Those who walked past the Tate Modern in London, or visited the English capital towards the end of last December, had the opportunity to contemplate a different work of art. The 30 large blocks, which weighed about 45 tons, were placed outside Tate Modern and also around the city, and left on display to melt away.
The artwork, by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Greenland geologist Professor Minik Rosing, used large blocks harvested from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord, in Greenland. “Ice Watch London”, as the project is called, aims to bring public attention to climate changes and to change collective behavior on the issue.
In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Eliasson says he’s studying behavioral psychology and looking into the consequences of the experience. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So, to create the massive behavioral change needed (to tackle climate change), we have to emotionalize that data, make it physically tangible.”
This interaction is the purpose of the Project. People are free to feel it, climb on it, scramble up and even lick the ice blocks. All this is planned to make people think about the devastation caused by global warming. Each ice block was fished out of the sea after it had broken away from the Greenland ice sheet.
The artist transported them in fridge containers to the UK. The blocks, which weigh between 1.5 to six tons, were chosen by their format, so that their structure would be unlikely to break during transport.
This is not the first time that Eliasson and Rosing put this project together. It also took place in Copenhagen in 2014, then in Paris in 2015. Each installation was programmed to match a significant step in the war against climate change: in Copenhagen, “Ice Watch” marked the publication of the UN’s fifth evaluation (Report on Climate Change), and in 2015, the installation was followed by discussions around the COP21 that resulted in the Paris Agreement.
The material produced to follow the “Ice Watch London” exhibition highlights that the continental ice layer in Greenland was produced by snowfall throughout millions of years. This glacial ice flows slowly towards the ocean, where it merges, creating the glaciers, or breaks off, creating icebergs. The amount of ice lost on the edges used to be similar to the accumulation of new snow every year, but global warming broke the balance – nowadays, not all lost ice is replaced.
Currently, the amount of ice lost in Greenland is about 200 to 300 billion tons yearly - and this amount may keep rising. Furthermore, the country has a significant influence on the global climate. One way that the ice layer regulates temperatures is by reflecting solar energy back into space. Fresh snow reflects up to 90% of solar radiation. However, this reflection is decreasing due to warmer temperatures, which melt and reshape the snow and ice.
The water melting from the ice sheets also increases sea levels by approximately 0,012 inches each year, and this amount is rising. If all the ice in Greenland melts, the sea level could rise up to 23 feet. By reducing carbon emissions in a faster and more significant way, the speed of sea rise could be reduced as well. A slower increase of the sea level would make it easier, cheaper and less destructive to adapt.
In light of these facts, the UN prepared, in 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 specific targets to be developed by the member countries of the 2030 Agenda. Goal 13 emphasizes the importance of investing in urgent measures to fight climate changes and its consequences.
Goal 13 also aims to implement the developed countries’ commitment to mobilize annually US$ 100 billion as of 2020, to attend the needs of developing countries and fully put Green Climate Fund actions in place, financing policies and programs to fight the challenge of protecting the environment from human damaging actions to flora and fauna species.
How about you, what do you think about Eliasson e Rosing project? Do you feel ready to change your habits and actively help preserving the environment?