If you control the language, you frame the debate

My climate activist friends tell me to ditch the name “Climate Change” as the descriptor of that problem.

“That term sounds too benign to some, as if climate change could be portrayed as a beneficial thing with Eskimos able to sunbathe and so forth. But that’s not what’s really happening, so to make the true point I call it ‘climate kills.’ That’s what’s really happening. ”  Vandana Shiva 2009

I’ve been calling it “climate disruption” recently, though this might also be too mild a term. Regardless, i am guessing that there is going to be a need for a related new name.  A word which describes images like the one below which could be called “climate disaster pornography”.

climate disaster porn

Before you object to the use of “pornography” being used to describe this kind of image, let’s take a quick look at the OEDs origin of the term.

mid 19th century: from Greek pornographos ‘writing about prostitutes’, from pornē ‘prostitute’ +graphein ‘write’.

This seems strangely fitting to me.  And while it is a little indirect, these images are really about people who are being paid to do illegal and immoral things.  [For the record, i don’t think the labors of sex workers are immoral.]  In this case bought off politicians, an intellectually lazy US electorate and a host of climate damaging industries are being compensated to commit illegal and immoral acts.  There is a voyeurism and guilty pleasure i am looking for.

These images can be haunting and beautiful

These images can still be haunting and beautiful

But “climate disaster pornography” does not have the catchy ring i am looking for.  I am hoping we can coin a shorter descriptive term perhaps a portmanteau like emoticon, hacktivist, guestimate or staycation.  Where the meaning of the word can be drawn from the words which have been combined to make it.  Perhaps “atmosfear” from atmosphere and fear or “atmosfever”.

Some will be photoshopped

Some will be photoshopped

Normally, i am advocating for the creation of words which enable us to talk about positive phenomenon which are under reported.  Terms pronoia and quink need to be added to balance their common negative counterparts of paranoia and trauma.

Some will be ironic and funny

Some will be ironic and funny

Don’t under estimate the political power of well chosen names.

Many things contributed to the demise of Ronald Reagan’s nightmarish space weapons program called the Strategic Defense Initiative.  One critical coffin nail was Ted Kennedy putting the mocking name on it of “Star Wars”, likening it to the popular science fiction movie.

Former Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger concurs:

Their first move was to give SDI a new name: “Star Wars.” That was brilliant, of course, because it conveyed both fantasy, a lot of alien destruction stuff from the movie, and above all the idea that Reagan was taking our “war machine” up into space with a desire to destroy the other side-Russia– while protecting our own country.

Often peoples frustration with climate disruption is they can’t get a handle on what they personally can do about it.  [Though there are lots of suggestions for both behavior changes and political action.]  If you are a word smith i am encouraging you go get into the name coining game.  It might just be the feather that tilts the balance.

a better world for nothing


Tags: , ,

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

One response to “If you control the language, you frame the debate”

  1. keenantwinoaks says :



    Global climate blowback? (GCB)

    Weather Transition Phase (WTF)?

    Weather and Atmosphere Transition Phase (WATF) (Also, We Are Totally Fucked)?

    Global Infectious Response Syndrome (GIRS)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: