The Ghost of Christmas Futurism


There are still pumpkins in the streets in the town of New Haven (as Jim Morrison might put it). But step into Starbucks opposite the Yale Center for British Art, and you'll fast forward a season. Yes, it's Christmas time already. That means Starbucks usual signs - including my favourite 'Geography is a Flavour' - have been re-tasked with festive purpose.

To get you in the spirit, I've exhumed a piece I wrote last year. The core premise is that we may well be living a Sci Fi scenario. Climate change means winter as a natural phenomenon is shrinking. Meanwhile, we manufacture increasing volumes of 'pretend' winter: Perhaps the plastic snowflakes, spray-on snow, nylon fir trees and so on are preparation for a time when winter will be an entirely simulated experience.

Read on below, or read the whole piece here.

"Climate change research shows autumn and spring are eroding either end of winter. Many European plants flower a week earlier than they did in the 1950s and lose their leaves 5 days later. Biologists report that many birds and frogs are breeding earlier in the season. The spring ice thaw in the Northern Hemisphere occurs 9 days earlier than it did 150 years ago, and the autumn freeze now typically starts 10 days later.

North of forty degrees north latitude, the growing season for vegetation has increased by several days. The ice cap is thinning. The Arctic is becoming greener and could become ice-free during summer months by 2060. Father Christmas might think about trading in his sled for a 4x4.

Winter is shrinking. Meanwhile, we extend our artificial version in a frenzy of decoration and experiences. Harrods opens its Christmas shop in August, mince pies are on the supermarket shelves in September, and Christmas singles are plotted in spring. The festive season creeps across the calendar like an icy inkblot.

Maybe it's because there are fewer real snowflakes that we feel the need to manufacture decorative ones. Perhaps it's guilt and fear made palpable through tinsel and fibre optics. An attempt to salve a loss that we can't quite yet comprehend. Perhaps it is preparation for a future where winter simply doesn't occur naturally anymore.

Ironically, our representations of these wintry scenes become stronger, denser and more hysterical just as their reality is threatened."

The rest of this piece is here

Posted by sam at November 12, 2007 1:53 PM

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