Christmas Island – Threatened Paradise Photography Exhibit by Nigella Hillgarth Stetson Gallery, MA January 10-February 28

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This exhibit highlights the paradox of the impact ice melting in Greenland and its impact on islands in the South Pacific so far away.

The islands of the South Pacific and their surrounding coral reefs are suffering from effects of climate change.  Warming oceans and atmosphere lead to rising sea levels. Water expands with heat, and land ice in the Arctic and Antarctic melts and adds water to the oceans.  This results in major problems for low lying islands.  Gradually islands have to be abandoned as seawater seeps into soil and freshwater supplies.  Eventually, land is washed away, and people have to leave their homes

Seafood is the main source of protein for the Islanders.  In recent years there has been much over-fishing in many areas.  Also, the coral reefs associated with these Pacific islands have suffered from the recent impacts of prolonged heating events over the summer when the water gets hotter than normal for months.  The coral ‘bleaches’ and may die.  These delicate ecosystems are not only highly biodiverse but also provide much of the food for the local community.

I have included photographs of Ikiribati (people from Kiribati) fishing, having fun on the lagoon and doing laundry in the ocean. This is designed to show how much their lives are entwined with the sea.  Other images show the beauty of the island together with its vulnerability from the ocean that surrounds it.

I have also included three images from Greenland where the ice is melting through several major glaciers down into the ocean.  Disco Bay is a world heritage site off the coast of the town of Ilulissat in West Greenland because of the huge icebergs that wait to go out to sea.  I think of these icebergs as beautiful and yet sad symbols of sea level rise.  The increasing melt in Greenland is part of the season the South Pacific islands are in trouble, however for the people of Greenland life is getter easier.  The harbour and coast no longer freeze all winter so fishing and transportation by boat to isolated communities are easier.  In the summer, there is more land suitable for farming as well.

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