Climate Change and Communicative Capitalism (1): “Too big to be felt”

 

Climate change is, in the words of Timothy Morton, a “hyperobject,” a phenomena too big and too complex to be seen or felt from the standpoint of any solitary human subject — in other words, an object that stretches the very limits of what it means to be a phenomena, a phenomena for which there is no phenomenology [1]. While we as individuals experience weather, such as heavy rain, extraordinary heat, maybe snow in June, this is only a freeze-frame of climate, the macro-level trajectory of an atmospheric system that extends far beyond our personal view of the sky. It is not as if we are somehow too technologically numbed to recognize this condition; no amount of Heideggerian ‘letting-be’ could ever open ourselves to experience something like climate change that is literally too big to be felt. Yet, while we may not be subjectively affected by the climate in its totality, it still affects us, in the humanitarian crises brought on by extreme weather events, in the rising sea levels that threaten to extinguish both low-lying atolls and coastal cities, and in the socio-economic reverberations of droughts and other climate shifts. The scientific community is basically in agreement that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have the effect of net increases in global temperature — but how do we convert this knowledge into the public will for the necessary changes?

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