People in Switzerland are taking matters into their own hands, becoming creative with their efforts to combat climate change.
In a recent tweet from NBC Left Field, members of a community in the Swiss Alps are seen covering glaciers with ginormous white tarps. They hope the tarps will help reflect sunlight, which could reduce the amount of melting caused by rising temperatures.
The residents describe in the video their fear that the water they receive from the glaciers might soon disappear. Glaciers have long been a dependable water source for regions all over the world, but not anymore.
A 2018 article in the Washington Post describes how a group of people living adjacent to Rhone Glacier haul tarps through the mountains each year prior to the start of summer. Rising temperatures, as well as a longer summer season, means glaciers are likely to face rapid melting in coming years.
But can blankets really help save the glaciers?
Although it isn’t the most comprehensive solution, it may actually work. Swiss glaciologist David Volken told NDTV that the blankets could reduce ice melt by as much as 70 percent. It’s just a temporary fix, though. Volken estimates that by the end of the century only about 10 percent of the ice volume will remain.
The blankets, however, appear to be slowing the pace of melting, giving communities some time to adapt and consider alternate sources of water.
Klaus Thymann, an environmental scientist and a photographer, married two interests to make an impact on the world as the founder of Project Pressure, an English charity organization that spotlights the world’s vanishing glaciers through poignant photographs and videos. As the organization’s director, Thymann works in collaboration with other artists to depict firsthand the environmental impact of climate change. This month, Project Pressure’s latest collaboration is a traveling exhibition, “When Records Melt,” which will make its debut in the Netherlands at Unseen Amsterdam, an international photography fair held annually at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam.
Unseen Amsterdam, now in its seventh year, draws attention to the changing medium of photography and highlights the work of new and emerging artists. “When Records Melt” is Project Pressure’s latest photographic exploration of the cryosphere, which will include photographs of the Antarctic Peninsular and the Rhône glacier in Switzerland, captured as part of the expedition project, “Shroud,” which Thymann was personally involved in.
In an interview with GlacierHub, Thymann described his latest work on “Shroud” at Rhône Glacier. “It deals with adaptation rather than mitigation. We are past the point where we can mitigate climate change. We will still have to try to limit carbon emissions, but we need to deal with the consequences,” he said.
“Shroud” explores how forced adaptation is happening at Rhône Glacier, where locals turn a profit from tourists who come to see an ice grotto carved into the glacier. One featured image from the exhibition shows the Rhône glacier shrouded in thermal blankets by a small business to prevent the glacier from further melting and to preserve the glacier as a tourist attraction.
“It is absurd and I guess that is part of the point. It should also be a call to action,” Thymann said. A review in Next Nature describes how the glacier has become a commodity, noting that the result is “a surreal, nearly abstract image of a landscape that once was natural.”
Although Thymann has not discussed the main messages of “Shroud” in detail with the contributing photographer on the project, Simon Norfolk, he says their main hope is for people to be surprised and intrigued by the images.
“Generally, I hope to raise questions rather than anything else,” Thymann told GlacierHub.
Apart from working on photographic exhibitions, Project Pressure also works hand-in-hand with the scientific community to pioneer new technological developments in the field of glacier monitoring. It is recognized as an official contributor to the Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers, for example, and is a partner of the World Glacier Monitoring Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
GlacierHub has also previously featured Thymann’s work on MELT, an open source digital atlas that allows the public to visually tour the world’s receding glaciers to better understand the ongoing impact of rising global temperatures.
When asked about the inspiration behind his work, Thymann said he reads widely on contemporary issues as well as science. More importantly, when he is out in the field, he says he looks for the stories behind the pictures that are waiting to be told.
“For me capturing images is not relevant, storytelling is,” Thymann explained.
For Thymann, the greatest success of Project Pressure is seeing how the artists he has collaborated with engage with the subject matter of glaciers and climate change through their journey of creating art.
“I think all combined, the works are very strong and offer a real unique platform, and that makes me proud,” Thymann said.
On display in Amsterdam from September 21 to 23, this exhibition is not to be missed by glacier lovers. To support Project Pressure in their continued work, you may also donate at project-pressure.org.