I mentioned the opening of a National Geographic exhibit here in Ljubljana three days ago, but there was also another opening that day just half a dozen blocks away where ‘Climate: The 360° Exhibition’ took pride of place on the the Slovenian capital’s central Congress Square.
Unlike the national parks exhibit in Tivoli Park, which focuses on the natural beauty of protected areas and the need to preserve them, ‘Climate: The 360° Exhibition’ underscores the profound sense of urgency caused by rapidly rising sea levels in places where people, millions of them, actually live.
Consisting of images from nine countries, its impact packs a wallop, thanks to Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen whose 25 powerful photos make up the bulk of the show.
Van Lohuizen’s put together an impressive body of work over the course of his thirty year career, but it’s these images, many which are included in his book “Where Will We Go” which documents the people displaced by the rising oceans, that I’m most familiar with, given how they intersect with the issues facing climate refugees, a topic I’m especially interested in.
I was most taken by his images from Panama’s sinking San Blas Islands, which I visited in June 2013 and which are expected to disappear by 2050. They illustrate the fragility of the situation. You can feel how close to the precipice these, and other islands and shore areas depicted in the exhibit, are.
Particularly telling are his images from Kiribati, the central Pacific nation of atolls whose entire population of 110,000 will have to be relocated — as early as over the next decade. In 2014 the government purchased a 20 square kilometer tract of land on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji for the relocation.
In Bangladesh, also represented in the exhibit, at least 18 million people will have to move from the low-lying delta areas by 2050. Some estimates reach as high as 30 million.
The Middle East and Europe are struggling with the influx of refugees from about a dozen nations, primarily Syria and Afghanistan, who are fleeing war, violence and poverty. By any measure, they’re not coping well. Yet those numbers dwarf the estimated 50 to 100 million people expected to become climate refugees by the middle of the century.
I published a fairly lengthy post about the San Blas Islands here. It includes an introduction to the crisis of climate refugees; check it out if you haven’t yet.
All 27 images from the exhibit in Congress Square are below. Twenty-five are by van Lohuizen and the two taken during the 2010 floods here in Ljubljana are from the city archive. They were all taken with my phone and half of them towards the sun, so my sincerest apologies for the shots in which the colors are not quite true to the original.