Quartz: The difference between a snafu, a shitshow, and a clusterfuck

Screenshot 2019-02-11 at 16.02.27

By Corinne Purtill

link to article also here.

Let’s say the situation at work is not good. The project (or product, or re-org, or whatever) has launched, and the best you can say is that things aren’t going as planned. At all. It’s a disaster, though the best word for it is the one you drop over drinks with your team and when venting at home: it’s a clusterfuck.

Clusterfucks hold a special place in public life, one distinct from the complications, crises, and catastrophes that mar our personal and professional existences. The F-Word, former Oxford English Dictionary editor Jesse Sheidlower’s comprehensive history of the term, defines a clusterfuck as “a bungled or confused undertaking or situation.” Stanford business professor Bob Sutton goes further, describing clusterfucks as “those debacles and disasters caused by a deadly brew of illusion, impatience, and incompetence that afflicts too many decision-makers, especially those in powerful, confident, and prestigious groups.”

The term dates at least as far back as the Vietnam War, as military slang for doomed decisions resulting from the toxic combination of too many high-ranking officers and too little on-the-ground information. (The “cluster” part of the word allegedly refers to officers’ oak leaf cluster insignia.)

“I have a weird obsession with clusterfucks,” Sutton tells Quartz At Work. He and Stanford Graduate School of Business colleague Huggy Rao took on the topic directly in their 2014 book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, though publishers demanded that the softer substitute “clusterfug” appear in the final text. (This was not Sutton’s choice: His other books include The No Asshole Rule and The Asshole Survival Guide.)

To appreciate what a clusterfuck is—and to understand how to avoid one—it is first helpful to clarify some of the things a clusterfuck is not:

A fuck-up. “A fuck-up is just something all of us do every day,” Sutton says. “I broke the egg I made for breakfast this morning. That was kind of a fuck-up.” Whereas clusterfucks are perfectly preventable, fuck-ups are an unavoidable feature of the human condition.

A SNAFU. While sometimes used as a synonym for minor malfunctions and hiccups, this slang military acronym—“Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”—actually refers to the functionally messy state that describes many otherwise healthy companies (and many of our personal lives). A SNAFU work environment is usually manageable; one that is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair, another military legacy) probably isn’t. “When my students with little experience go to work at a famous company and it isn’t quite as they dreamed, I do ask them if it is FUBAR or SNAFU, and tell them SNAFU will describe most places they work,” Sutton said.

 A shitshow. No less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary describes a shitshow as a “situation or state of affairs characterized by chaos, confusion, or incompetence.” A clusterfuck may come to possess all those characteristics, but is more properly identified by the decisions that produced it than its outcome.

The three main contributors to clusterfucks

Sutton and Rao analyzed countless cases of scaling and expansion, both successful ones and those that ended in disaster. In reviewing the most spectacular failures, they identified three key factors that resulted in the kind of expensive, embarrassing, late-stage collapse that is the hallmark of a clusterfuck. They were:

Illusion. A clusterfuck starts with the decision maker’s belief that a goal is much easier to attain than it actually is. The expectation that two car companies with different languages and different cultures would merge together flawlessly, as the architects of the doomed Daimler-Chrysler merger apparently believed? Clusterfuck. The Bush Administration’s estimate that the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq would take no more than a few months and $60 billion? A clusterfuck prelude of tragic proportions.

Impatience. A misguided idea alone does not produce a clusterfuck. The idea also needs a champion determined to shove it along, usually over the objections of more-knowledgeable underlings. Sergey Brin’s reported insistence (paywall) on introducing Google Glass to the public against its engineers’ wishes turned a potentially groundbreaking piece of technology into a stupid-looking joke.

Incompetence. When errors of information and timing meet blatantly stupid decisions by people who should know better, disaster tends to ensue. Bear Stearns wasn’t the sole cause of the global financial crisis, of course, but former CEO Jimmy Cayne’s decision to spend 10 days of the 2007 subprime mortgage loan meltdown playing at a bridge tournament without phone or email access contributed to the firm’s collapse—and to the worldwide disaster that followed.

All three of these failings share a common root: people in power who don’t (or won’t) acknowledge the realities of their environment, and who don’t push themselves to confront what they don’t know. Nobody likes to spoil the heady euphoria of an exciting new project by discussing the possibility of failure. The problem is, if potentially bad outcomes aren’t addressed pre-launch, they are more likely to surface afterward, when the reckoning is public and expensive.

