Sunday, May 22, 2011

Disappearing world: 100 places under threat from climate change

100 Places to Go Before They Disappear
by Patrick Drew, Archbishop Desmond Tutu

From TheGuardian

A new book highlights 100 areas of the planet that could vanish because of global warming – and encourages us to visit them before they do.
Leo Hickman reviews the book – and is mesmerised by some of the places

Horace, the Roman poet, was probably not foretelling the age of budget airlines when he remarked more than 2,000 years ago:
"They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea."

Nonetheless, it is a poignant observation for our age; an age when the spectre of climate change casts a shadow over our carbon-intensive lifestyles, not least our voracious appetite to travel in fossil-fuelled planes.
A new book called 100 Places to Go Before They Disappear is, on one level, an awesome collection of photography beautiful and heavy enough to grace any coffee table.
But it also is a mournful tease: a mesmerising reminder of the places around the planet that are now gravely threatened by the impacts of climate change – rising sea levels, desertification, flooding, deep thaws – predicted to come to pass over the next century as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

With 80% of the country less than one metre above sea level, the residents of the Maldives’ 1,200 tropical islands have long been aware of their vulnerability to rising sea levels.
In 2008, it was announced that the government would start diverting a percentage of the nation’s income from tourism into a fund to buy a new homeland.
The deep irony that the island nation’s economy relies heavily on tourists arriving in polluting aircraft has not been lost on the islanders.
Photograph: Baa Atoll in the Maldives, where rising sea levels pose a serious threat
(Getty/National Geographic)

The book originally started out as a photographic exhibition timed to coincide with the (failed) Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009.
The exhibition then went on tour.
The stated aim is to "convey a clear message: climate change is a threat to our way of life and to Earth as we know it".
It goes on to say that the "most important single challenge facing us is how to stop burning coal, oil, and natural gas, all of which contribute significantly to global warming".
It doesn't explain, however, how we square this challenge with going to see these places before they "disappear".

Niggles about the book's contradictory title aside, it's the photographs inside that count.
Their intention is to remind us what wonders we stand to lose through our inaction and disinterest.
As Desmond Tutu says in the foreword: "We have developed a temporal and physical disconnection from the resources that sustain us, and from our impact on them . . .
In short, the consequences of our actions are delayed or hidden, so we assume they are waived."

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