Climate Change Is…
The piece on climate change by Guy Parsons is simple and effective propaganda. It is broken into four quadrants that are nearly identical. All feature large billboards and factories emitting high amounts of smoke in the background. Three of the four contain warning messages on the billboards that read “Climate Change Is Coming.” The first is in 1970 and the message remains in the third though the year is now 2010. In these scenes pollution is pouring out of the buildings, but nature remains unaffected. No people are featured in the three images. In the lower right quadrant “Coming” is crossed out and “Here” is added. The year is 2020. “Climate Change Is Coming Here.” The green trees from the earlier depictions are barren and appear to be dying. A man is included in this final scene and is surprised climate change has arrived. He never saw it coming. The purpose of the piece is clear. Climate change has been ignored for many years and now it has arrived. The warnings signs of the past have been ignored even though they were in plain sight for fifty years.
Neil Postman defined propaganda as “intentionally designed communication that invites people to respond emotionally, immediately, and in an either-or-manner.” (Hobbs, 2021) Climate change is a polarizing and emotional issue for many people. Those who believe things have been overblown or that there is no real concern may be upset by the message presented. The man is looking at the sign dumbfounded even though it has been there for decades. Others who believe there was cause for alarm may feel incensed that many have ignored clear warnings. The way the piece isdesigned makes it feel like an either-or choice. Like the viewer must support that climate change has been coming and is here or they take the opposite viewpoint and are willfully ignorant. There are many factors and variables to the climate change topic, but the structure synthesizes it down to only two. The dichotomy Guy creates is difficult to avoid.
Although the piece is busy and depicts multiple time periods the information presented is simple and straightforward. The same colors are used throughout. The same phrase is used on each billboard to drive home the point. The piece is sneaky and subtly attacks opponents of climate change but may also serve to enlighten those who are unfamiliar or unsure about the impact it has on the planet. Positioning the man as uninformed makes taking his side seem unintelligible.
This piece and the message can be interpreted in different ways. People who do not support the climate change narrative may feel attacked by the suggestion they have ignored obvious signs. A simple statement may not be enough to change their mind on the topic but is also might be a start or even the final push necessary. If someone agrees with the message it seems unlikely their stance will change based on Guy’s work. Rather, they will feel justified in their view. The piece reinforces and possibly deepens their ideas about climate change and its impact on the environment. The most interesting case is the group who are unsure which side is correct or even what climate change is. They are the most likely to be swayed to one side or the other. Though that group will be divided it is likely the audience the piece is seeking influence.
Looking at the piece a few notable things are missing. There are no people voicing climate change concerns only a man surprised it has arrived. This seems to indicate the target audience is people who are skeptical or have been ignoring evidence and warnings about climate change. Nature was carefully included but animals who may also be affected by the change were not. These omissions may be intentional or accidental. Guy may have thought adding more would distract the viewer. Regardless of his reasons for what he included and left out the piece is a strong piece of propaganda and clearly fits Postman’s definition. Pollution, large billboards with dire warnings, and dying trees all stand out and compel the viewer to feel something. The feeling meant to be elicited is clear and literally stated — climate change is here, and the warning signs cannot be ignored any longer.