The antidote to clusterfuckery, Sutton argues, is a willingness to confront the possibility of failure and disappointment built into every new venture, and to plan accordingly.

He cites a favored decision-making tactic of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman (who in turn credits it to psychologist Gary Klein). Before a big decision, teams should undertake what Kahneman calls a “premortem.” Split the group in two. One is assigned to imagine a future in which the project is an unmitigated success. The other is to envision its worst-case scenario. Each group then writes a detailed story of the project’s success or failure, outlining the steps and decisions that led to each outcome. Imagining failure and thinking backwards to its causes helps groups identify the strengths and weaknesses of their current plans, and adjust accordingly.

“People make better decisions when they look into the future and they imagine that they already failed, and they tell a story about what happened,” Sutton says. With better planning, it won’t be a story that has to be bleeped out.



BBC: ‘Welcome to my high-fashion, trash shopping mall’– its in Sweden!

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Anna Bergstrom

Anna Bergstrom had a dilemma. She loved the glitzy world of high fashion, but had also come to feel that it was unsustainable and bad for the planet. She’s now found peace of mind by running a stylish shopping mall in Sweden, where everything is second-hand.

“Do you notice the smell?” Anna Bergstrom says, as she surveys her mall from the mezzanine level. “It smells nice here, doesn’t it?”

It’s very important to Anna that this place is enticing, because she feels it is making a statement. Everything for sale here, in 14 specialist shops covering everything from clothes to DIY tools, is recycled.

She is usually turned off by the smell of second-hand stores, she explains, even though she adores vintage fashion.

For most people flea-markets and charity shops carry a stigma, she thinks – a mark left by countless bad experiences. Too often they are worthy but depressing, Anna says. Her mission is to bring second-hand shopping into the mainstream.


The mall itself is spacious and appealing, almost Ikea-like. An art installation – a tree and circular bench all fashioned from recycled materials – greets customers at the entrance.

There is even a coffee shop and gift-wrapping service.

The mall is called ReTuna. “Tuna” because that’s the nickname for the city where it is based – Eskilstuna, an hour’s train journey west of Stockholm – and “Re” because the goods on sale have been recycled or repurposed.

It was set up by Eskilstuna’s local government in 2015, in a warehouse which used to house trucks for a logistics company.


The shops inside it are run as businesses rather than charities, and each pays a combined charge of rent and business rates.

Anna Bergstrom’s business mantra which she repeats to each shopkeeper is, “Do it like Hugo Boss.” She wants the mall to stand toe-to-toe with a regular, commercial, glitzy mall.


There is a sports shop stuffed with skis and (slightly scuffed) sledges, a kids’ shop bursting with toys (a little faded), a bookshop, a DIY store, a homeware specialist, even a pet accessory shop.

As well as “pre-loved” items for sale, there are also many that have been upcycled. These are unwanted items that have been taken apart and turned into new objects.

In a store that specialises in handmade household ornaments, Bergstrom is keen to show off a nice example of this, from one of her star tenants.

Shopkeeper Maria Larsson proudly shows off her best-selling product – a container that resembles the body of a pine cone. Each segment of its skin has been cut from leather jackets – upcycling in action.


However, Maria confesses to being a little worried. She is struggling to keep up with customer demand for this design because she can’t get enough jackets.

This makes more sense once you understand ReTuna’s location.

It’s right next to Eskilstuna’s recycling centre, which is also run by the municipality.

A steady stream of cars passes through it, bringing cardboard, mattresses and other typical unwanted household items.

But many of these cars go past the metal skips and then head down a ramp to a road that runs right next to the mall.

Here locals drop off their unwanted household things if there is a possibility they can be resold or upcycled.

Drop off

In a vast area beneath the mall, a small army of workers in fluorescent jackets sifts through the donations, carrying them to designated zones.

Every day the shopkeepers can come down and inspect what has arrived: kids’ toys, household appliances, gardening equipment… perhaps even a leather jacket. This is what they call their “treasure”, says Anna. Their business rent gives them privileged access to it.

Shopkeepers sometimes hang around the basement to look at what is coming in to their zones. Anna calls these people “peekers” and gives them a telling-off, because they are meant to wait for set times to inspect their assigned stock.


Many of the shopkeepers will come to informal arrangements with one another. So if the clothes shop knows that Larsson wants leather jackets for upcycling, they will pass on any that are too damaged to be re-sold.

