Climate Change Escapism

In Spain Greenpeace has published a short photo book Photoclima that uses estimates from IPPC and photomontages to show six landscapes of Spain a changed climate. The book is bilingual in Spanish and English.

By Pedro Armestre and Mario Gómez. La Manga del Mar menor, Murcia now and after a few decades of climate change,

On BLDGBLOG Geoff Manaugh comments on how this project, and how not to envision the future in Climate Change Escapism:

The basic idea here is that these visions of flooded resort hotels, parched farmlands, and abandoned villages, half-buried in sand, will inspire us to take action against climate change. Seeing these pictures, such logic goes, will traumatize people into changing how they live, vote, consume, and think. You can visually shock them into action, in other words: one or two glimpses of pictures like these and you’ll never think the same way about climate change again.
But I’m not at all convinced that that’s what these images really do.

In fact, these and other visions of altered planetary conditions might inadvertantly be stimulating people’s interest in experiencing the earth’s unearthly future. Why travel to alien landscapes when you can simply hang around, driving your Hummer…?

Climate change is the adventure tour of a lifetime – and all it requires is that you wait. Then all the flooded hotels of Spain and south Florida will be yours for the taking.
Given images like these, the future looks exciting again.

Of course, such thinking is absurd; thinking that flooded cities and continent-spanning droughts and forest fires will simply be a convenient way to escape your mortgage payments is ridiculous. Viewing famine, mass extinction, and global human displacement into diarrhea-wracked refugee camps as some sort of Outward Bound holiday – on the scale of a planet – overlooks some rather obvious downsides to the potentially catastrophic impact of uncontrolled climate alteration.

Whether you’re talking about infant mortality, skin cancer, mass violence and rape, waterborne diseases, vermin, blindness, drowning, and so on, climate change entails radically negative effects that aren’t being factored into these escapist thought processes.

But none of those things are depicted in these images.

These images, and images like them, don’t show us identifiable human suffering.

2 thoughts on “Climate Change Escapism”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly about the possibility that the pictures might incite the adventurer in us all, so that post-climate catastrophe scenarios start to seem like an adventure holiday.
    But there’s another facet to the idea:
    Shocking people, visually or not, is unlikely to provoke long term change in their behavior. Fear doesn’t permanently alter destructive habits, it simply drives them underground where they can first be denied and then rationalised. Anyone who’s smoked for a while knows this dynamic. First you stop, then you start again despite all the horrific pictures on the pack. You simply stop looking at the pictures.
    I worry if we start to project to people that they should be terrified of every single aspect of life as they know it (embodied in their choices and actions), we’re setting the stage for them to simply switch off as a defense mechanism. The irony is that this mechanism is perfectly ‘rational’ psychological response from the point of view of short term individual self-preservation, but totally irrational at the scale of the species.

  2. Human nature is to leave things to the last minute, Until an individual sees climate as a danger to them or there surroundings they may ignore the warning signs.

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