How a pretend postcard from the future turned into the sad reality of today

In the midst of the fear and devastation spreading across the East Coast of America, the most important thing right now is for all efforts to focus on protecting people, homes and businesses, and beginning the process of rebuilding lives. 

It may be too early to start the conversations about ‘what we can learn from this’, but it’s hard for your mind to not go there. In fact, the images flashing across our screens have an eerie significance for us here at Life Size Media. An odd ‘told-you-so’ moment we couldn’t more strongly wish hadn’t come about.

A blacked-out New York City skyline, on October 29, 2012.

This month we handled the media for the Ecoislands Global Summit, an international conference for vulnerable island and regional communities. In order to get the journalists ‘warmed up’ to the significance of such an event we created a set of ‘What If?’ postcards. One showed Hawaii in a state of disrepair when heat waves and disease had left the island abandoned. Another featured the Maldives with a flag pole visible above the waves. The messages home gave a tongue in cheek account of the jolly holidays that were had, from ‘couldn’t find the hotel so just stayed on the boat’ to ‘no chance of getting leid’.

The significance? Postcard number 3. The third in the set showed New York, ‘The City that Never Sleeps?’ with almost all of the lights out. The back described a city break dampened by the lack of energy that prevented a trip up the Empire State Building (too many stairs without the lift) and made it a little uncomfortably hot in the summer without air conditioning. Our pretend postcard was dated 2020.

We didn’t expect to wake up this morning to a shockingly similar image. It might be too soon now, but at some point soon we need to start learning the lessons. No, we can’t necessarily say that this singular devastating event was anything to do with manmade climate change. But the science undeniably shows that these sorts of dramatic weather events will become increasingly powerful, and increasingly frequent. We wonder what will be enough to make us take notice. Or, as George Monbiot rightly pointed out on Twitter earlier today, “can we all please be less sanguine now about humanity’s ability to control nature?”

Our postcards were meant to get people thinking, to raise the ‘what if’ and to start the mental ball rolling on where our world is heading. They weren’t meant as a prophecy and let’s hope the similarities end here.  

A postcard we created last month to get journalist thinking ‘what if’.