2021 was a tipping point.
By Michael Shaw
Luke Sharrett’s photo of a damaged palm tree in Galliano, Louisiana was one of the most arresting images from Hurricane Ida. The contrast of the sunlight and the foreboding sky is surreal, as is the symmetry of the “headless” palms in the background, both third from the center. But it’s the central tree and its painful ballet that entrances, the break in two places offering an impact both more suggestive and more complex. It’s like we’ve been doubled over by catastrophe. But with climate change racing faster than our ability or will to check it, enduring one deathly fracture after another seems to represent the worse fate.
2021 was a tipping point. Fires, floods, heatwaves, and hurricanes scaled up, as did the mass recognition of climate change as an existential crisis. As part of that recognition, many brilliant, symbolically-laden news images crystallized the moment.