The Insidious Allure of Climate Change In The Antarctic

May 2, 2018 by Lisa Scarpa

Climate Change is a subject that is widely known and talked about, yet people seem to continue to be in denial about the factual results of human pollution to the earth. Scientists, photographers, journalists, celebrities, and government officials from all over the world have all reached out to inform the people on the devastation that we are causing the planet and yet we seem to put it aside. "t won’t happen to my generation..." an often-heard phrase that is wrong. It's happening as we speak. 

However, one thing that is constant is finding the beauty in destruction. It helps form a gateway of understanding, to embrace the disaster, to grasp the immensity of the situation. Photographer Paolo Pellegrin, who joined NASA to document the changing Antarctic last November, did just that. Although this territory was not Pellegrin's usual surroundings or comfort zone, it wasn't necessarily as foreign as we think. He spent years documenting the suffering and conflict in the Arab World. The Antarctic is yet another conflict we are battling and the icebergs melting and rising sea levels are just another type of battleground to document. 

“I have photographed conflicts for many years; things that man does to man. Yes there is tragedy but there is also a form of resilience, which can express itself in many ways; in an act of survival, courage, honour or love,” he says. “And you could say that the warming Arctic – on another order of magnitude and scale – is another conflict. Here, man isn’t present but climate change is a result of human activity and human ideas: Endless growth which has no limits.”

The annual IceBridge expedition by NASA started back in 2009 and is part of an 11-year campaign using satellites and other instruments to help scientists gather data, but most famously known, the ICESat. This past November trip presented the first-ever close-up images of the huge Larsen C ice shelf, that unfortunately broke way from the Antarctic Peninsula in July 2017 and is now loose in the Weddell Sea. The data has not yet been made available from November, it may take years to analyze. 

According to NASA Goddard scientist Brooke Medley, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is experiencing rapid warming and substantial ice mass loss, designating it as a “region vulnerable to change”. Meanwhile, western Queen Maud Land – a vast region of eastern Antarctica – is experiencing an “unprecedented” increase in snowfall and while this serves to offset sea level rise by some degree, it won’t halt it altogether.” 

“From up there, it’s ecstasy in front of the magnificent. I think I understood what the romantic notion of the sublime was: It’s not only the absolute beauty of these landscapes, it’s the sensation of finding yourself in front of a presence that speaks of eternity,” says Pellegrin. “I knew I was looking at something exceedingly beautiful – like a Sistine Chapel of nature – a beauty that is hard to grasp but which also contains something which is not well.” - Paolo Pellegrin





All Photo Credits: Paolo Pellegrin

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