The Climate Change Light Show That’s Making Waves in Cities Around the World
By Clara Chaisson
The people of Rotterdam know a thing or two about living with water. In fact, it's right there in the name—the Dutch city dates back to the 13th century, when the Rotte River was dammed, making it possible to safely settle nearby.
"When I was a boy, I wasn't even allowed to play outside without my swimming diploma," said artist Daan Roosegaarde, founder of the Rotterdam-based social design lab Studio Roosegaarde. "In the Netherlands, we are surrounded by water. Without technology, we would literally all drown."
Today, 90 percent of Rotterdam sits below sea level, and its historically intimate relationship with water has undergone a thoroughly modern makeover in preparation for the impacts of climate change. And just like the Dutch engineers who are sharing their creative approaches to sea level rise with the world, Roosegaarde is showing his art in the hopes of inspiring innovation.
"Waterlicht," Rotterdam, 2018.Studio Roosegaarde
For the past three years, Studio Roosegaarde's Waterlicht project, which translates to "water light," has been traveling the globe. Commissioned by Dutch water authorities, the public art installation uses LEDs, lenses, software, and the elements to create a virtual flood that submerges visitors in a blue-tinted dreamscape. It's a waterlogged alternate reality—one that could easily become our future if we fail to intervene (and quickly) to protect our cities from the ocean's steady rise.
Late last month, Waterlicht made its hometown debut at the Kunsthal museum, attracting 25,000 visitors in only three evenings. It was the project's 12th stop since 2015. Other 2018 hosts included London's Granary Square, the United Nations headquarters in New York, and the Bentway in Toronto.
Each installation is site-specific, and the team might spend six months preparing for an exhibition that lasts just a few nights. (In the case of the U.N. installation, it took three years just to get the permits.) A major part of the challenge, Roosegaarde said, is "undesigning" the landscape. Waterlicht is always presented outdoors after sunset, and for maximum effect, the studio must work with local authorities and businesses to minimize light pollution. Sometimes the organizers even rent billboards simply to turn them off. The goal is to make it dark enough to create the appropriate atmosphere, but light enough to ensure a safe experience for visitors. "It's a puzzle every time," Roosegaarde said. Following a Nov. 11 opening in Dubai, the artist doesn't yet know where Waterlicht will travel next. Venice is his "dream location," for obvious reasons.
Intangible waves undulating against the night sky like the ghost of climate change future is a haunting sight. But it's also a thrilling, mesmerizing one, and Roosegaarde hopes it fosters creative thinking. As the designer sees it, we already have the tools we need to build a more livable world.
"It's not a lack of technology," Roosegaarde said. "It's a lack of imagination for what we want the future to look like. The role of public art is a really great trigger to create this collective experience where people are curious, not afraid."
"Waterlicht," Rotterdam, 2018.Studio Roosegaarde
Waterlicht, which the U.N. Development Programme cites as "inspiring action," is not the first Studio Roosegaarde project to leverage technology in an effort to find environmental solutions. The driving concept behind the studio's work is schoonheid, which means both "clean" and "beauty." Their decade long CV includes a glowing bike path inspired by the painting The Starry Night in the Dutch town where Vincent Van Gogh lived, energy-producing kites that appear as lasers in the night sky, sleek towers that suck smog from the air and bicycles that do the same, and most recently, an initiative to upcycle and call attention to outer-space waste. Roosegaarde, who has degrees in fine arts and architecture, founded the studio in 2007. "I had ideas, and nobody knew how to build them," he said. "So I just thought, 'We'll do it ourselves.'"
Daan Roosegaarde at "Waterlicht," Rotterdam, 2018.Studio Roosegaarde
"I make things because I look outside my window and I don't understand the world anymore," Roosegaarde said. "The CO2, the traffic jams, the rising water ... Waiting for government or politicians is not going to help. I try to make things to show you it can be done."
If he's right, it's high time the world dove in.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
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“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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