“Declaring War on Climate Change”: Metaphors of Conflict in Artistic and Media Representations of Climate Change

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For the issue of climate change, intimately connected as it is with desired social change on a personal and political level, public understanding is critical. The representations of climate change in the discourses that shape public perception, in other words in the media and in cultural production, will therefore play a central role in changing public attitudes. To this end, the first part of this paper examines these representations, paying particular attention to the use of metaphor. Via an analysis, using literary critical tools, of print media and popular book-length works (for example, George Monbiot’s 'Heat'), a rhetoric of warfare and conflict is identified as a common trope. This rhetorical identification of climate change with conflict leads me to compare the artistic and media responses to climate change with responses to other potentially catastrophic conflicts – specifically, the nuclear threat during the cold war, and terrorism after 9/11. I suggest that artists and writers are only just starting to engage with climate change in the way in which they have to the possibility of nuclear war and global terrorism, and that it is perhaps the ‘non-eventful’ nature of climate change that has hampered artistic reaction.


Keywords: Climate Change, Metaphor, Media Representation, Conflict
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Bradon Smith

PhD Candidate, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
Cambridge, UK

Bradon Smith is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, from which he also received his BA and MPhil. His doctoral research focuses on the role and effect of literary techniques in contemporary popular science writing and the parallel impact of scientific metaphor and representations of science in contemporary fiction. He is also interested in the aesthetics and rhetoric of climate change, and artistic and literary responses to climate change. He co-convenes a regular interdisciplinary seminar, entitled "The Cultures of Climate Change".

Ref: I08P0619