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24 designers devise 24 different ways to depict climate catastrophe

The Washington Post Magazine’s chilling mega-issue on climate change comes accompanied by 24 separate covers.

Our reliance on fossil fuels has destroyed our planet. Today it’s a story of erratic weather, but tomorrow it will lead to water shortages, problems growing crops, and more. We must stop climate change if we want to survive, but the constant stream of headlines around the issue can be overwhelming–to the point of numbness.

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For this week’s issue, Washington Post Magazine wanted to snap us all out of our climate haze using its cover design. The single issue features 24 covers in total–the work of 29 people, including both in-house and commissioned art and photo directors, artists, and photographers. Each cover sits next to a different climate change story the Washington Post ran over the course of the past year. A man wades through the floods of Hurricane Florence, with a hat over his face. A wilted lily and a dead bee demonstrate the fall of agriculture. An underwater world representing an inundated planet where the polar ice caps have melted.

“A successful magazine cover accomplishes a few things: It elevates the importance of an article; it finds a way to grab your attention; it persuades you to learn more about the topic at hand,” explains the magazine in its forward. “Which is why a series of magazine covers may be the perfect way to read about climate change — a topic where the grim particulars all too often seem to run together. Each of the climate stories within the issue are critical to understanding the peril facing Earth. In other words, each is worthy of its own magazine cover.”

Yes, it’s a stunt. And yes, the magazine still only has one actual cover on newsstands. But it’s a great showcase of the way design and art can drive home a familiar point in an entirely new way–and besides, the sentiment makes sense. Climate change threatens the survival of our species and countless others. In that light, it’s hard to reason why magazine covers would highlight anything else.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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