Climate Change Denial

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November 20, 2010


George Marshall @ 2:47 pm

As noted in my posting before last (‘Up in Lights”) it is the juxtapositions of images and messages that are often most enlightening about our mass confusion and denial – I call them juxtaphotisions. Here are three crackers that really require little additional comment.

These two posters were sitting alongside each other outside Bristol Parkway station in June (Many thanks to Phil Insall of Sustrans for sending me this. Click on the photo to see it in full detail). It reminds me of that famous depression era photograph of unemployed black people queuing for soup under the poster of a smug white family in a car and the caption “there’s no way like the American Way).

I have a particular loathing for this Ford Galaxy poster in any context  – how pathetic that kids are plugged into video monitors whilst the countryside rolls by outside.  Could someone please subvert this poster and paste images of countryside onto the tv screens to highlight the full irony?

Next: magazine racks in which different worldviews and versions of reality come into direct and vivid contrast. (This is from a magazine stall in Mid Wales earlier this year and nicely contrasts an apocalyptic image from a climate change special issue of Geographic with adjacent magazines that droolingly promote high carbon living (click on the photo to see more detail). In this case I find the different images of drought and water particularly striking – the world can bake whilst the rich bathe in their penthouse pools  (echos of Solyent Green).

Information about climate change exists in our society as little oases of truth surrounded by a vast sea of lifestyle marketing and counter messaging. Is it any surprise that it is so hard to develop and then maintain a belief in this issue? These magazines present climate change as just another lifestyle and consumption choice, and, when presented like this, is it any surprise  which version of reality people choose ? Be honest, which version of reality would you prefer to live in?

Finally- one I’ve posted before, but it’s so good that it can stand a repeat. It’s from The Guardian website and illustrates the deep confusion of the liberal media. Normally they keep issues compartmentalised- climate disaster on the environmental pages, electronic gadgets on the lifestyle pages, luxury travel in the  travel supplement (and where more apt for a denial break than Dubai?)  and economic growth on the business pages. But ads ,  driven solely by the need to grab attention, have little time for such pleasantries.

We see so many of these juxtapositions in our daily lives that we take them for granted. We need to have them taken out of context to see their dissonance clearly. Art often selects images from the wider world and, by isolating them in a neutral gallery space, creates new meaning and interpretations. If I was an installation artist, I would see this as a very rich seam of inspiration.


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  1. Graham says:

    Love your work. I’ll look for some of the same and see what I can get.

  2. Rob R. says:

    Thanks for this George, I think the Carbon Trust one was particularly priceless.

    I have long paid attention to the subliminal messages (and not so subliminal messages) that can be found in various ads. Recently I noticed a TV commercial that pictured a Jeep Cherokee bounding through pristine wilderness announcing that it was “crafted for a world without limits”.It seems that this “no limits” meme is a popular invocation to influence the psychology of the buying public.

    [George replies: Jeep have long applied messaging that feels fundamentally anti-environmental in tone. A couple of years back in a listing link I shared one with the slogan “the end of the world is never nigh” which played on this no-limits theme but with a clear subtext “for people who are absolutely unlike those whinging greens”]

  3. The use of strong visual contradictions does more for our case than any verbal argument could ever do. Last night I saw this evidenced within a documentary series on BBC2 called ‘The American Dream’. Interviewees were either the clear beneficiaries of this go-getting and ultimately doomed philosophy, or psychologically and financially harmed by living through its darker twin, The American Nightmare.

  4. Mark Brown says:

    Interesting photos George. My wife told me she saw a window sticker (bearing the Landrover Logo) in the back of a Range Rover that read “My Carbon Footprint is Bigger than yours!” Can any readers of this blog confirm that they have seen the same thing? Is this a genuine Landrover publicity item? It beggars belief and strikes a chord with the other comments I read here. Not only is the SUV driver making a non-green statement they are proud to have a large carbon-footprint. Is this a damning indictment of the failure of the green movement? Or should we cheer ourselves up and tell ourselves this is only a mindless minority?

  5. I will try to get you a picture of it – there is a new “Fair Trade Coffee” product from Sainsburys that includes a gigantic plastic, one-use-only, non-recyclable filter PER COFFEE serving. Someone at work bought it thinking that it was a green product because it’s “Fair Trade”. I just rang Sainsburys to complain about it and point out that most people who care about “Fair Trade” also care about the environment and it is an absurd contradiction to have such unnecessary and wasteful packaging for this product. The more people that do things like this, it can actually make a difference.

  6. […] cropped the website image to include a typical juxtaphotisian (see my last post). Above the headline is a banner advert  promoting the Barclays ‘Fantasy Investment […]

  7. Hope Hughey says:

    I think that denying the climate change is a huge deal. It’s not good that people are just pushing away the issue at hand. I think that the fallout from this could be extremely bad. What if people totally blew off global warming, and one day something big in the climate world changed? What would we do? We wouldn’t be prepared for it, we wouldn’t know what to do. This is a topic that people need to be aware of. Climate change is a big deal. Especially denying climate change. The real question is why do people do it? I think people do it to feel safer about their lives and what’s going on in the world. And to Mark- I think that’s crazy! I don’t think anyone should be proud of having a bigger carbon footprint. I think that the things people are saying any joking around with about global changes are crazy!

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