At first sight, to “break the ice” in the matter of global warming can come across as an intangible issue. It shifts into a serious reality, however, when we examine countries such as Greenland and realise the human consequences. As did photographer Jørgen Chemnitz, the artist behind the Breaking the Ice exhibition at the Museum of Ethnography, a co-production with The Danish Cultural Institute, on display until 24 June.
Apollo Jeremiassen misses the snow in Greenland. So does Elisabeth Mathæussen, who used to play with it, build igloos and go dog-sledging with her parents. These were common activities among the population of Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its famous ice fjord.
But the average temperature in the Arctic has been rising at an accelerating pace in the last few decades, and along with the environmental changes have come major social and economic turnabouts.
Chemnitz’s way of illustrating them was through photography, using portraits and video to convey how the locals feel about climate change. From fishermen to business managers, the range of opinions couldn’t be broader.
For Lotte Cortzen it is actually a good thing that is has become warmer, because her work benefits. It is an opinion shared by 16-year-old Dana Martinsen, for whom this warmer climate has been “normal” for as long as she can remember. But fishermen such as Aron Olsen, who had to give up his trade to work in a freezing storehouse, think differently.
And it is the variety of opinions that this exhibition, displayed already in Estonia and travelling to Brazil afterwards, is about. It is clear that the consequences of global warming are far from being fully comprehended.
Its primary effects are there though, and the Greenlanders are the first to notice. Snow gave place to puddles, “big boots and warm clothes” aren’t needed any more, the people tell. And if we are to reverse the process, observes Ulunnguaq Mølgård, another of the interviewed Greenlanders, “we need to consider what we do as a society”.
Climate changes in Greenland: human consequences
Museum of Ethnography
Runs until 24 June.
Open Tues.-Sun. 10am-6pm.
District V, Kossuth Lajos tér 12.
Tel. (+36-1) 473-2400. www.neprajz.hu