Time is Melting
Glaciers and the Amplification of Climate Change
Environmental representatives from around the world gathered in Paris in November 2015 for the twenty- first meeting of the “Conference of the Parties” (COP21). On the outskirts of the city, participants enacted their now- routine performance of recounting our ever- worsening ecological crisis and its symptoms: the acidification of the oceans, the toxicity of air pollution, and the melting of ice sheets the world over.1 Part of the reason for reciting, illustrating, and performing the litany of symptoms of climate change, as Ursula Heise observes in Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, is that it is not an immediately perceivable and everyday threat to many Western populations— for them (for us), climate change occurs at a geographical distance.2 While COP21’s historic “climate deal” seemed to vindicate and acknowledge a novel sense of ecological foresight on the part of the world’s carbon emitters,3 it nonetheless obscured the ways in which climate change is still very much a contested discursive process. As such, establishing the reality of climate change relies on making the distant material and ecological proxies noted above— acidifying and warming oceans, toxic air, and, of particular interest for us in this article, melting ice— sensible to a broader public. Environmental artworks oft en participate in making the distant eff ects of climate change sensible to a broader public, provoking open- ended affective responses.