Human Nature

Oerjan Ellingvaag

2005 - Ongoing

An ongoing project about human impact and global warming.

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  • Two persons can be seen at the entrance of the glacier ice cave owned and maintained by the Carlen family. The ice cave at the mouth of the Rhone Glacier is covered every year with huge sheets of fleece blankets. to slow down the inevitable melting of the glacier due to warmer climate.

  • Car traffic heading up the I15 Highway through San Bernardino Valley in California. One fifth of the CO2 emissions in the US comes from commercial and private vehicles. California has long been the leader in incentives and strict rules to combat the emissions.

  • Swedish Eva Håkansson is the world's fastest climate activist. Her electric motorcycle has done 248 miles per hour at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and she is on track to get 300 mph.

  • Houses on St. Charles street on fire, while firemen from all over USA only can watch the houses burn. Helicopters are dropping water in an attemt to control the raging fires in the aftermath of Hurricane Kathrina.

  • A man gathers for household use by the shore in Ilulissat. According to researchers at the Danish Meterological Institute, the Greenland ice sheet is shrinking at an alarming speed. Nearly ten cubic kilometres of ice melts every day, dumping freshwater into the ocean. The ice sheet plays an important role in cooling down the planet, as 90 percent of sunlight is reflected back out into the atmosphere. Losing the Greenland ice due to man made global warming will rise sea levels by up to 20 feet, disrupt the ocean currents by diluting the salinity and accelerate the heating of the planet.

  • Roughnecks drilling a well north of Galveston in Texas, hoping to strike oil at 14240 feet. According to BP, the total world proven oil reserves has now reached 1700.1 billion barrels, enough to meet 52.5 years of global production. That is, if the world is still habitable. If we were to burn all the proven reserves, it would be at least five times more than needed to push the planet past the two degree limit.

  • A tourist swims with a snorkel among severely damaged coral reefs outside Cairns in Australia. On August 11th 2015, the australian conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the country’s climate goal; reduce carbon emissions by 26-28 percent within year 2030. That’s well beyond the goals of countries like USA and China, and the plan drew immediate criticism from the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Island, Tony de Brum. “If the rest of the world followed Australia’s lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear,” he stated. “So would my country, and the other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia’s doorstep.” Tony Abbott famously declared getting rid of the carbon tax as his greatest achievement for women, claiming the tax cut would save every household 550 australian dollars every year. Australia is a big coal exporter. Of 459 million tonnes coal mined in 2013, more than 335 million tonnes were exported. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland in Australia is the largest living colony of organisms on Earth, spanning 2.300 kilometres. An important nursery and food source for marin life, the reefs are now dying due to warmer oceans and acidification due to CO2.

  • Lights from apartments in the Stuyvesant Town- Peter Cooper Village breaks up the blue twilight in New York.
    “New York City is a global leader when it comes to taking on climate change and reducing our environmental footprint. It’s time that our investments catch up—and divestment from coal is where we must start,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday September 29th 2015, as he launched a campaign to remove the city’s $160 million pension funds from coal investments.
    The Mayor has already said he would reduce greenhouse emissions in New York with 40% by 2030 and ultimately with 80% by 2050.
    He is not the first New York Mayor to act on climate change. In a reaction to the G. W. Bush rejection of the Kyoto protocol back in 2005, former Mayor Michael J. Bloomberg was an early adapter of the “US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement” initiated by then Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. 1060 US Mayors ended up signing the agreement where they pledged to go meet or beat the greenhouse emission target in the Kyoto Protocol.

  • The Rockaways were especially hard hit by the Hurricane Sandy, with storm surge, hurricane winds and uncontrollable fires devastating the beach community.

  • Poultry farmer Mohammad Korban Ali is depressed. During a heatwave earlier in the summer one third of his chickens died from heat stroke. In August a flood drowned half of the hens that had survived the heat. - It has been a bad summer, he says.
    The low lying areas of Bangladesh are regularly flooded by the melting glaciers of Himalaya. They also suffer regularly from drought caused by warmer weather. With rising sea levels the farmland gets destroyed by salt water intrusion.

  • Mahamoud Anja fled drought and hunger in the 1980s. In 2003 he fled again, this time from the Darfur genocide. Two of his sons was killed in a sudanese air attack, and the Janjaweed was approaching. Mahamoud gathered what was left of his family and fled to the Iridimi refugee camp in Chad. Despondent, having left everything behind, he says; I’m no longer a man. The conflict in Darfur with its ethnic cleansing is also a direct result of climate change. Farmers and herders are pitted against each other over diminishing pasture and resources. The barren land is taken over by the Sahara desert, which has expanded 60 miles over the last 40 years. Rainfall is down by 16-30 percent. Crops are failing. With further global warming, conflicts like Darfur are likely to be repeated on even larger scale.

  • A bulldozer passes through one of the enormous tailings ponds in Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. The ponds are among the largest man made structures in the world, spanning more than 175 square kilometres. They pose an added challenge to the oil sands production: even after ended production, it can take up to 30 years for the silt in the ponds to dry up. The contaminated water is toxic to any living creatures. The Athabasca oil sands deposit is among the largest in the world. The bitumen, also commonly named tar (hence tar sands), contains lots of hydrocarbons, but is notoriously hard to extract. For every 100 BTU of energy extracted, 70 BTU is lost in the process. In 2011 alone, the oil sands operations in Canada produced 55 million tons of ‘greenhouse gas emissions’. That’s eight percent of Canada’s total emissions.

  • In this 2011 image, tourists look up at the Founding Fathers inside the US Capitol.

  • A loggerhead sea turtle in Akumal Bay in Yucatan. Endangered sea turtles have been protected in Mexico since 1990, and both the government and private volunteers have done great work preserving their habitat and helping the turtles.
    Now the turtles are in trouble again, and protected habitats can do little to help them. Global warming cause sea level rise, which erode the beaches where the turtles lay their eggs. Warmer weather also affect the gender of the turtle hatchlings. Turtles are reptiles, and the gender is determined by the temperature in the nest. The cooler area of a nest will typically produce more males, while the warmer part will become females. On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, nests are now producing between 70 and 90 percent female hatchlings. Coral reefs are a vital food source for sea turtles, and the Caribbean region has lost fifty percent of its corals since 2005 largely due to warmer oceans.

  • Desert Shores resident Dottie Friedley on the boat landing in front of her house. The house sits next to the Salton Sea, which after years of drought and agricultural run-offs now is a brine-like toxic body of water. The Salton Sea was once a vacation destination for celebrities and the rich. People who live there now are unable to sell and move.