"Climate Trauma, or the Affects of the Catastrophe to Come"

Richardson, Michael | from Multimedia Library Collection:

Richardson, Michael. “Climate Trauma, or the Affects of the Catastrophe to Come.” Environmental Humanities 10, no. 1 (2018): 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-4385444.

The climate catastrophe to come is traumatically affecting, whether in its micro and macro manifestations, in the threat it poses to existing ways of life, in its upending of entrenched understandings of the workings of the world, or in the injury it is doing to particular lives and wider ecologies. It works on ecologies and bodies alike as a kind of wounding, one not simply or solely to the everyday stuff of biological life but to the very constitution of experience and expression. Critiquing and extending writing on climate, trauma, and aesthetic experience by E. Ann Kaplan (2016), Timothy Morton (2013), and others, this article argues that these affects of climate catastrophe are traumatically affecting without necessarily being traumatizing: they are jarring, rupturing, disjunctive experiences of future crisis in the now. This article traces these affects of apocalypse as they circulate traumatically in three texts: George Miller’s film Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Marina Zurkow’s animation Slurb (2009), and Briohny Doyle’s novel The Island Will Sink (2016). Climate catastrophe, that most threatening yet elusive of hyperobjects, marks and emerges irresistibly from within these works, not simply as theme, setting, or symbol but as the form of their affectivity. This intensity presses into the present from the future, shaping how the catastrophe to come is felt today and exposing crucial tensions between aesthetic expression and lived experience. (Text from author’s abstract)

© Michael Richardson 2018. Environmental Humanities is available online only and is published under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).