December 18, 2018, by Kieran Cooke
From a Greenland fjord to the banks of the Thames: Ice melt comes to London. Image © Studio Olafur Eliasson GmbH
How do you raise awareness of climate change? A novel approach in the UK this winter, shipped in from Greenland, is London’s melting ice.
LONDON, 18 December, 2018 – They stand on the bank of the river Thames, outside the world-famous Tate Modern art venue – London’s melting ice, 24 large blocks, some transparent, some opaque, all different shapes, all gently melting in the not so cold air. Another six stands of ice sit in a square in the heart of London’s financial district.
Ice Watch is the idea of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, a Greenland geologist.
“These blocks tell their own story and I suggest you listen to what they have to say”, Eliasson tells London’s Evening Standard newspaper. “Their melting into the ocean is our world melting.”
The blocks on display in London – weighing a total of more than 100 tonnes – were collected from the cold waters of Nuup Kangerlua fjord near Nuuk, Greenland’s capital.
They had originally been part of Greenland’s ice sheet, which covers about 80% of the island and is the largest ice mass in the northern hemisphere. The blocks were transported to London in containers usually used for exports of frozen fish.
“You can’t live in a perennial state of shock. This is what Ice Watch is about”
Glaciologists say rising air and sea temperatures have caused the pace of melting of the ice sheet to go into overdrive in recent times. There are fears that if the sheet continues to melt at its present rate global sea levels could rise by several metres, flooding coastal cities and large tracts of land.
Visitors can touch the mini-icebergs in London and put their ears to the cold surfaces to listen to the crackling noises as the ice melts, with minuscule air pockets trapped within the blocks cracking open.
Dirt and other material trapped within the ice are evidence of life and changes in the atmosphere stretching back over thousands of years. “Smell, look – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing”, says Eliasson.
The artist says that while the facts about climate change and how great a threat it is to the world’s future are clear, people still need to be encouraged to take action.
“We need to communicate the facts of climate change to hearts as well as heads, to emotions as well as minds”, says Eliasson.
Fear is ineffective
“When it comes to people’s choices for or against taking climate action, we are inclined to stick to what we have, here and now, rather than make changes. Inducing fear does not seem an effective strategy.
“You can’t live in a perennial state of shock. This is what Ice Watch is about. I am hopeful that we can push for change. To do so, we have to make use of all the tools at hand, including art.”
Minik Rosing, who has undertaken extensive geological work on the Greenland ice sheet, says the melting of the area’s ice has raised global sea levels by 2.5 millimetres. “Earth is changing at an ever-increasing speed”, he says.
A similar Ice Watch installation has already been staged in Paris. Eliasson has long been involved in climate-related issues. Fifteen years ago his Weather Project exhibition was displayed at Tate Modern.
Ice Watch will be in place in London till December 20 – or until the ice melts completely. – Climate News Network
Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues