Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 7, 2019

Apocalypse (Then and) Now: Climate Crisis Channels the Bomb

Photo: Jonno Rattman for The New Yorker. Caption: Emilia Goued, seventeen, a student at Manhattan’s Clinton School, holds a sign in Battery Park. From: The Faces of Young Protesters at New York City’s Climate Strike by Doreen St. Félix September 20, 2019.

On one level, it’s another chilling climate change warning. On another, though, it’s a generational jolt of electricity.

Back in the 50’s and ’60’s, the terror that brought young people into the streets—think: preventive first strike; mutually assured destruction; doomsday; the red phone—was the threat of nuclear war. Folks of a certain age will still remember fallout shelters, duck and cover drills, and of course, all the black-and-white, then Technicolor variations of the mushroom cloud that played on TV as often as footage of planes hitting the World Trade Center looped in the 2000’s.

Talk about a poster that speaks to the generation that grew up then and retains so much power now. That boomer-flash card-of-a-poster is both an analogy, and a literal reference to mass annihilation—but this time, not as an existential threat, but a guarantee.

-Michael Shaw

Photo: Jonno Rattman for The New Yorker. Caption: Emilia Goued, seventeen, a student at Manhattan’s Clinton School, holds a sign in Battery Park. From: The Faces of Young Protesters at New York City’s Climate Strike by Doreen St. Félix September 20, 2019.

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