Wave Symbolism

Storytellers have long utilised the symbolism of dreams, which apply equally when we’re awake. Around the world, we all have a similar visceral reaction to forests, the colour red, skulls… In fiction these universal symbols indeed say something deeper about our collective anxieties and fixations.

What is the universal symbol of climate change? I can tell you already. It’s waves. I listened to an interview with an Australian climate change scientist who has recently decided to open up about her climate crisis anxiety. Other climate change scientists have thanked her for her honesty. Sounds like they’re all having these dreams. Dreams about massive waves crashing onto shore. In some dreams this particular scientist is sucked in by the wave; in others she’s trying to run away. 

This imagery is echoed in a British cartoon that came through my feed last month: three waves in increasing order of magnitude, the smallest labeled ‘Pandemic’, the next labeled ‘Brexit’, the biggest labeled ‘Climate Change’.

If you haven’t joined us already, when you start having nightmares about waves, then you’ll know you’re viscerally feeling our climate crisis.

Mists and Magic chosen and edited by Dorothy Edwards illustrated by Jill Bennett wave
Mists and Magic chosen and edited by Dorothy Edwards illustrated by Jill Bennett
Art Lover (Tired Museum Feet), Stevan Dohanos, 1956
Art Lover (Tired Museum Feet), Stevan Dohanos, 1956
William Bouguereau - The Wave 1896
William Bouguereau – The Wave 1896
NACHTMERRIE OVER NEDERLAND (1945) L.J. Jordan the tidal wave
NACHTMERRIE OVER NEDERLAND (1945) L.J. Jordan the tidal wave

SEE ALSO

Ocean symbolism

Header illustration: 1917, illustrator unknown to me