Islands in the Cultural Imaginary of Climate Change

Camilla Asplund Ingemark, Uppsala universitet, Campus Gotland
Camilla Asplund Ingemark. Foto Carina Johansson.

When we think of climate change, sinking islands are often at the top of our heads. While rising sea levels do constitute a real threat, is everything we believe to be true about sinking islands necessarily so? In a recent article in the book Former som formar: Musik, kulturarv, öar (Uppsala 2019), Camilla Asplund Ingemark tries to understand how and why this image of flooded islands is so compelling to the Western imagination. Flooded islands have been part of the cultural imaginary of climate change in the West since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006), and Asplund Ingemark discusses how the power of this image of sinking islands hinges on fundamental Western notions of the ”islandness” of islands: their perceived remoteness, insularity, archaism and isolation. The image of sunken islands also has a powerful template in the ancient myth of Atlantis. This mythical connection, which is sometimes spelled out, could impact local communities as well as our own motivation to mitigate climate change negatively, as it makes destruction and doom seem a very natural, indeed desired, course of events.