On green imagery

The film director Werner Herzog is rarely short of something interesting to say. He didn’t disappoint in a recent interview at BFI Southbank, in which he spoke about the importance of creating new images to tackle climate change.

Interviewer: You once said that the creation of new images in the world was one of the most central things to sustaining human life on the planet.

Herzog: In a way, yes, because if we don’t start to adapt, through language and through images, to new and unforeseen situations, we will be somehow stunted in our growth. We will not be adaptable to challenges that are coming at us at a very rapid rate. I think it has to do with human ingenuity and human intelligence. And it ultimately translates in our language skills and how we refresh and recreate language day after day after day, and create images that are adequate and are not at a standstill for 50, 60, 70 years. There are certain images that are totally at a standstill and are just without meaning. … [I]t’s a dangerous thing. Without image and language adaptations, we will not really be able to adapt to unforeseen challenges, like global warming, which is just one problem.’

Herzog is the best kind of public philosopher. His reference to global warming got me thinking: what image adaptations do we need to tackle a problem of this order?

One possible answer is that we need more images that represent human beings as a species, as opposed to a bunch of different nationalities and ethnicities. Perhaps images too of the earth from space, evoking the fragility of life on the blue planet and our isolation in the void.

Most of all, we need images of human collaboration. The myriad problems thrown-up by climate change will not be solved by celebrities and reformers. We need new images to remind ourselves of what tremendous things we’ve accomplished through mass collaboration.

I’ve been working on a film about how we could use new internet platforms to enable grassroots action to tackle climate change. Over several months, I’ve had the opportunity of watching, listening, talking to, and co-creating with, various artists and motion graphics designers about the world. This has been a fantastic experience. What has blown me away has been the creativity and intelligence on the part of the animators and designers dealing with the visual landscapes of the film. It is as if everyone working on the film realizes that what is really at stake is the opportunity to create a new visual landscape for the war on global warming — new images for the reimagining of the struggle and its possibilities.


  1. I enjoyed that! I’ve had a lovely time looking around your site, you’ve done a great job, well done.

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