The Renaissance Italians had a term, "terriblisma," by which they meant the strange, gratified awe one feels when beholding dreadful disasters and acts of God from afar. The term may be six hundred years old, but the sentiment could not be more contemporary. In fact, terriblisma is a quite native 21st Century aesthetic.
We're somewhat ashamed of it, but the fact is, we're fascinated as well as alarmed by what's happening to our planet and its climate. We find ourselves riveted by strange occurances and ominous portents - like giant squid growing to montrous sizes in the warming greenhouse waters of our oceans, or the gigantic and ancient Larsen B Ice Shelf collapsing in Antarctica. Our televisions and computers bring us 24-hour-a-day weather porn of the unprecendented floods, massive fires, sudden ice storms, freak winds, and ever-stronger hurricanes and typhoons which have swept the planet over the last decade. Now Hollywood is getting in on the act.
The silver screen's supreme homage to terriblisma, the movie The Day After Tomorrow, will hit theaters worldwide next Memorial Day with a vision of a sudden climatic snap triggering a new Ice Age. Terrible. Awful. Dreadful. Pass the popcorn.
This piece is a part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on Oct. 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.
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