January 17, 2018

Gallery Editor´s Note: This Is Nature; This Is Un-Nature: Reading the Keeling Curve

Fig3HoweBy Neil M. Maher and Cindy Ott

In its Gallery essays, Environmental History has yet to examine the visual culture of scientific data. Joshua Howe corrects this oversight with a wonderful essay on the Keeling Curve, first made famous by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and now one of the most iconic images of scientific data worldwide. According to Howe, the Keeling

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Curve, that upward sloping oscillating line that documents global warming, tells two distinct narratives—one seemingly natural, the other cultural. Just as important, Howe reminds environmental historians that scientific data, whether presented visually in graphs, charts, or tables, can be read as cultural evidence much like historical photographs, works of art, or handwritten diaries.

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