Equally versed in a vast repertoire of chamber, symphonic, operatic and ballet works of all styles and periods, Chagnard has gained a reputation as a versatile musician with a broad creative reach and insatiable curiosity. Chagnard’s compositions have been heard widely across North America and in Europe.  His most recent creations include Gaman (2017), commissioned by Music of Remembrance to commemorate the anniversary of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW II and Terra Nostra (2015, revised in 2019), a multi-media symphonic creation about climate change. In 2010, his ground-breaking composition Opre Roma! for three gypsy jazz guitars and orchestra was critically acclaimed and performed repeatedly in the U.S. and Cuba. Embargo, Suite Cubana was premiered in April 2013 as a vibrant tribute to Cuban music and culture.



I’m a writer, a teacher, a native New Yorker, and I love hearing about people’s lives. When I think back to my elementary school days at PS 20 in Flushing, Queens whenever we began social studies or a history lesson I wasn’t that interested in learning about battles, topography, or politics. What I wanted to know was how people lived: What their families were like, how they adapted to their circumstances, what they ate, how they celebrated, how they felt.
Sociology became my major at Binghamton University and in my life so far I’ve been an actress, a salesperson, a Zoo Keeper’s Aid, a volunteer animal trainer, an ELL teacher, a mother, and a wife. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, all of which led me to create this podcast which is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve undertaken. I couldn’t ask for a better job than having in-depth conversations with survivors, thought leaders, authors, social justice warriors, and people who believe that we are all connected and then getting to share their stories, insight, and vulnerability with listeners.
I’m so glad you’ve landed on this page. I hope you find stories here which resonate with you and that you’ll tune in every week. 
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