FUTURE SCENARIOS: Anthroposcenery and Memories of the future.
Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond-Skeaping
Our ongoing body of photographic and artist film work Future Scenarios is an exploration of the themes of vulnerability to, and responsibility for Climate Change, and the role that narrative plays in shaping our future.
Through collaboration with leading climate change scientists, researchers and policy makers in the Global South and the United Kingdom we have learnt how the narrative of vulnerability that once surrounded those nations most vulnerable to climate change has developed into a narrative of resilience and adaptation.
The countries once thought of as helpless in the face of climate change are now emerging as leaders in the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies, the use of indigenous resilience and adaptation knowledge, research into loss and damage, knowledge sharing, renewables and are the closest to decarbonizing their economies, even though as a group they have contributed the least to total global carbon emissions. While conversely the developed nations that are principally responsible for climate change and have the greatest technological and financial resources to tackle it seem to be stuck in a state of political apathy and are making little progress towards mitigation or adaptation.
By foregrounding this new narrative of resilience and adaptation, we intend to reveal how this story opens up a dialogue about a still yet-to-be determined future and how it rejects the fatalistic narrative about vulnerability that compounds the victimhood of those most vulnerable to climate change.
Through our captioned photographic work we present evidentiary documentation of this shifting narrative (toward resilience), the resilience displayed, and knowledge generated by those most vulnerable to climate change. We also examine the historic responsibility for, and lackadaisical progress towards mitigation of Climate Change by the Developed Nations, Slow Violence ‡ and the relationship between colonialism and climate change.
Working with scenarios thinking we have documented climate change exacerbated phenomena that offer us glimpses of the future (Naomi Klein) with the intention of suggesting a palpable imagining of difficult and improving climate change future scenarios. In locations that are vulnerable to and historically responsible for climate change we have investigated scenarios of climate induced migration, intensified natural disasters, sea level rise, energy futures, conflict, heat and water stress and food security.
Through four sets of loosely defined future events that take place somewhere between 2020 and 2100 our three channel, hour long artist film work asks the viewer to imagine what the future may hold as the temperature increases. Working with Shell (Energy Futures) and UNFCCC (RCPs) scenarios that vary from a 1.5°c to 6 °c predicted temperature rise by 2100 we encourage the audience to subjectively interpret how hot a given future is by presenting a coloured dot (2020-2039 yellow, 2040-2059 light orange, 2060-2079 dark orange, and 2080-2100 red) instead of a defined temperature marker.
Working with our footage (and photographs) as Anthroposcenery † from the future we wish to suggest how scenarios can be considered memories of the future. As Shell’s Scenarios Team suggests “thinking about the future uses the same part of the brain as thinking about the past or past memories” (Shell 2017). Knowing that thinking about the future is limited when we use past presidents to imagine, we intend our film to challenge it’s viewers to imagine different scenarios by becoming aware of and understanding different or multiple perspectives.
The use of different lenses, also known as frameworks is common in scientific research, journalism or documentary often shaping the way we view, and therefore how we interact with the world. Though these lenses are not physically represented by a change in focal length, we intend our three screen installation to encourage viewers to think about how we frame the world, be it through an environmental justice lens, a Neo-Malthusian lens, or a technocratic lens and how these frameworks shape the way we imagine our future.
By describing climate change as what Timothy Morton has dubbed a “Hyperobject*” we intend Future scenarios to displace climate change, skew the responsibility vulnerability divide and reveal the pervasive power relationships that are inherent to climate change. In this way we wish to draw attention to how we are all responsible for and all vulnerable to climate change, of course not equally responsible, but nevertheless how we all have a carbon footprint and therefore we all have a role to play in tackling climate change (Dr. Saleemul Huq).
Operating as a collaborative cross disciplinary investigation, Future scenarios considers how we may represent climate change through photography and artist film and how we may decolonize nature (T.J. Demos). Ultimately we believe that to decolonise social and natural environments and begin to envision habitable futures we need to look afresh, and perhaps unlearn old ways of seeing, in order to allow new narratives and scenarios to arise.
Future Scenarios has so far been produced in Lao PDR, Bangladesh, Nepal, The United Kingdom and Uganda in 2017-8 following our participation in the yearlong Culture and Climate Change: Future Scenarios Networked Residency in 2016-7 which was supported by Culture and Climate Change, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, The University of Sheffield, The Open University, The Ashden Trust. The residency explored the idea of artists working as climate change researchers by connecting us with a network of Climate Change researchers, NGO’s, policy makers and institutions including: The British Antarctic Survey, The Scott Polar Museum, The Tyndall Centre, The International centre for climate change and development in Bangladesh (ICCCAD), The IIED, The UNHCR, Jesuit Refugee Services and The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). .
‡ Slow Violence is a term used by Rob Nixon to describe the violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war. It is a violence that takes place gradually and often invisibly that exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode. (Harvard University Press)
† Anthroposcenery is the backdrop in which the events of the Anthropocene may take place.
* “A Hyperobject is an entity that is so massively distributed in space and time that you can’t point to all of it at once. Even if you use very advanced prosthetic devices like fast supercomputers, it might still be difficult to map one” (T. Morton).