Climate Change Denial

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December 26, 2013

Christmas Desserts in the Age of Melt

George Marshall @ 1:23 pm

A guest post by Annie Levy explores the themes and ironies of Climate Change Christmas Desserts / Puddings.

This brilliant Christmas Cake was made and iced by  climate activists Claire and Sophie Fauset and their mother Barbara too. They made it to honour Phil Ball and all the Arctic 30, Greenpeace heroes who paid a price of imprisonment for drawing attention to Russian oil drilling in the Arctic.

The cake is funny and celebratory and a kind of Christmas toast. Of course there’s also the pun — the problem with the ice(ing).  But when I saw the photo, the crack reminded me of that kind of anxiety that accompanies the knowledge  of a change and coming crisis.

Christmas is one of those holidays through which we mark time, years advancing, my children growing. Because I juggle with pessimism about the future, I hide the sadness to protect their innocence. We act jolly. But I feel time marching forward– New Years is stong for this too– when I want it to stay still, so we can stop ice melting and oceans warming and figure out what to do.

My husband George Marshall is a climate change campaigner, and so we speak often about the subject, about the future, but also about how people who know and don’t know deal with the knowledge of how serious a situation we find ourselves in, regarding the climate.

So I could only laugh when I realised the Freudian Slip of a Christmas dessert  George came up with for our Christmas dinner: Baked Alaska. It was quite delicious: a soft meringue baked in a hot oven around a core of ice cream and  and home-grown raspberries (insulated by a surround of sponge cake).

It came to the table as a festive masterpiece, and spoke of the wish, The Wish, that something sweet and cold could stay protected and eternal beneath all our technological machinations.

When the microwave was invented a Hungarian physicist and “molecular gastronomist” produced something the opposite, a “Frozen Florida” in which the meringue remained frozen but the inner liquor was heated. Oh the possibilities of climate chaos, and every weird combination of everything, everywhere.

Meanwhile I bought a Christmas Pudding, not because any of us  especially enjoy it, but because the brandy heated and set on fire makes the most beautiful dancing blue flame, something spiritual and numinous, sacred, magical,  heat and light in this cold dark time of year.

And I’ll say a little personal prayer of thanks to people who are putting their lives on the line, like the Arctic 30 did,  trying to guide a better future into being.

This piece was originally posted to the blog www.

George Marshall adds:

Annie touches on the intriguing cultural resonances (and dissonances) between Christmas rituals and climate change: the obsessive concentration on images of ice, snow, the North Pole, the contrary images of open fires, heat, and flames and the high carbon consumerist potlatch which research suggests adds up to 650 kg of CO2 per person. Add to this narrative stew the way that the defence of Christmas against liberals has become an emerging narrative in the polarised political battle that surrounds climate change, as  described here….

These multiple ironies are not lost on environmental campaigners, of course. Greenpeace has set up a website on which a homeless Father Christmas pleads with us to save this home because ‘even the threat of being on Santa’s naughty list hasn’t stopped world leaders from ignoring the reindeer’s cries for help as they sink in the melting ice’. In a similar vein, estimating Santa’s carbon footprint is a familiar seasonal trope- ranging from 9 tonnes per stocking to 69.7 million tonnes in all.


But promoting a contentious and often disbelieved issue like climate change within the frame of a childrens fantasy story (and then tieing it to the imagery of the retail calendar) strikes me as a dangerous strategy, as the British government found when it was forced to pull a national advertising campaign themed around nursery rhymes. I don’t notice anyone doing this with terrorism.

However, these are,  at least,  attempts to break the climate silence. Maybe the most important thing of all is to keep the issue alive at a time that so encourages us to retreat into self satified hyprocrisy.

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December 6, 2013


George Marshall @ 4:38 pm

The silence around climate change requires explanation. It is not just the absence of discussion: it is a socially constructed condition of disattention with its own demographics, values and rules. It exists in multiple forms: as a total exclusion of all discussion of climate change, as boundaries that exclude aspects of climate change from discussion, or as taboos that define certain forms of expression to be socially inappropriate.   This silence is a major impediment to building concerted action and it urgently requires analysis.

In a series of papers over the next few months the Climate Outreach Information Network will study the Climate Silence and suggest ways that it might be countered.

The first paper, by my colleague Dr. Adam Corner, describes the extent of the Silence and proposes that it should be broken with a series of conversations about climate change, initiated by representatives of different communities (not just green campaigners), in order to build a more meaningful storyline that speaks better to peoples core values.

Download it here:

The second paper in the series, by George Marshall, will explore the demographics of the silence and the ways that it is bounded and enforced. It will be published in early 2014. Please join the discussion.

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