Mapping the End of the World

Mario Reinaldo Machado | PhD student | Graduate School of Geography

In a recent piece for Guernica, Clark student Mario Reinaldo Machado examines how artists and scientists are working to communicate the severity of the climate crisis, drawing a common thread from Dr. Karen Frey’s research in the Arctic to the artistry of metal band, Cattle Decapitation.


By merging the power of dystopia with the perspective of the overview effect, Cattle Decapitation levels a vicious satire at the utopian and modernist imaginaries that have led us to the precipice of climate disaster. But while their vision of the future is apocalyptic (a theme and aesthetic common among other metal bands) their artistic work is inspired by genuine feelings of helplessness and despondency at the state of the world—feelings that are widely shared, not only by those who listen to metal, but also those that do not.

This sense of solastalgia, an existential sorrow caused by environmental change, is a symptom of the Anthropocene. In this brave new world, we experience global change on a personal level, with geologically-scaled events occurring within the timeframe of a human lifespan. We can see and sense and feel it happening, and as a result, each of us is forced to confront the radical warping of our own perception of time and space, and our place within it. And while the impacts of climate change are unequal, affecting the most vulnerable to a disproportionate degree, there is an element of universality in the global proportions of the climate crisis. Spaceship Earth.

In this sense, the phenomenon of the overview effect seems built into the architecture of the Anthropocene. Should we choose to pay attention—as Cattle Decapitation’s music and Dr. Frey’s research implore us to do—the power of the overview effect might be leveraged as a strategy for keeping our earth systems in check, producing in aggregate the sort of social tipping point we need to turn the corner in the fight against climate change. The only question is whether such social thresholds will be reached before our Earth’s systems reach their respective biophysical thresholds.


Read the full article here.