Any items that are unwanted by all the shopkeepers go to the recycling centre next door.

“You see,” says Anna, “this is why I sometimes joke that this is the ‘high fashion trash shopping mall’.”

She thinks her passion for ethical, sustainable shopping goes back to her upbringing with her hippie parents.

She was born in a commune, though her family moved out to the countryside to pursue a simple life when she was three years old.

Anna, with her parents
Presentational white space

Her parents rejected consumerism in all its forms and tried to protect her from it.

She wasn’t allowed Barbie dolls or any toys at all at Christmas, she recalls.

But as she grew up she reacted against this.

“Everyone has to be their own punk revolution,” she says cryptically.

Anna Bergstrom
Presentational white space

In fact she ended up forging a career in the temples of modern consumerism: shopping centres. She began by setting up retail shops, then ran two commercial malls in the Stockholm area.

It was only when she had children – four daughters – that she began to have doubts. She took about a year’s maternity leave for each child, which gave her time to reflect. Perhaps maternal instinct revived in her some of the values instilled by her parents, she thinks.

As her daughters grew, so too did her doubts about the world she’d brought them into, and its throwaway culture.

She watched them become seduced, as teenagers, by a modern kind of consumerism – their lives became shaped by big brands, promoted by influencers on social media, says Anna. They became governed by whatever the Kardashians were doing on reality TV or Instagram, she says in a tone of dismay – before breaking into a smile.

In desperation she tried cutting her daughters’ pocket money so they couldn’t buy the latest clothes, but offered to pay for second-hand ones instead – with limited success.

She realised she had to do something more, so the opportunity for a job at the ReTuna mall three years ago, as its first manager, came at the perfect time for her.

Find out more

Anna Bergstrom

“I realised that I needed to become a role model for my children, doing something good for the planet,” says Anna.

She calls the mall “my baby”, and wants it to be a place her teenage children are proud to visit.

And they do visit. Though she hasn’t persuaded them to tag it as a location on an Instagram post yet – she’s working on that.

Anna’s bigger hope is that what works for her family can work for Swedish society as a whole.

Swedes love the concept of living sustainably and doing things for the planet, but there is a “gap” when it comes to action, she says.

Anna thinks her mall can bridge this gap.

And there is evidence this may be happening. Sales are slowly rising year-on-year. Since opening, the mall has sold £2.8m worth of products and last year it attracted 700 visitors per day.

“If you can have a trendy, fashionable way to do sustainable living,” says Anna, “I think mainstream customers can follow that – in high heels.”

You can follow writer Dougal Shaw on Twitter: @dougalshawbbc


at the bottom of the article you can find a short film on the shopping mall for more information.

Guardian: Global warming of oceans equivalent to an atomic bomb per second

screenshot 2019-01-08 at 11.27.21Still from Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick, 1964

Global warming has heated the oceans by the equivalent of one atomic bomb explosion per second for the past 150 years, according to analysis of new research.

More than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, with just a few per cent heating the air, land and ice caps respectively. The vast amount of energy being added to the oceans drives sea-level rise and enables hurricanes and typhoons to become more intense.

Global warming has heated the oceans by the equivalent of one atomic bomb explosion per second for the past 150 years, according to analysis of new research.

More than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, with just a few per cent heating the air, land and ice caps respectively. The vast amount of energy being added to the oceans drives sea-level rise and enables hurricanes and typhoons to become more intense.

for the full article: Global warming of oceans equivalent to an atomic bomb per second

Guardian: ‘It’s warm water now’: climate change strands sea turtles on Cape Cod shores

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The Gulf of Maine’s rapidly warming waters draws in larger numbers of Kemp’s ridley turtles, enticing them to stay longer

Staff at the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys work to intubate a cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley turtle flown in from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
 Staff at the Turtle hospital in the Florida Keys work to intubate a cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley turtle flown in from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

At the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in a repurposed shipyard building south of Boston, the casualties of climate change swim in tanks as they recover after being pulled stunned from the beach.

Every year, as autumn turns to winter and ocean temperatures off Massachusetts drop below 10C (50F), dead, dying and stricken sea turtles wash up on the shores of Cape Cod as those shelled reptiles that have failed to migrate south start to die in the chilly waters.

In the 1980s, the number of sea turtles stranded on the shores of Cape Cod every year averaged in the dozens. That average went up through the 1990s and 2000s, but over the past decade it has risen dramatically: 2014 saw more than 1,200 turtles make landfall. This year, more than 790 sea turtles have washed up on Cape Cod so far. Some 720 of those are Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, a critically endangered species that nests on the shores of the much warmer Gulf of Mexico.

