How to get people in inner city areas to connect to climate change and motivate them to act? To not see climate change and its impact on the environment as an issue separate from their lives?
Artist Olafur Eliasson has partnered up with scientist Minik Rosing to create the outdoor installation, ‘Ice Watch London’ – currently on display – to address this urgent issue. The installation consists of 24 blocks of free-floating ice originating from the Greenland Ice Sheet, that was freighted and positioned on Bankside, outside the Tate Modern, London.
Eliasson’s ‘Ice Watch’ has had previous iterations, first in Copenhagen’s city square in 2014 to coincide with the publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s ‘Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change’. The Paris version was at the Place du Panthéon in 2015 for the UN Climate Conference COP21. For the London ‘Ice Watch’ Eliasson has partnered with ‘Julie’s Bicycle’ to assess the carbon impact of the project and how best to minimise it if repeated in the future.
Fished out of the Nuuk Kangerlua fjord, each block weighs between 1.5 and 6 tonnes. The Greenland Ice Sheet loses thousands of these blocks of ice throughout the year. The ice sheet took millions of years to form, and it’s melting at an accelerating rate due to global warming.
Far from the source it’s difficult for people to imagine the melting of the ice sheet, much less the scale at which it’s happening. Eliasson hopes the project will encourage people to connect with the issue not through facts, figures or watching videos from a distance. He wants people to have direct access to this ancient ice – to feel it, listen to it, taste it, touch it, sense it. To watch it as it melts with the eyes of the heart, mind and emotions.
We are not distinct from climate change, we are part of it.
As Danish writer Josefine Klougart wrote: 'Rather than seeing culture as the indication of a difference between humanity and nature, we need to see it as the manifestation of an intimate connection. When we speak, we are nature speaking; when we think, we are nature thinking; when we control nature outside of us, we are nature controlling something within itself.'