Slow Violence

This article discusses Rob Nixon’s notion of ‘slow violence’, as described in his article ‘Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor’, through the form of a photo essay, in which four photographs are used to represent an environmental concern of slow violence. Thereafter the four photographs are discussed and narrated, to bring into focus the consequences, damages and effects of the slow violence.

Rob Nixon’s notion of slow violence describes the concept of violence that is not a sudden, event or act that is spectacular and visible, but one that happens gradually and destructively over time with little to no visibility (Nixon 2011:2). This sort of violence is often not considered as violence at all, events such as deforestation, species loss, water pollution, climate change and radioactive effects, to name a few (Nixon 2011:2). Nixon states that these events are some of the most challenging and critical of our time yet little attention is paid to them. He questions the way in which these disasters are portrayed, arguing that there is a need to narrate them more effectively and dramatically to create public and political intervention (Nixon 2011:3).


The human race is susceptible to temperature change. When we are feeling cold, we make use of heat to feel warm. Heaters are one example. Oil heaters are powered by electricity which, in many countries, is made using fossil fuels such as coal. The burning of these fossil fuels is one of the main causes of pollution and the destruction of the ozone layer and ultimately, climate change and global warming.

Fireplaces also help to keep us warm in colder weather. However, using fireplaces involve cutting down trees for the wood to be used as fuel for the fire. This aids in deforestation as entire areas of trees are cut down for use as firewood. The burning of the wood also releases smoke which contributes to pollution of the atmosphere as well as effecting the ozone layer further.

The destruction of the ozone layer is the main cause of global warming. This increase in the overall, average temperature of the earth results in more severe weather patterns. Droughts, as well as heatwaves are becoming more and more common. These climatic events spark larger, more severe wildfires, which are happening more often. With these extreme fires, more forests, even those that are protected, are destroyed. Entire biomes are wiped out and often can never recover.

These fires release extensive amounts of smoke and ash into the atmosphere which means more pollution resulting in further destruction of the ozone layer, more lung diseases, acid rain and more economic loss. These fires often wipe out entire communities, which means not only loss of property, jobs and financial means but life, across all species. These events also do not only effect the areas around where the fires have taken place. The ash from such fires are carried by winds across the globe, grounding flights, causing high rates of diseases such as asthma in communities and destroying agriculture and the natural environment as a whole.

This is just one example of slow violence, as through the continual use of unsustainable, destructive forms of power, the human race is aiding the damage of the natural environment. By trying to keep ourselves warm, we are slowly but surely setting the whole Earth on fire, with damaging consequences. But such events are not happening all at once in one severe, shocking action. Over time the frequency of disasters like wildfires are becoming more, the increase of them in itself causing more. A viscous cycle that is happening constantly, slowly and silently. One that can be stopped, but only by humans ourselves.



Colorado Wildfires: the Aftermath. 2012. [O]. Available:
Accessed 22 April 2016.

Fireplaces. 2015. [O]. Available: 2015/05/Fireplace-4.jpg
Accessed 22 April 2016.

Nixon, R. 2011. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Texas Wildfires. [Sa]. [O]. Available:
Accessed 22 April 2016.


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