Staff members at the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys tend to some of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They will be released in the warmer waters off Florida once they are healthy.
 Staff members at the Turtle hospital in the Florida Keys tend to some of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They will be released in the warmer waters off Florida once they are healthy. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

It is an event unmatched in magnitude anywhere else in the world.

Those who study sea turtles say part of the reason that annual strandings are up in Massachusetts is that efforts to conserve and boost Kemp’s ridley populations have been successful. But the other part is that the Gulf of Maine is rapidly warming in the face of climate change and proving to be a more hospitable environment for turtles than it used to be, drawing them in larger numbers and resulting in them staying longer into the year.

“It’s warm water now,” said Bob Prescott, the director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on Cape Cod.

The Mass Audubon tracks turtle strandings and is on the frontline of turtle rescue. “What we don’t think they understand is the change in the seasons. These are tropical and sub-tropical turtles and I don’t think they understand the change in season, cold fronts and the water getting colder and colder,” Prescott said.

The Gulf of Maine, which the Cape Cod peninsula juts into like a flexing arm, is warming faster than 99% of the world’s waters. This year marked the gulf’s third-warmest year on record. The warming is responsible for a boom in the lobster industry in Maine and has invited new fish species, such as the black sea bass, to the area. But for turtles, it has proved dangerous.

“It’s actually a good foraging habitat for them, really,” said Kate Sampson, the sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Massachusetts. “It’s just unfortunate that it brings them right into this area that has a trap.”

That trap is Cape Cod, which many sea turtles counterintuitively have to swim north and then east to get around in order to flee to warmer waters when winter approaches.

“Cape Cod Bay we often call a deadly bucket,” said Tony LaCasse, the New England Aquarium’s spokesperson. As turtles swim north, they run into colder water “and their instinct tells them something is wrong … their instinct tells them to retreat back into the shallow warmer water of the bay and wait it out. But the problem is it’s the end of the season and there’s no way to get out”.

Kemp’s ridley turtles begin their lives on beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The few that survive the mad dash from their eggs to the water and the predators of the shallows settle down for the first few years of their lives in sargassum, floating forests of seaweed that offer safety to the tiny adolescent turtles. The Gulf Stream carries sargassum north and it is believed that the turtles washing up on Massachusetts’ coast – which are largely between two and four years old according to Sampson – are exploring a coastal habitat for the first time.

Kara Dodge, a research scientist who focuses on sea turtles at Boston’s New England Aquarium, said beyond the Gulf of Maine’s warming, changes to ocean circulation patterns due to climate change could also affect the magnitude of stranding events by bringing more young sea turtles up from the Gulf of Mexico into the western Atlantic.

If climate change continues as expected, she said, “the prediction is that we will continue to see these high-stranding events, hundreds of animals, for the foreseeable future”.

Cold-stunning events sometimes affect sea turtles elsewhere, such as along the Gulf coast off Florida and Texas, but they are generally short-lived, the result of a sudden cold snap. The challenge in Massachusetts, researchers say, is that turtles washing up on shore have largely been exposed to long-term hypothermia.

The large-scale turtle stranding events that Massachusetts has seen in recent years have resulted in the rise of a large, complex network of rescuers working to save as many turtles as possible.

Employees of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and an army of volunteers patrol Cape Cod’s northern beaches in November and December looking for stranded turtles. Cold-stunned turtles recovered on Cape Cod are then driven to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, near Boston, where hypothermic, emaciated and often sick turtles are rewarmed, treated and rehabilitated. The process usually takes months.

One of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued between late November and early December off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
 One of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued between late November and early December off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

The sea turtle hospital in Quincy has treated more than 400 turtles so far this year. However, it has struggled to keep up with the sharp rise in strandings and moves stabilised turtles to treatment facilities elsewhere in the country when it reaches capacity.

Edward Filangeri is a volunteer pilot who helps the organisation Turtles Fly Too to move turtles from Massachusetts to other facilities. Every year since 2014, Filangeri has flown his single-engine aircraft up from New York’s Long Island, where he lives, to Massachusetts to pick up turtles packed in banana boxes and ferry them south. By flying during November and December he has to contend with winter weather while also working to keep the temperature in his small aircraft turtle-friendly.

