April 24, 2006

Super-Sizing The Reflecting Pool


You can boil down yesterday’s lead NYT Week In Review article to one question:  How important is fear in mobilizing concern for global warming?

As it turns out, the April 3rd TIME cover (with the polar bear floating on a block of ice) seems to have contributed one of the central metaphors running through the recent anxiety-tinged environmental discussion.  The NYT piece, for example, has many references to polar bears, and even begins: “Polar bears are drowning.”

Because I’m an advocate for the visual and for the planet, I would be hard pressed to argue for less affect when it comes to “enviro-images.”  Still, there are emotional pictures and there are emotional pictures.  Frankly, I’m not crazy about the TIME/polar bear shot.  It locates the problem too far from home.  What I like far better are John Blackford’s photo illustrations accompanying the story “While Washington Slept” in the latest “green issue” of Vanity Fair.  The specter of New York in the drink is compelling, but the most potent conceptualization, I thought, was that of water-logged D.C.

What is so symbolic in this mock-up is not Washington’s physical vulnerability, however, so much as the political exposure.  If it seemed the environmental issue really could dampened a few personal prospects, one might expect action pretty fast.

(photo illustration; John Blackford/Vanity Fair.  photo: Jason Hawkes. p. 200-201.  Vanity Fair.  May 2006.)

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Michael Shaw
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