River Landscapes and the Iconography of Climate Change

Water makes visible the processes and threats of climate change. The rate and quality of rain and snow falling to the earth—the lack of water in drought, its overabundance in flood — the most iconic images include water dripping from melting glaciers, contributing to rising sea levels, and polar bears stranded and struggling with disappearing sea ice. Out of such extremes of weather and its visualizations humans and animals appear as vulnerable and helpless victims. Places that foster more intimate connections to water, river landscapes, expose the threats of climate change on a local level and in doing so give rise to various methods and possibilities for coping with its impacts. Focusing on contemporary documentary films that take rivers as their subject, this part of our presentation examines the iconography of climate change and the storied elements that emerge from human endeavors to negotiate changing climates.