“When we get the temperature just right they want to start swimming and I know we’re doing a good job when I hear a lot of cardboard rubbing in the back of the plane,” he said.

Those working to save the turtles say every bit of help they can give is worth it.

“Personally I spend a lot of my time doing this and the network spends a lot of their time doing this because we all believe that this does make a difference,” said Sampson, the Noaa turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator. “These are an endangered species, we have to do all we can to help recover their population.”

BBC: Warning against ‘volcano tourism’ risks

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Thrill-seeking tourists are putting themselves in danger and hampering emergency services by heading towards volcanoes when they erupt.

A report from the Royal Geographical Society warns of the growing risks caused by “volcano tourism”.

Emergency authorities in countries such as Iceland now have to contend with the arrival of tourists who rush there to get close to an exploding volcano.

The study says such tourists fail to understand the seriousness of the risk.

The study, published by the Royal Geographical Society and written by University of Cambridge geographer Amy Donovan, warns that such visitors can create dangerous problems for already stretched rescue services.


The phenomenon of “volcano tourism” has seen thousands of people trying to get close to the site of erupting volcanoes for the physical experience of seeing, hearing and feeling the heat of such a natural spectacle.

Dr Donovan says that such people are fascinated by the elemental power of volcanoes and are attracted by such an intense experience.

VolcanoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionHow close is too close for tourists chasing volcanoes?

“You can breathe the gas, hear the sounds the earth is making. They want to get closer to feel the power of the earth,” she says.


At the extreme end, she says there are so-called “volcanophiles” who chase exploding volcanoes around the world.

She says the increase in volcano tourism could be driven by the rise of mobile phones, where people want to be able to record themselves in such dramatic settings.

But they also fail to realise the great danger they could face.

There are injuries from people being hit by chunks of rock or lava bombs. Or else people might get close to a “fire fountain” and not realise there could be poisonous gases.

Tourists might not understand how quickly eruptions could change or that other threats such as flooding could emerge.

Media captionEven experienced scientists and journalists can be caught out by the unpredictability of volcanoes – as a BBC crew experienced in March 2017

In such cases, the need to rescue tourists can put emergency services in danger and delay their safety plans.

An eruption in Iceland saw a group of tourists avoiding safety limits by hiring a helicopter to try to land at night near the volcano.

In 2010, there were two deaths among tourists in Iceland trying to cross a glacier to reach a volcano.

The study says that civil defence services can be left frustrated, as tourists push into areas from which they could not be easily evacuated.

While the tourist industry might want to encourage such travel, Dr Donovan says it can become a big challenge for authorities in an emergency.

“People break safety regulations. You can’t police the site of a volcano at night.

“Many active volcanic countries face the dilemma of wanting tourists, but also wanting to keep people safe, which creates a difficult conundrum,” said Dr Donovan.

NYTimes Magazine: The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

Screenshot 2018-12-04 at 08.59.41By Brooke Jarvis

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Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing.

It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn’t eating any bugs.

For a moment, Riis was transported to his childhood on the Danish island of Lolland, in the Baltic Sea. Back then, summer bike rides meant closing his mouth to cruise through thick clouds of insects, but inevitably he swallowed some anyway. When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car’s windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn’t see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn’t recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield; he even wondered, vaguely, whether car manufacturers had invented some fancy new coating to keep off insects. But this absence, he now realized with some alarm, seemed to be all around him. Where had all those insects gone? And when? And why hadn’t he noticed?

Riis watched his son, flying through the beautiful day, not eating bugs, and was struck by the melancholy thought that his son’s childhood would lack this particular bug-eating experience of his own. It was, he granted, an odd thing to feel nostalgic about. But he couldn’t shake a feeling of loss. “I guess it’s pretty human to think that everything was better when you were a kid,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t like it when I was on my bike and I ate all the bugs, but looking back on it, I think it’s something everybody should experience.”

I met Riis, a lanky high school science and math teacher, on a hot day in June. He was anxious about not having yet written his address for the school’s graduation ceremony that evening, but first, he had a job to do. From his garage, he retrieved a large insect net, drove to a nearby intersection and stopped to strap the net to the car’s roof. Made of white mesh, the net ran the length of his car and was held up by a tent pole at the front, tapering to a small, removable bag in back. Drivers whizzing past twisted their heads to stare. Riis eyed his parking spot nervously as he adjusted the straps of the contraption. “This is not 100 percent legal,” he said, “but I guess, for the sake of science.”


READ MORE FROM THIS LINK>  What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?

The Observer: Will I have existed?

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The crack appeared a few years ago, and has been creeping towards the town of Kiruna ever since.

“The mines are underneath us,” says Göran Cars. It’s early afternoon but the sun is already setting behind the mountain, colouring the clouds and outlining the town’s most prominent feature: two huge smokestacks. “And you can see the direction of the cracks – coming from the mine, and going straight up to the city centre.”

The mine, Kiirunavaara, is the reason this Swedish town of roughly 20,000 people deep in northern Lapland exists at all. It is the world’s largest iron ore mine, and it dominates both economically and visually, the smokestacks sending up twin plumes of black smoke from the denuded mountain like a kind of Arctic Mordor.

Over a century, the miners have tunnelled so deep into the earth – 2km at some points – that they have now literally undermined the town. The caverns are causing subsidence, weakening the structure of the buildings, and opening a great crack in the earth itself, which grows wider and several metres closer to the city every year. Kiruna is about to be swallowed by the very mine that gave it life.

So, in 2004, a plan was hatched. Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB), the gigantic state-owned company that operates the mine, would simply move the city – houses and all.


It identified a condemned zone threatened by the growing sinkhole, and gave everyone living there three choices: LKAB would move you to a new apartment, buy you out at market rate plus 25%, or, if feasible, load your house on to a flatbed lorry and move it to the new city.

It was Cars who was given the responsibility to plan that new city.

“The basic idea here was to have a town square, because the present town doesn’t have a town square,” Cars said last week at the ribbon-cutting for City Hall, the first building in the new Kiruna. A very modern and very gold building designed by the Danish architects Henning Larsen, its most notable feature is that it has an art gallery built into it – the new Konstmuseet i Norr – a rectangular structure that squats inside the atrium like a cube of potato wrapped in smoked salmon.

Currently, City Hall sits more or less alone in what feels like the middle of nowhere. In fact the site was the former city dump, and then a succession of factories and junkyards known locally as Death Valley. But if Cars is to be believed, by no later than 1 September 2020 there will be an entire town on this spot.

The plans show mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, cinemas, libraries and hotels, radiating in broad avenues from City Hall – and all of it built at the kind of super-dense scale you expect in a capital city, not a sprawling town 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

The scale of the project is unprecedented. Several dozen buildings will be moved by a specially assembled team of experts who have become so good at their jobs that Cars claims it’s now usually cheaper to move a home than to demolish and rebuild. The huge wooden church will be hoisted and moved; other buildings, such as the current city hall and the railway station, will be stripped of aesthetic elements, including lampposts and iron railings, to be incorporated into new structures.

And all of it will be paid for by LKAB. It’s not exactly generosity that is motivating the company. “The law is crystal clear,” Cars says. “The mine is required by Swedish national law to compensate for the structural damage it has caused.”

It’s also about survival. “Part of Kiruna’s absolute problem is that women have been moving away from the town while men have been staying on,” Cars says. He tells of efforts to attract foreign women to marry mineworkers. “Russians were popular. You had ads: ‘Wealthy miners looking for female company’, he says, adding: “This was some time ago.”

The deeper the mine, the more expensive it becomes to remove the iron – and the number of jobs is dropping, too, due to automation. In a globalised age it is increasingly hard to convince young people with university degrees to live deep inside the Arctic Circle.

“Our employees live here,” says Johan Mäkitaavola, project manager of LKAB. “I live in Kiruna. I want to have a nice city to live in. I hope my children will stay here or at least come back when they have studied. We need educated people to move to Kiruna and work.”

To survive, the city needs to diversify. It is already home to a budding space industry, and in the winter there are direct flights from Tokyo and Shanghai for sightseers eager to glimpse the northern lights. It remains impossible, however, to imagine Kiruna without LKAB, and vice versa.

An artist’s impression of a shopping street in the new city.
An artist’s impression of a shopping street in the new Kiruna city centre.

“It’s a big deal,” says Alice Bah Kuhnke, the Swedish minister for culture and democracy, who attended the opening ceremony along with the king of Sweden. “Big. For Swedes, LKAB has almost been part of our DNA – they are so important to the finances of the Swedish state. So for us that’s a really challenging thought, because since it’s such a big deal it’s hard as a politician and as a Swede to really be critical enough.”

