Mary Beth Nevulis is the managing editor of Storm Water Solutions. Nevulis can be reached at [email protected]
Nov 04, 2014

The Future's So Blight

In a series of images called "Postcards from the Future," U.K. artists Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones imagine what cities altered by the effects of environmental change might look like.

The series presents famous London icons in future settings created by floods, drought, extreme heat and cold, poverty, energy shortages and other possible effects of a changing global climate.

One image, titled "Parliament Square Water Crisis Centre," depicts a scenario in which clean water scarcity forces citizens to queue up for rations and evokes Soviet Union-era bread lines.

The images are beautiful, yet unsettling, especially in light of a New York Times article from earlier this week regarding a new United Nations report on the gathering risks of climate change. From the article:

"Failure to reduce emissions … could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year."

Didier Madoc-Jones said that they created "Postcards from the Future" to add a palpable visual element to news stories.

"We were hearing a lot about the potential impacts of climate change, but everything we were hearing about was just words, or very two-dimensional graphics in magazines," Madoc-Jones said. "The only imagery we were getting was pictures or reports from places like Bangladesh. The trouble is that ... when you hear reports of people suffering in other parts of the world, you can easily forget about those things and put them to one side."

These images, and the U.N. report, are nothing anyone wants to think about having to deal with. But no one can predict the future, and contingency plans for our cities and nations that stress sustainability and resiliency are a way to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.