Diagram 1: Possible Cost of Complacency

This diagram presents excerpts from George Turner’s 1987 Sea and the Summer, a pioneering ‘cli-fi’ (climate fiction) novel, in the form of a chart. The graphical forms on the chart resemble icebergs (common illustrations accompanying articles about climate change), but they do not relate to the text excerpts or represent actual data. At a glance the diagram looks like it might be a visualisation about global warming/Arctic melting,  but on closer inspection it reveals a confusing narrative. 

Most diagrams and charts about climate change in news and social media are equally abstract to me; they fill me with a sense of dread – those lines accelerating in to angry red zones in the near future indicate something is very wrong – without giving me any sense of why this is happening or what might be done about it. Until now, I have not stopped to consider that the diagrams may not be accurate, or may in fact be deliberately misleading. The written text in my diagram informs viewers that this is a deliberately ambiguous image, and draws attention to my ‘authorship’: 

The text fragments and labels in this diagram are extracted from the postscript to George Turner’s 1987 climate change novel The Sea and Summer, in which he states that his novel explores the possible cost of political and ecological complacency: "We talk of leaving a better world to our children but in fact do little more than rub along with day-to-day problems and hope that the longer-range catastrophes will never happen. Sooner or later some of them will. Sleep well."Yet Turner denies the novel is prophetic or offered as a dire warning. This diagram is a visual interpretation of one ‘major matter’ Turner suggests we need to consider – the Greenhouse Effect – yet I deny that it means anything at all.

Diagram 2: Last of Meeting Places

This diagram blends content from Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel On The Beach (1957) with data about nuclear weapons testing conducted on Australian territory by the British government in the five years preceding the novel’s publication. Shute emigrated to Australia from the UK around the time he wrote the book. Presenting factual data about nuclear tests from the era in which this classic novel was written gives contemporary readers context by which to consider both the novel, and an ugly nuclear history that has been widely forgotten. I began reading more closely about the tests, particularly Elizabeth Tynan’s Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story. Quotations from observers of these tests haunted my sleep:

England has the bomb and the know-how; we have the open spaces, much technical skill and a great willingness to help the Motherland. Between us we shall help to build the defences of the free world and make historic advances in harnessing the forces of nature. Howard Beale, Australian Minister of Supply, 1955

At the end of the countdown, there was a blinding electric blue light, of such an intensity I had not seen before or ever since. I pressed my hands hard to my eyes, then, realised my hands were covering my eyes. This terrific light power, or rays, were actually passing through the tarpaulin, through the towel, and through my head and body, for what seemed ten to twelve seconds, it may have been longer. After that, the pressure wave, which gave a feeling such as when one is deep underwater. This was then followed by a sort of vacuum suction wave, to give a feeling of one’s whole body billowing out like a balloon.Observer, Mosaic G1 at Monte Bello, 16 May 1956.

Mushrooms are a visual analogy for nuclear explosion, but also represent hope; some mushrooms can absorb radioactive isotopes from soil – even if humankind orchestrates a nuclear holocaust, the planet can regenerate without us.

Why We Like This

ELEMENT: DESIGN

We love great design. We love data. We love paying homage to the pioneers who came before us and we love when the goal is greater than the sum of the parts. Zoe’s presentation of critical issues via design and blueprint like schematics draws the viewer in with beauty, only to reveal the consequences of inaction will be far from beautiful.

Bio

Zoë Sadokierski is an award-winning book designer, writer and senior lecturer at the UTS School of Design, where she runs a studio investigating the evolution of books in the digital age and narrative approaches to ecological communication. She is former president and a founding member of the Australian Book Designers Association. In 2015 Zoë established Page Screen Books, an independent publisher of artist’s books and visual essays.

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