a photographer’s cry of alarm in the face of global warming

The Flood is the picture of an ultimate catastrophe which weighs on our heads and threatens to wipe out all of humanity. Its history and everything it carries come back to us today with force. What if the “catastrophe of disasters” carried with it the need for collective awareness?

This story has spanned the ages. It is passed down from generation to generation, like a sacred relic. It confronts us with the challenges and transformations we face. Explorer Jean-Louis Étienne led numerous scientific expeditions to Antarctica. This great defender of the white continent saw up close the acceleration of the melting of the polar ice caps.

“The Flood” by Léon-François Comerre, 1911.

©DR

“Antarctica is our reserve. It holds 80% of our fresh water and plays an essential role for the climate. This continent which belongs to no one must be protected. It is 28 times the size of France and is covered by 5,000 meters of ice. All around, it is a large maternity ward: albatrosses, seals, elephant seals are born there. Their lives are now threatened by glaciers which are collapsing because their ramparts, the icebergs, are melting and no longer play their role. The process has begun, there is no turning back. Only ease the acceleration. »

Thwaites, “the glacier of the Apocalypse”

Currently, it is the Thwaites, nicknamed “the glacier of the Apocalypse”, which is the focus of concern. The largest glacier in the world is beginning to crack, and if it were to melt, the water level would rise from 65 centimeters to 3 meters. “The climate machine is out of whack,” continues Jean-Louis Étienne. It is a break with natural climate cycles. We have neither control nor control over it. Warming disrupts the water and air cycle, resulting in torrential rains, more intense monsoons, and more frequent and stronger storms that will hit the Earth in the years to come. »

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

In Asia, from June to September, the monsoons so important for agriculture turned into climatic disasters. They drown villages, destroy homes, lead to population displacements. The summer of 2023 saw 100,000 displaced people in Pakistan, 48,000 in Burma with rains which caused several hundred deaths.

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The phenomenon is exponential

“The water level has increased in thirty years as quickly as throughout the last century and the phenomenon is exponential”: this is the sad conclusion of the researcher in space oceanography and contributor to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Group of Experts on climate change) Anny Cazenave. “For 2100,” she continues, “we are forecasting a rise of 1 meter. »

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

“The world is a polder” to use the scientists’ expression. That is to say a space conquered on the waters and which becomes vulnerable. It is urgent to take action. During Cop26, in 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, an archipelago close to Australia, made his speech in costume, with his feet in the water, to raise awareness throughout the world, because 40% of the country was already engulfed. The Maldives islands are doomed to disappear by 2100.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

Another figure makes you shudder: 60% of the world’s population lives near the coast. This is where most megacities are located. We thought they were unsinkable, but they are ceremonially solid. “Many of them are already threatened by rising water levels,” underlines Anny Cazenave, “but what’s more, they have pumped so much water into the groundwater that they are sinking. »

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

Tokyo sank 5 meters. For twenty years, it has been the subject of titanic work to stem the process. Every year, Jakarta, the Indonesian capital of 11 million inhabitants, sinks by 40 centimeters, and the decision was made to move it to the island of Borneo 1,500 kilometers away. Shift ; relocation; climate refugees: 250 million people will have to go into exile by 2050, according to the UN.

The surge spares no continent

For more than forty years, scientists have been warning without being listened to. Today, faced with the emergency, we are panicking. It is in Asia that the land is shrinking the most: Bangkok, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangladesh, Indonesia… But the wave spares no continent: Basra in Iraq, Lagos in Nigeria. New York and Miami in the United States… In Europe, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, London, Venice and the west coast of France, from Aquitaine to Hauts-de-France. So many cities that could be reduced to new Atlantis.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

Navigator Catherine Chabaud helped create the Ocean & Climate platform which promotes reflection and exchanges between the scientific community, civil society and political decision-makers. She drew lessons from her experiences in the Vendée Globe, this solo round-the-world race on a boat no thicker than a sheet of carbon: “A 15-meter wave fell on me and almost took me away . It is a metaphor for the overwhelm we experience. When the elements in front of us are very powerful, we always think about the next move. We anticipate. We use our tools and our knowledge. When we manage to get through it, we tell ourselves that we can face a lot of things. These experiences at sea taught me that we humans have incredible potential. We must not fight against the elements, but deal with them. »

A gigantic wall was built in southeast Manhattan

Rains and floods are an opportunity to rethink the cities of tomorrow. Megacities are taking action to protect and innovate. New York learned the lessons of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and a gigantic wall was built southeast of Manhattan, protecting the city from flooding. Crisscrossed by several rivers, the city of Tokyo has built enormous underground reservoirs which considerably reduce flooding.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

Venice has an innovative structure that protects it from high tides, “acqua alta”. The Netherlands, a third of whose territory is below sea level, is one of the pioneering countries in terms of coastal development. In forty years, they have launched titanic projects: creation of a peninsula on the west coast; largest sea wall in the world in the north; giant barriers at the entrance to Rotterdam… Today, Dutch innovations are scrutinized by the whole world.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

It is a positive vision that many urban planners or architects are trying to develop today. The Dutchman Koen Olthuis is working with his architectural firm Waterstudio on the concept of aquacity: “We must resolve to the idea of ​​returning a large part of our territory to the sea. If we lack space on land, the sea is immense. The floating city allows us to expand our surface area without damaging the ecosystem. Moving, it lives to the rhythm of the rising waters and the seasons. In winter, the city can close in on itself and protect itself from the wind and the cold. In summer, on the contrary, it opens up, takes advantage of the water, moving towards floating terraces, it ventilates and lets the air in. »

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

Of all ages and origins, the characters of “The Deluge” symbolize humanity, whose vulnerability is at the heart of Gérard Rancinan’s work.

© Gérard Rancinan

Koen Olthuis does not want to stop there. The floating city is for him an “acqua-utopia”, the opportunity to reinvent the city of tomorrow: “The goal is to improve ways of living in the city thanks to life on the water. »

None of these solutions will be enough on their own, but each of them is a Noah’s Ark. The only obstacle to all these adaptations will be financial. But will we really have a choice?

“The Flood”, by Caroline Gaudriault ed. Paradox, 144 pages, 25 euros.

“The Flood”, by Caroline Gaudriault ed. Paradox, 144 pages, 25 euros.

©DR

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