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WIREs Clim Change
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Glaciers and climate change: narratives of ruined futures

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Across global environmental change research, glaciers are depicted as rapidly disappearing. This review identifies and problematizes the prevalence of a glacier‐ruins narrative in artistic, performative, cinematic, and other humanities‐based representations of glacier–climate discourse and perceptions. A glacier‐ruins narrative is understood as a narrative about glaciers that tends to overlook the existing state of a glacier and/or glacier systems and speaks instead to imagined states of loss. Five examples are reviewed and exemplify this glacier‐ruins narrative: the work of well‐known American landscape painter Diane Burko, conceptual artist Kitty Von‐Sometime's 2014 performance, ice installations by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, the documentary film Chasing Ice, and the National Park Service's Exit Glacier display within south‐central Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park. While a glacier‐ruins narrative is present throughout various academic disciplines engaging with global environmental change research, this review focuses primarily on the humanities, largely in response to multiple scholars' calls for the increased role of the humanities in global environmental change discourse. This review suggests that the practice of climate change reductionism is equally prevalent in the humanities as it is in the natural and social sciences. It argues that narrating glaciers as climate change ruins normalizes and predetermines a glacier‐free world not yet in existence while reducing the range of imaginable climate change‐influenced futures. WIREs Clim Change 2015, 6:479–492. doi: 10.1002/wcc.351 This article is categorized under: Climate, History, Society, Culture > Ideas and Knowledge Trans‐Disciplinary Perspectives > Humanities and the Creative Arts

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