Published in Proceedings of the Ninth Biennial Conference on Communication and the Environment, June 22, 2007, pages 1-7.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Richard Besel was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
In this paper I examine a recent artistic attempt to publicly visualize a future at risk, Alexis Rockman’s mural painting Manifest Destiny. By turning to J. Robert Cox’s work on the “Locus of the Irreparable,” I contend that Manifest Destiny compels viewers to see the irreparable nature of global climate change in terms of the unique, precarious, and timely. Arguing that Rockman’s creation is a visual example of the rhetoric of the irreparable, I put Cox’s work into conversation with recent efforts to understand the nature of visual rhetoric. However, despite the attention-grabbing nature of Rockman’s work, the production of specific social judgments related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are left wanting. The implications for public understanding of global climate change issues and future research directions for scholarship using Cox’s articulation of rhetoric of the irreparable are discussed.