Perceiving the Anthropocene as a Public Health Risk via Visual Culture
Keywords:cultural geography, enviro-medical humanities, nineteenth-century art, pollution, will-to-wellbeing
There is widespread scientific and cultural evidence that Earth’s planetary boundaries are being exceeded in irreparable ways due to unsustainable behavior in the Global North’s resource-hungry nations in particular, but responsiveness to the climate crisis is still lagging in many parts of the world. It has become clear that significant numbers of people have limited engagement with ecological risks accumulating on a scale much bigger than the micro-level human actions causing them, such as the day-to-day build-up of industrial pollutants including nitrogen dioxide. How best to go about galvanizing socially just degrowth in the face of barriers to individual commitment that range from a sense of powerlessness to disinterest in futures-thinking? Given the extent to which a preoccupation with wellbeing spans walks of life across the globe, it is worth considering the motivational power of understanding ecological dangers in terms of the potential for personal harm. With that end in mind, this article fleshes out an artistically and emotionally oriented approach to the totalizing extractivism of the Anthropocene as a source of public health problems, not least the COVID-19 pandemic.
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