Wyrd - OE: that which has become; fate-shaping; destiny-unfolding

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Book of Kells for the climate - scribe-illustrators needed?

The world of climate science sometimes seems like a swirling sea of numbers. Numbers that come, and numbers that go, like waves breaking silently on the foreshore. There's always another statistic, or table, or figure about to break, ready to erase the brief imprint of the last. But occasionally that sea tosses up a stunningly crafted piece of driftwood - and here's one I found beach-combing the wilder shores of green think-tankery:

This is one of many visual gems to be found in the World Resources Institute's report, 'Navigating the Numbers'. It tried to summarize the state of play for greenhouse gases and climate policy a few years back. I love this picture, because it takes all of those all-often-hurled statistics and beds them into a beautifully-colored context. All of the data is there, of course, showing on how each and every part of our society is contributing to our shocking of the climate.

But more than just data, there's a real sense of how the greenhouse gas story is unfolding. You get a feel for the strong flows of mankind's fervent activity, as they twist and turn and merge into those thick powerful emissions arrows stabbing into the wyrd of the planet. This sort of embellishment of bare numbers goes a long way to piece together the puzzle of climate change, for us not blessed with all that specialist knowledge.

Almost like the calligrapher-monks of old, who took the dusty words of the Testaments, and breathed color and life into them with their richly adorned title pages. We need more scribes with such a flare for vibrant imagery methinks!

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