Saturday, January 5, 2008

Impact of Graphic Images on Public Awareness

The Impact of Graphic Images on Public Awareness Campaigns About Global Warming

As Mario Prieto and others have stated elsewhere, the use of strong visual images, such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels, Arctic sea ice melt photos, or even envisioned "polar cities" can have a strong impact on public awareness and individual actions concerning climate change. In my work promoting the concept of polar cities in the far distant future, whatever its worth, I have found that reactions are pronounced and varied, ranging from 1. shock 2. dread 3. denial 4. surprise ("I had never heard of this concept before" is a common email reply to this blog) 5. agreement ("Interesting ideas. Keep sounding the alarm, we need all the alerters we can muster") 6. outright dismissal (You're a nutcase, cease and desist!") and 7. resolution to change one's lifestyle to leave less of carbon footprint and cherish a simpler life more.

Among the many comments received over the past 12 months were:

"These images of polar cities gave me pause to reconsider the way I live now and to try to do more to combat global warming."

"Although those images of polar cities at first provoked shock and disbelief and denial in me, not to mention laughter, the reality of the emergency we are in finally sunk in after thinking about those images for a while."

"Humankind can never survive for long in such polar cities, no matter how well planned they are; the time to act on global warming is now. Your vision of the year 2500 is outlandish and impossible. Get real!"

"Those graphic images of polar cities scared the hell out of me. Is that what it's going to come down to? Include me out!"

"A picture's worth a thousand words, as they say. Those polar city blueprints by Mr Deng scared the shit out of me! Well done, sir!"

"I hope it never comes to that, but maybe we should start planning such polar cities, just in case. One question is who will be admitted to them, and who will guard them, and how long will people have to live in them? One hundred years, 500 years, 1000 years?"

"We must never allow polar cities to become a reality on Earth!"

"Is this where James Lovelock's 'breeding pairs in the Arctic' will live? Scary. Who would want to live there?"

"When I first saw those images, I cried inside for the future, and for the present. It's not something I want to think about. But those images touched me deeply, in a frightening way."

NOTE: I have received over 100 emails in the past year about my polar cities project, from both scientists involved in research on climate change, both pro and con, and from blog readers who are concerned about global warming. Some emails are dismissive, some of approving, some understand what the images are trying to convey, others are at a loss for words. And some people just laugh and make a joke about ''buy real estate in Greenland" or "Ha-ha, very funny!"


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