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, Human-Environment Geography, Anthropocene
Keywords: climate, climate change, phenomenology, post-phenomenology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:50 AM / 6:05 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper revisits current debates surrounding the (in-)visibility of climate-change with the help of the concept of anaesthesia. Drawing on anaesthesia’s ambiguity, referring both to the loss of awareness in the subject and the lack of perceptible qualities in the object, I consider the process of climate (and its changes) becoming an-aesthetic through the practice of scientific abstraction, 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) or taking place in hyperreality (Baudrillard), 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 (Ingold), of spatiality (Figal), and of alterity (Waldenfels). 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; Watsuji). Climate is hence not simply 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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