Magnetism is a commonly understood phenomenon yet, like water for example, when it is looked at in scientific detail it is of more enigmatic nature. Magnetic fields emanate on cosmic and quantum scales, we are familiar with magnetic fields because we can also observe them on a human scale. Children play with magnets and readily accept this strange, invisible force when first encountered and for many adults it is enough to know that they attract or repel. Magnets are ubiquitous in everyday life, they are in most people’s pockets, on their laps, desks, in their ears, and so on. Magnetic fields are like an invisible glue that hold systems together. Without the Earth’s magnetic field there would be no life on earth. Without magnetic fields there would be no electricity that powers modern life.
Considering important moments in history that led to the understanding of magnetism and how it then changed the course of science and culture, I will argue that the earth’s magnetic field can be seen as a metaphor that can shed light on contemporary culture including the environmental crisis we are watching unfold.