Climate change is happening right now. Its impact on the natural world is relentless, and year on year we plunge deeper into a crisis that could spell the end of civilisation as we know it. In the UK, it could be said that we have not experienced the full force of climate change compared with other parts of the world, such as the Equatorial regions, but this crisis is still on our doorstep too. We are experiencing increasingly turbulent and unpredictable weather conditions and this is only going to get worse.
Another major issued caused by climate change is sea level rise, which is something that we should be incredibly concerned about, as UK is an island after all. Rising sea levels will claim homes, roads and fields around the coast of the UK. Our boarders need billions of pounds in investment for defence strategies, but we can also do our best to fight against climate change so that sea level rise is less of a threat to our shores. Sea level rise is caused by thermal expansion, melting glaciers and the loss of the Greenland and Antartica ice sheets. This damage has largely been done already, but there’s still time to make a change.
To raise an awareness to this crisis, artist, Pekka Niittyvirta has created an interactive art installation in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. The Helsinki born artist has a history of dealing with consequences of human actions in his work, with projects relating to society, technology, environment and the financial market.
Niittyvirta came together with Timo Aho to create an installation called ‘Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W)’ which uses a series of sensors on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides of the Scottish archipelago that interact with the tide. The sensors activate three synchronised beams of light that cut across the landscape to represent a scientific estimate of the level that the sea could rise to if the earth continues to warm. The installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with nature and its long term effects, with the ambition of highlighting how the rising sea levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and land usage in the future.
The location of the installation was chosen to show the relevance of this threat to the low lying island archipelago of Uist in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. This project also holds particular importance to Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy where the installation is situated, as the centre cannot develop on its existing site due to predicted storm surge sea levels.
Niittyvirta and Aho hopes that this installation can help us visualise the reality of the situation, and prompt us to take action before we begin to lose our shores to sea level rise: “Art has the potential to convey scientific data, complex ideas and concepts, in a powerful way that words or graphs fall short of. Hopefully, through this work, people can better visualise and relate to [the] reality,”.
Whether it is on our shores, or on the other side of the world, we have an obligation to fight against climate change. We owe it to those that are suffering from the effects of sea level rise now, and for the masses that will suffer in the future if we continue to be inactive.