Friday, August 6, 2021

EV Mania and the Tropes of the Burned out Car and Water Play

Visual tropes of the burned out car to show fire's devastation and of water play to show relief from extreme heat more accurately testify to something else, to the ways we still aren't facing climate very squarely.

I have not tracked this exactly, but it has seemed like when the paper runs an AP story that is climate-adjacent, there is often a clear statement in it about the relation to climate. 

I last noticed this in a story mid-July about west coast vineyards and vineyard workers facing smoke and heat, which the SJ picked up from the AP (though its writer is also based in Salem). It was clear: "The bad news is that extreme weather events and wildfires are apt to become more frequent because of climate change."

Here is another instance in today's paper.

Interior page, SJ today

But the paper's own journalists have seemed less consistent about making clear statements about the relation to climate, as if it might be a house editorial policy not to center climate. 

Columbia Journalism Review via Twitter

We really saw this in heat wave stories, which nearly always focused on water play or other recreation, and did not underscore hazard and the link to climate strongly enough. A July story about our record fire season pace omitted it, and the SJ's own stories about agricultural safety rules for extreme heat also have talked around climate a little. I am not counting them to quantify any pattern, but it definitely seems like the paper should center climate more strongly in stories that touch on it, even in indirect ways.

See, for example:

Elsewhere, several front pages today also featured the visual trope of the burned out car in coverage of the devastation caused by the Dixie Fire in California, and some page editors also seemingly artfully juxtaposed them with the Biden EV news - though the irony in the relation of cars to climate might still need more of an underscore (which we'll provide here).

Today's SF Chronicle

Today's Washington Post

Today's LA Times

Here's a burned out car from the Santiam Canyon fires last year.

Front page, September 2020

There were so many instances of the visual trope. It's a real thing. With the sheet metal exteriors and metal frames the cars provide a recognizable ruin and can make satisfying formal compositions. But centering cars so much is also an idolatrous expression of our autoism.

This week there was more news the Gulf Stream and other important ocean currents are disordered, even deranged, possibly permanently. Conversion to EVs is not nearly enough. It's great the administration is working on the conversion, but we have to think more critically about the nature and scope of autoism itself.

via Twitter


Anonymous said...

While reducing CO2 from vehicles is extremely important, other contributors must also be considered if any significant improvement is expected. In today's Guardian article titled "Reduce methane or face climate catastrophe, scientists warn", the author Fiona Harvey states "Cutting carbon dioxide is not enough to solve the climate crisis – the world must act swiftly on another powerful greenhouse gas, methane, to halt the rise in global temperatures, experts have warned."

Recreational or unnecessary but significant contributors to climate change - rocket ship tourism, Bitcoins, and avoidable releases of methane gas during fossil fuel extractions do not seem to elicit sufficient attention and outrage. The media and the political system are negligent in the way that they treat these issues. A sense of responsibility must be imparted to those who essentially operate outside of governmental controls.

Jim Scheppke said...

There is also far too little attention paid to the fact that we in Salem are forced by the Marion County Commissioners to incinerate our garbage which results in three times the GHG emissions than if we sent it to a landfill. The contract with Covanta was just renewed for three years with the possibility of extensions for years to come. It's time for our City leaders to work to change this.