Canaries in the climate coal mine: Climate change and COVID-19 as meta-crisis


  • Laura Robinson Santa Clara University



For many Brazilians and Americans, the year 2020 was marked by unprecedented environmental catastrophes alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. In Brazil and the United States, the impact of these existential threats was particularly acute in the third quarter of the year with both countries experiencing record-breaking environmental disasters and high mortality rates from the virus. The research examines a media flashpoint on the eve of the 2020 U.S. presidential election: a transnational discussion between Brazilians and Americans hosted by three flagship papers in Brazil and the U.S.: O Estado de São Paolo, Folha de São Paulo, and the New York Times. Engaging with one another across the three digital discourse fora, Brazilian and American contributors discuss the double onslaught of the pandemic and climate change. For them, the simultaneous threats of extreme climate events and viral contamination amplify each other, generating a traumatic sense of meta-crisis. This sense of meta-crisis encompasses a collective acknowledgment of the breakdown of two key societal institutions in both Brazil and the United States meant to combat these existential crises: science and the media. The perception of these institutions as dysfunctional further exacerbates the collective cultural trauma among Brazilians and Americans. In making these connections, this article puts theories of cultural trauma into dialogue with emergent scholarship on the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change from a cross-national perspective.

Author Biography

Laura Robinson, Santa Clara University

Associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Santa Clara University




How to Cite

Robinson, L. (2021). Canaries in the climate coal mine: Climate change and COVID-19 as meta-crisis. First Monday, 26(11).