Climate vulnerable geographies

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March 23, 2020

Critical Commentary

This is an image from Down To Earth, an environment and development magazine in India which is produced by the think-tank Center for Science and Environment. The image shows different coastal places across India which are at risk from flooding. This map is a state-wise breakdown of what 1 meter of sea-level rise will look like for each state listed. The 1 meter of sea-level rise has implications for temperature, rainfall, and can produce effects such as flooding, heat-waves, salt water intrusion in drinking water, crop yield fluctuations. As such toxicity can be rendered meaningful through several measures which are used to stand in for each other here. The figure of the one meter sea-level rise coheres around it meanings for water, heat, thirst, and food.

The series of maps in the article linked below show the effects of climate change on different geographic regions: the coast and the islands; the desert; the Indo-Gangetic and Himalayas; the Central and peninsular region. The scale of attention in this image is national coastal geographies, and one is called to think about toxic and plural effects of sea-level rise specific to the places that are all coastal. This map also distinguishes between coastal and island geographies from inland ones within the country, while at the same time it is different from the coastal cities narratives of the World Bank in that it does not distinguish between rural and urban places. Across the other maps in the series too, places around the country are drawn into a comparative frame based on geography and less on other factors like their urban density, or political economic structures in place. What kinds of toxic effects of climate change are visible through this geographic scale of attention, as opposed to a cultural or political or economic or infrastructural one?