Part of that means acknowledging an inconvenient truth – the fact that the new town sits on the territory of the Sami, the indigenous people of Lapland, whose reindeer herding is frequently disrupted by mining. The Sami convene their Swedish parliament in Kiruna – though you wouldn’t know it from the opening ceremony.

Moderna Museet: With the Future Behind Us.

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It’s finally here again. Curated by Joa Ljungberg and Santiago Mostyn, the 2018 edition of The Moderna Exhibition presents the work of nearly forty artists connected to the Swedish art scene, offering both sober and intimate reflections on Swedish society today, on a natural world that is no longer what it once was, and a future that appears to have already begun.

The Moderna Exhibition is a large-scale project that the museum presents once every four years. Several artists in the 2018 edition look back at Swedish history and explore the events that have shaped and reshaped society. Other artists highlight alternative experiences of living in Sweden today. And in the midst of these local standpoints, the exhibition incorporates geographically distant perspectives that, in different ways, impact our lives here and now.

The human body is tangibly present throughout the exhibition – surveilled and registered, caught between legal and geographic boundaries, and shaped by ideologies, technologies, power structures and norms. Also palpable are the remnants of nature, transformed beyond recognition to make way for vast industrial tracts of land where time passes ever more rapidly.

In a more hopeful direction, we encounter the search for an existence and a sexuality unencumbered by patriarchy, consumerism, and religious heritage, with new approaches to understanding oneself as a more integral part of a cosmological whole. The hierarchy of man, animal and plant is reinterpreted and renegotiated in novel ways, opening up the potential for imaginative new forms of communal understanding.

What is The Moderna Exhibition?

The Moderna Exhibition is a recurring exhibition format featuring between thirty and fifty artists. Once every four years, you are invited to experience a comprehensive presentation of important aspects of the contemporary Swedish art scene. The first edition of The Moderna Exhibition took place in 2006 and this fourth edition will feature both a major exhibition and a rich programme of performances, film screenings, and artist talks.

Read more: Performance by Dinis Machado
Read more: Opening day The Moderna Exhibition 2018

Films on The Moderna Exhibition 2018

This playlist collects films produced in connection to The Moderna Exhibition 2018. Here you find documentation of converations and performances as well as lectures and shorter films.

How were the participating artists selected?

To select the artists for the exhibition, the curators of the 2018 edition made an extensive and geographically widespread series of studio visits with artists in and around Sweden. They also organised four seminar days in Malmö, Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Umeå respectively, bringing together some forty curators, scholars, and museum directors to present their insights and reflections around important contemporary tendencies. These seminars were made possible in close collaboration with Malmö Konstmuseum, Göteborgs Konsthall, Bildmuseet in Umeå and the Swedish Arts Grants Committee/Iaspis in Stockholm.

Read more: Research and selection

Publication on the Swedish art scene today

In connection to The Moderna Exhibition, a publication will be co-produced with the Swedish Arts Grants Committee/Iaspis. This book will present the practises of close to sixty artists that make up a vital part of the Swedish art scene today. These practises are partially aligned to the themes of the exhibition, but will also give a broader view of key tendencies.The publication will also include essays that highlight issues of critical importance for art, society, and the planet.

Buy the publication: Moderna Museet’s webshop

What do we mean by “the Swedish art scene”?

Artists active in Sweden today may have a background in one or many other countries and cultures. Some have been living in Sweden for just a few years,  others considerably longer. There are Swedish-born artists based in other parts of the world, and artists who live and work outside of Sweden but did all of their studies here. The boundaries, then, of the “Swedish art scene” do not match the national borders, although within this scene, we find many content-related connections to the Swedish state, its histories, its civic and educational systems, and its relations to the rest of the world.

Participating artists

Meriç Algün, Muhammad Ali, Emanuel Almborg, Ragna Bley, Alfred Boman, Kalle Brolin, Fanny Carinasdotter, Anja Örn & Tomas Örn, Kah Bee Chow, Rebecca Digby, Sven X-et Erixson, Malin Franzén, Mark Frygell, Erik Mikael Gudrunsson, Thomas Hämén, Ingela Ihrman, Sara Jordenö & Amber Horning, Hanni Kamaly, Mårten Lange, Helena Lund Ek, Dinis Machado, Éva Mag, Eric Magassa, Tor-Finn Malum Fitje with Thomas Hill, Britta Marakatt-Labba, Fatima Moallim, Åsa Norberg & Jennie Sundén, Ida Persson, Anna-Karin Rasmusson, John Skoog, Anders Sunna, Cara Tolmie, Anna Uddenberg, Sophie Vuković, Knutte Wester, John Willgren and Christine Ödlund.

