Waking up from climate dreams. A return to phenomenology for a better understanding of climate and its changes

Authors: Maximilian Gregor Hepach*, University of Cambridge
Topics: Geographic Theory, Cultural Geography
Keywords: phenomenology, weather, climate, climate change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Director's Row H, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper analyses current debates surrounding the (in-)visibility of climate-change with the help of the concept of anaesthesia. Drawing on anaesthesia’s ambiguity, I consider the link between climate and its changes becoming invisible, becoming an-aesthetic through the practice of scientific abstraction (Edwards, 2010; Rudiak-Gould, 2013; Schneider, 2018), and such an understanding of climate putting us into a dream like state, where our everyday experience of weather has become untrustworthy, obscuring the invisible reality of global climate change.

Instead of conceiving of climate(-change) as a hyperobject (Morton, 2013) or taking place in hyperreality (Baudrillard, 2005a), calling into question our very sense of reality, I want to suggest that it is possible to wake up from these climate dreams/nightmares through a phenomenological account of climate. Such an account draws from recent work on the phenomenology of weather (Hepach, 2017; Ingold, 2005), the phenomenology of spatiality (Figal, 2016), and the phenomenology of alterity (Waldenfels, 2011). Instead of projecting climate into a realm categorically set apart from experience, I aim to show that our understanding of ourselves and our surrounding world is mediated through and interwoven with climate and its changes (Hulme, 2017; Watsuji, 2017). Climate is hence not merely an object of experience or scientific inquiry, but a condition for the possibility of experience and existence itself. Phenomenology allows one to conceive of climate(-change) as an-aesthetic, as something other than a simple object of experience, whilst still affirming the experiential reality of climate(-change) in its complex intertwinement with experience and existence.

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