Sunday, May 04, 2008

Global Warming and the Silent Scream

I'm always amazed at those who study climate change. How congenial and patient they are as they tell us of the catastrophic direction we are taking the earth. They are messengers who, like most messengers through history, are being roundly ignored by most of humanity. They must go home at night, after yet another long day of throwing compelling data at the global wall of indifference, and scream into the dark.

The Scream is a famous painting by Edvard Munch. I think of it now, and learn from Wikipedia ( that its inspiration came one evening when the sky suddenly turned blood red, and he "sensed an infinite scream passing through nature." "The person in the foreground may be the artist himself, not screaming but protecting himself or itself from the scream of Nature."

That is the scream that some of us hear right now, as humanity goes about its business of slurping and shoveling fossil carbon out of the ground and spewing it from tailpipes and chimneys. How fitting that, as industrialization gained speed in the late 1800s, the source of Munch's scream was the sky, whose disturbing color may have been caused by the eruption of Krakatoa a half a world away.

Munch wrote that he was walking with two friends at the time, and that they "walked on", apparently unaffected by the scene whose visual power left Munch physically stricken. And so today we are left to ask, why do so few see and react to the emergency we face? Why do so few of us hear the scream?

No comments: