I’m looking at the film material I have from a recent trip to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago area close to the North Pole. The footage will not necessarily become a film, but being there and experiencing the place for myself was very important to me. Two books by Elisabeth Kolbert, ‘The Sixth Extinction’ and ‘Field Notes from a Catastrophe’ prompted me to try and address the issue of climate change in my work. I read the books this summer and by October I was on Svalbard filming for five days.
Svalbard is interesting for many reasons. Lying between Norway and the North Pole, it is where you can see the Aurora lights, glaciers, coal mines and polar bears. It is also a place where climate change is evident: the melting glaciers tell of Norway’s history of coal and other fossil energy production; the sun’s effect upon our atmosphere has been recorded there even in the pitch dark; and as the glaciers reduce, the area’s polar bears are losing their hunting grounds meaning that they starve. When I was there I was terrified of meeting a polar bear hunting us at night when we filmed, or during the day for that matter. However, the low temperature there is what you should take seriously as something that can kill you. You’ll lose your fingers if you’re not careful when taking pictures in winter. Additionally, because of climate change and global warming Svalbard is setting new records for rainfall, creating the risk of mud slides. The same rising temperature that makes the glaciers melt is also dissolving the permafrost in the ground causing serious amounts of methane gas that has been frozen in the muddy ground for thousands of years to be released into the atmosphere, and with the white reflecting ice of the glaciers gone, nothing will be reflecting the sun heat away from the earth thus accelerating the process of warming.
Artistically I don’t know what I will end up with, but this trip made me feel I can do something meaningful or at least make people around me aware of what’s happening.