The Adventures of Nut Brother
2023, Senior, Creative Writing
Climate Hero: Nut Brother
坚果兄弟, known in English as Nut Brother, would make a very good superhero. The sort that gets movies and TV shows and comics and wears a signature suit. With his fake name, he’s already halfway there.
2015 — Debut episode
Nut Brother holds a vacuum to the sky. Although it sucks in the smog, to him it seems that the vacuum shoots something out instead. That each day he raises the vacuum, it sends up a geyser of fire, a brilliant flare, that says to the people of China, “Look, look at what must be done.” He knows the risks. He wonders if this will matter at all.
One hundred days later, he has a brick. It’s made of the pollution that came from the skies of Beijing. It’s not very big; in terms of how much smog he removed from the atmosphere, it’s negligible. But it’s the people online who click on his post and share this odd brick – “Really, it’s made from dust?” they ask – that’s what makes the brick enormous.
2018 — The adventure continues…
The stark color of the belly-up, inflatable fish, white as bleached coral, makes the canal water seem even browner. Nut Brother’s friend, standing with him in the canal in the Chinese city of Zibo, holds a thin stick and stirs the fish around, shouting to the curious onlookers, “Zibo hot pot!”
Nearby companies have polluted the canal, and now it is making the people who rely on the water sick. Nut Brother has turned it into a massive “hot pot” of performance art.
It’s the best restaurant in town, according to a reviewer, who saw the canal and decided to rate it highly as a joke. Amusement, to some, may not be the ideal reaction to activism, but it makes others aware of the problem, and it makes them less afraid to speak – others who might have brushed off this brave act for fear of their own consequences in participating, who might have forgotten it and thought that this man was too far away for ordinary citizens to reach him without this flash of humor.
But with this strange, charming hot pot of activism, the people watching realize that he isn’t so mythical after all. That is why they feel that they can comment and make videos on this piece of defiance, and why it becomes well-known. And the number of people who talk about the issue is why the government finally listens to the people’s cries and sends aid to clean the contaminated water that has been harming people for so long.
2022 — Superhero things
He would have a theme song. The heavy metal song that he performs with his team slings words of activism like real pieces of metal, crashing on listeners’ ears. The lead singer calls to stop the burning of trash that creates toxic gasses. It is not lovely because the reality of climate change is not lovely. With wild electric guitars, furious drums, and a rough, gravelly singer, it is as loud as can be in more ways than one. It demands that the government takes action to eliminate the traces of pollution found everywhere.
His superhero suit is a camouflage hazard suit paired with a gas mask he wears as he stands in the middle of the stage, not performing himself but symbolizing what they stand for. As if he wards off the dirty fumes that come from factories burning fuel.
His advocacy’s power comes from his ability to grab attention in unique ways so that his art pieces stick in your mind. As the clashing music rings in your ears, so do the thoughts that follow. You wonder how we can stop the problem, and that is how the ideas, and the influence to act, spreads.
2022 — Give him a call!
What is a superhero without a phone number to reach him in times of trouble? Nut Brother commandeers a Beijing pay phone to tell people about a city far from them. In the northeast, the city Huludao suffers from the industrial chemical plants in it that breathe out noxious fumes like a deadly dragon.
The city’s problems are so difficult to catch wind of because the residents know what might happen to them if they speak out. Even as they cough because of the air, even as the smell pervades Huludao, most do not want to put themselves in danger. The government threatens to silence any sign of resistance.
And that is why the pay phone is so important, so vital, because it means that people in a different place can catch wind of what is happening in Huludao. The phone is a sign that climate problems will be unearthed and that we can fight against them. It connects people, and an activist movement always needs connection. The more people that know, the stronger the web is, and the more people can grasp onto its strings of strength and hope.
He wields creativity as a sword, to pierce the heart of what many have been dancing around for so long. His art is a magic staff that sends out arcs of flame, breaking through the fog of ignorance to illuminate the truth. He calls out to the government for climate justice.
Nut Brother says that his projects aren’t radical, but you don’t really need to be outstandingly distinct to be revolutionary. He’s simply a man that cares about the climate, and so he makes art and shares it with the world.
It’s not that he’s not a hero. It’s just that we can all be heroes.
In the end, it’s not the pseudonym, or the theme song, or the suit. That’s for superheroes. To be heroic comes all from his actions. To choose to confront such a massive problem while pollution may only seem to worsen every day, while he is just an ordinary citizen against towering columns of power… to fight against the odds when they stretch so high above that sometimes it seems we can’t see the top – is that not the very definition of a hero?
I framed my Climate Hero as a superhero so that I could share his important actions in an interesting way. I wanted to contrast the meaning of a superhero, which is often associated with flashy and idolized characters, with the meaning of a hero, which I find to be something more realistic and achievable than many people think, especially regarding climate change. From my research on Nut Brother, I learned how factories and chemical plants pollute the environment, particularly the air, oceans, and other bodies of water, and how many health problems arise from the pollution. I also learned how effective art can be at informing people about climate change, and how the collective advocacy of many people is extremely important. I think that if more people knew how much impact small actions can have, more might take a stand. It's easy to look at the climate change activists in the news and think that their actions are impossible for an "ordinary person" and be too afraid to attempt to advocate for climate justice. But if people learn about how things like making a piece of art and doing something that they enjoy can also be climate action, the imagined barrier that separates climate heroes from other people will fall. For me, creative writing is a way for me to share issues about climate change with the world and with people around me. Nut Brother's actions have taught me that anyone can make a difference in the fight against climate change, and that they only have to believe that they can be a hero.