Read more: Participating artists

BBC: One Simple Reason we aren’t acting faster on climate change.

Screenshot 2018-11-27 at 08.11.54

We’ve all seen how powerful images can make abstract crises feel concrete. Think of the photographs of a Chinese man blocking a column of tanks a day after the Tiananmen Square massacre, a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing from napalm in 1972 or of 7-year-old Amal Hussain wasting away from hunger in Yemen. When done well, photographs help people around the world make sense of unseen disasters.

Now close your eyes and try to picture climate change – one of our generation’s most pressing crises. What comes to mind? Is it smoke coming out of power plants? Solar panels? A skinny polar bear?

That’s problematic, says psychologist Adam Corner, director of Climate Visuals, a project that aims to revitalise climate imagery. “Images without people on them are unable to tell a human story,” says Corner.

Researchers have found that images like this one lack a humanising element

Researchers have found that images like this one lack a humanising element that makes them compelling… (Credit: Getty)

…compared to a photograph like this, which shows the local, human impact of pollution

…compared to a photograph like this, which shows the local, human impact of pollution (Credit: Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR)

And that kind of imagery might be a big part of why so few of us are prioritising climate action.

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Climate change has an inherent image problem. While you can clearly visualise plastic pollution or deforestation, climate change has a less obvious mugshot: the gases that cause global warming, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are colourless, while impacts are slow-paced and not always visually striking.

So in the 1990s, reporters, politicians and others began using the sort of imagery that would help us begin to grasp the situation. That idea helped us understand the subject then. But it now needs revamping. For one thing, climate impacts are more evident now: take the frequency of wildfires, coastal flooding, droughts and heat waves.

Because most people aren’t that familiar with how coral should normally look

Because most people aren’t that familiar with how coral should normally look, researchers found that an image like this one, of coral bleaching, had less impact… (Credit: Getty)

a real person doing research on climate change’s impact on the coral

…than an image like this one, which shows a real person doing research on climate change’s impact on the coral (Credit: NPS)

But another reason to update climate change’s visuals is that, for the general public, ‘traditional’ climate images aren’t that compelling.

Wondering if there was a better way to tell climate change stories, Climate Visuals tested what effect iconic climate images – like that lonely polar bear – really had.

Although iconic, an image of an animal most people have never seen

Although iconic, an image of an animal most people have never seen, living in a place they have never been, may not be as effective… (Credit: Getty)

The search for Hurricane Katrina survivors

…as this image of the search for Hurricane Katrina survivors, which shows the impact of climate change in a more recognisable environment (Credit: Master Sgt Bill Huntington)

After asking people at panel groups in London and Berlin and through an online survey with over 3,000 people, the team concluded that people were more likely to empathise with images that showed real faces – such as workers installing solar panels, emergency respondents helping victims of a typhoon or farmers building more efficient irrigation systems to combat drought.

The researchers found that images like this one often don’t make an impact on the viewer

The researchers found that images like this one often don’t make as much of an impact on the viewer… (Credit: Getty)

as this kind of image

…as this kind of image, which participants thought was an intriguing take on solar energy that encouraged them to want to know more (Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL)

It also helped when photographs depicted settings that were local or familiar to the viewer, and when they showed emotionally powerful impacts of climate change.

Respondents in their study were also cynical of ‘staged’ pictures… and of images with politicians.

Climate Visuals’ quest is not entirely new. For over a decade, scholars have analysed the way NGOs and governments represent climate change visually, examined how the public reacts to different types of images and come up with new approaches. What it’s done differently, though, is to create the world’s largest climate image library based on those lessons.

Researchers found that a picture like this one, which highlights an individual behaviour

Researchers found that a picture like this one, which highlights an individual behaviour, can create a defensive reaction in the viewer… (Credit: Getty)

Pork meat production (Credit: Qilai Shen/Panos Pictures)

..while a striking image like this, which shows high-emissions meat production at scale, was more effective (Credit: Qilai Shen/Panos Pictures)

And for better or for worse, it’s no longer that difficult to find human-led photographs of the consequences of climate change.

“The stories we need to tell are all around us in a way they were not 20 years ago when the polar bear became an icon,” says Corner.

Diego Arguedas Ortiz is a science and climate change reporter for BBC Future. He is @arguedasortiz on Twitter.