Where Will We Go: The Human Consequences of Rising Sea Levels

Where will we go, the human consequences of rising sea levels.

Featuring: Kadir van Lohuizen

Presented by

United Photo Industries & NOOR

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For two years, I have been looking at the global consequences of rising sea levels caused by climate change. Today, no one doubts that glaciers the world over are retreating and, even more worryingly, that Greenland and Antarctica are melting at an increasing pace. The question: how fast ? It is alarming that past figures appear to have been too conservative and that humanity should start preparing for the biggest displacement of mankind in known history. As people in all of the world’s regions become displaced at ever growing scales, the biggest question is: where will they go?

In my reportage, I have tried to provide globally balanced coverage of how climate change is already affecting places where people live. I have traveled to Kiribati, Fiji, the Carteret Atoll in Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, the Guna Yala coastline in Panama, the United Kingdom and the United States. In these different regions, I not only looked at the areas that are affected or will be affected, but also where people will likely have to relocate to. I photographed and interviewed families who still live in affected areas and others who have already moved to safer ground. What is often forgotten about is the fact that even before the land becomes permanent flooded, the sea water intrudes earlier at high tides — thus making drinking water brackish and undrinkable and once fertile land no longer viable for crops.

Coastal erosion, inundation, contamination of drinking water, and worse and more frequent coastal surges mean people have to flee their homes and lands in a growing number of locales across the world. Almost no one with whom I have spoken wants to move; they simply have no other choice as conditions worsen.

The human costs of these movements are dramatic in the extreme. Kiribati may be forced to relocate its entire population if things get much worse. In Bangladesh, it is likely that up to 50 million people will have to move from the delta region by 2050, and for right now, nobody knows where they will go. Although often ignored by climate change campaigners, the rate of sea level rise on America’s East Coast is three times faster than the global average, due to the fact that western Greenland’s glaciers and ice are melting so quickly. Protecting cities on the eastern seaboard will require enormous financial resources. Miami is likely to be lost. The now prosperous city is built on limestone, under which water can still enter, despite the protection of seawalls. Therefore, it’s expected that the Miami Beach and bay area will need to be evacuated by 2060.

The Rising Sea Levels project is designed to highlight both the immense complexities associated with in-island and inter-island/country movement, as well as the specific human rights implications involved with such involuntary movements.

ARTIST BIO

Kadir van Lohuizen (b. the Netherlands, 1963) has covered conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, but is probably best known for his long-term projects on the seven rivers of the world, rising sea levels, the diamond industry and migration in the Americas.

With the project Where Will We Go, Kadir looked at the global consequences of rising sea levels caused by climate change. The project is designed to highlight both the immense complexities associated with in-island and inter-island/country movements, and the human rights implications involved in such displacements.

Kadir is a frequent lecturer and photography teacher and is based in Amsterdam. He is a co-founder of NOOR and is part of the supervisory board of World Press Photo.

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