For most of the past ten years, Kadir van Lokhitsyn I have been using photography to document the climate crisis and explore its meaning for the future. Since encountering Panama by chance during a reporting trip, the Dutch photojournalist has been documenting the effects of rising sea levels worldwide. Working closely with scientists, while learning a lot about human migration and tides, van Lohuizen managed to visually prove what so many experts have been warning for years: our coastline is in danger.
His work spanned 11 countries and was used in speeches at the United Nations and the Paris Climate Summit, and was filmed into TV series, books and multiple exhibitions. One is currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York, high tide, Highlighting how island cities will be affected by the upcoming changes.
His book, After the flood, A comprehensive understanding of the slow climate change that is happening on every continent-and how it affects the people living there. Although facts have proved that some countries are good at adopting forward-looking policies, including relocation strategies, many countries refuse to recognize that sea level rise is only a regional issue. Van Lohuizen’s work clearly points out the close connection between civilization and the ocean, challenging the audience to think more critically about the future.
Do you know that this project will take so many people away?
I started this from 2011 to 2012 as a short story. I am studying contemporary immigrants in the Americas, traveling by land from the tip of Chile to the tip of northern Alaska for a year to see why people migrate.
When I interviewed people in the San Blas Islands, Panama, they said to me, “We are evacuating because the sea level is rising. “I’m a little confused, because, you know, I’m talking to them on the ocean floor, say six feet below sea level. That was 10 years ago, and I knew that sea level rise was an upcoming issue, but I didn’t realize it had It’s a question. I started to study different parts of the world, if there are emergencies elsewhere. The biggest challenge is how do you visualize things that are not yet visible?
So, how do you turn it into a strong image that people can understand?
This requires a lot of research, because I want to find areas where people may have realized this is a problem, such as Pacific countries or Bangladesh. I really want to talk about this on a global scale.
I actually think I will end this project in 2015 because it feels like I am starting to repeat myself. How many islands can you show, or how many eroded coastlines? At first it was a collaboration with the “New York Times” and later turned into an exhibition. I traveled and participated in the climate summit in Paris. Eventually, the Dutch public television found me. This allows me to go back to some places I have been, and sometimes I find the same people.
I have worked a lot with scientists. I definitely have to adjust my working methods early in the story, because you know, usually, as a photographer, you work in light. I quickly discovered that if I wanted to visualize it, I had to work with Tide. If you see that the land has been flooded at high tide, it is not difficult to imagine what it would mean if the sea surface rose permanently by three or six feet. This is not a lot. Whether the sea level is rising is not a problem either. When is this a question.
When do people decide to relocate?
You might think that when there is permanent water in your house, the problem really becomes urgent, but it starts much earlier. If sea water floods the land and then often does not recede, people can no longer grow crops because the soil will be salinized and drinking water will become salty. This is enough to become a reason for relocation. This is usually not coordinated by the government, but made by the people themselves.
Where do people move? Are they going to the city? Will they go to other countries?
It depends on where you are, right? If you are in an island country in the Pacific, such as the Marshall Islands or Kiribati, there is nowhere to go because it does not exceed three or five feet above sea level. Not only do people do not know where to move, but they also do not know where they will move.
If you have to relocate, you are actually becoming a climate refugee, especially if you have to cross borders. And this is just not solved internationally, which is a bit crazy. If you try to seek asylum in a certain place for climatic reasons, your chance of getting asylum is zero. This is usually considered a national or local issue. So there is a problem in Bangladesh and a problem in the Netherlands, but it has not been resolved internationally.
Sea level rise is one aspect of the climate crisis, but it is clear that its scope is much broader. I don’t know to what extent it was discussed in the United States, but many people are fleeing Central America because there is no more water, or they can no longer grow crops, they are losing land.
By the way, these people on the islands of Panama are still there. The relocation was a government plan, and the money suddenly disappeared. They are indigenous people and they do not have the highest priority in the Panamanian government. So this is interesting.
I noticed that initially, when I was there, people told me that they were relocating and they were unwilling to do so. It was obvious, right? If someone tells you that you must leave the land of your ancestors, this is a very difficult message for anyone: give up your life and go to a higher place, where you must learn to be a farmer, where you will always be a Fisherman.When i come back [later], It looks complicated. People were a little eager to leave because they thought it had become too dangerous.
For many years, you have been dealing with conflicts and immigration and these very complex social issues. Is this very different from reporting a climate crisis?
I think they are becoming the same. We know that one of the main reasons for the conflict in Syria was initially a lack of water. If you see what is happening in the Sahel and other places, it is usually related to the climate crisis. Then if Al Qaeda or ISIS or anyone intervenes, it will change the story, but they are often interconnected.
In the course of this project, have you seen the solutions or strategies that are being developed, do you think, well, maybe we have passed this tipping point, but maybe not all have disappeared?
I hope I can give a balanced view. Many people have asked me that the situation in Bangladesh must be very frustrating, you know, it is not actually the case, because people are mastering the solutions themselves. They live with water all their lives. They know what will happen and will adapt. I have met many people who have moved five or nine times. Then, if the place they are in is no longer sustainable, they will move to a big city. bouncy.
Sea level rise is nothing new. The biggest difference is that it used to take hundreds or even thousands of years, but now it happens between two generations. This makes it very different.
Before the Dutch were so well protected by the dam, people would only build hills on this land to make sure their homes were dry, or they would move to another area. Especially in Western countries, we have lost our ability to adapt. We believe that a city like New York, Miami or Amsterdam must remain the same. Obviously, we now face a much larger population.
The Dutch Delta Commissioner asked a large engineering company to study the worst-case scenario in 2018. The worst-case scenario is basically that if we do nothing, if we do not reach the reduction in global temperature in the Paris Agreement, the sea level in the Netherlands may rise by three to nine centuries by the end of the year.
That was 80 years. If you were born today, you might witness this. We may be able to handle three feet in the Netherlands, but we cannot handle six or nine feet. Therefore, there are very crazy plans as to what measures the Netherlands should take to protect itself, but the recent realistic plan often seems to be relocation.
It is a very difficult concept to imagine that a city like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, will be abandoned.
I think this is also a problem in New York. It was not until Hurricane Sandy that people began to think about sea level and take it seriously, and investment was still very slow. We are eight or nine years behind Sandy, and there is almost nothing in terms of what actually happened.
Obviously, many things can be done. The Dutch have proven that you can live in a country below sea level, but this is a very high investment, and it took centuries to build in this still small country.
Much of the east coast of the United States is unprotected. To make matters worse, the people who live on the barrier island. There is very, very valuable real estate on the barrier island, but you should not live on the barrier because the barrier should move, be touched by the storm and form a buffer zone that protects the land.
The time factor is a big problem. Bangladesh is one of the few countries that has formulated a large-scale master plan called “Delta Plan 2100” to protect its coastal areas. This is an interesting plan because it is not only talking about building dams and protecting the land, but also about where people may have to relocate, and if they have to relocate, you have to provide them with new livelihoods. It’s interesting.
I initially did not include the Netherlands in the project because I was looking for an emergency area or country in the world, and the streets of Amsterdam would not be flooded. Regarding the climate crisis, we always think that it will not be as bad as predicted, but there is no single reason to prove it is correct, because every scientific report that comes out actually paints a darker picture.
I often ask myself, how is this possible? The answer to this may be that we are in a comfort zone, right? We have known from a young age that the economy is growing and that your child may live a better life than ours. We need to make some sacrifices, which we don’t like. So, you know, taking a step or two and compromising to make sure that the next generation can still do it is a very different concept of difficulty for us.