Slow Violence

Linocut, 76 x 56 cm, 2020

There is a conundrum at the heart of the discussion surrounding climate change: in geological terms, this change is happening at warp speed. On a human scale, it is happening at a rate that is too slow to be alarming to many people. Climate change is a prime example of what Rob Nixon presents in his book, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.

“By slow Violence, I mean a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.”

Rob Nixon

According to Nixon, slow violence can be found embedded within the “slowly unfolding environmental catastrophes” of long-term pollution, climate change or nuclear fallout. But it can also describe many kinds of harm that affect individuals and communities at a pace too slow to assign blame.

Like fast violence, people still suffer or even die, but the protagonists of the act are diffuse and often outside the reach of prosecution. Some of the blame might lie with an entire industry subtly polluting an ecosystem legally and collectively, while some blame may lie with a government policy written in a distant capital years before. The point is that slow violence does not always have a clear perpetrator.

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