We spoke to artist Lauren Darn about her photographic campaign SubmergedUK, which encourages people to think about the effects that climate change and rising water levels will have on low-lying towns and cities in the UK.
Tell us about SubmergedUK:
“SubmergedUK is an original photographic climate change campaign which uses visualisations of a flooded Britain to encourage viewers to imagine what could happen to low-lying towns and cities in the event of a 4°c rise in average global temperatures. Rising sea levels could flood vast areas of Britain in the coming centuries, sinking low-lying cities like York, Liverpool and London. British citizens only a couple of generations down the line may have to consider migrating inland as thousands of homes and businesses are lost underwater. Thinking about the threat of climate change from this angle makes the problem much more tangible.
Our hope for the future lies in the fact that we already have the resources and technology to tackle our current environmental problems. If we, as billions of individuals, choose to come together and rise up to the challenge as a global community, we all have enormous power to change the world. The aim of SubmergedUK is to provide a tool for everyone who wishes to make a difference.
What is the story behind the pictures?
“The campaign is based upon the Surging Seas Risk Zone Map from Climate Central, which can be used to locate the towns and cities which are at the highest risk of being submerged by rising sea levels. Every photograph represents one of these towns and shows a person in the sea engaging in an everyday activity.
On a basic level this points to the fact that everyday life would actually be brought to a halt for these communities if temperatures do soar by 4°c. And further, this represents the risk that people will go on blindly contributing to climate change in their daily lives without questioning the impact of their actions or acknowledging their responsibility for the consequences.”
What inspired you to start a climate change campaign?
“I began the SubmergedUK campaign because I felt that a lot of current climate change campaigns don’t do enough to empower people. I aim to provide images which resonate with an audience on a local level, and then combine this with resources and a call to action. For many people in the Western world, climate change still seems to be temporally and geographically distant.
Polar bears, ice sheets and environmental refugees seem so very unrelated to our day to day lives. The truth is, millions of people currently live on land at risk from coastal flooding and as polar ice caps continue to melt, coastlines will be submerged on every continent. Humans are now the dominant cause of rising sea levels, and it is more important than ever that we adopt sustainable lifestyles.”
How do you think SubmergedUK links to veganism?
“Vegans are doing an incredible job of fighting animal cruelty, but farmed animals are not the only creatures under threat from human greed. Anthropogenic climate change is already having a negative impact on many species, and for those which can’t adapt quickly enough to a warming climate, species extinction may be the horrifying result of our addiction to convenience. The vegan cause is very much interlinked with caring for the environment and all of the wildlife which deserves our protection.
On a positive note, the battle against a warming planet can be fought at our dinner tables. Any movement towards sustainability must address food, and, on average, vegans have significantly lower carbon footprints than omnivores. The warming potential of methane is considerably higher than that of carbon dioxide, but it is also a comparatively short lived climate pollutant. Cutting down on methane emissions now could give us some respite whilst we focus even harder on getting CO2 emissions under control.
A conversion to plant based living is, by far, the cheapest, healthiest and kindest way to make a contribution to the war on climate change. Unlike schemes to reduce our carbon emissions, reducing meat consumption requires no time or money. It can be done by anyone in the UK, right now. All it takes is a shift in perspective.”
How can people get involved?
“Many people feel powerless to do something about climate change, and I think that’s why collective climate action is so important. People are much stronger and more motivated when they stand in unity against adversity. My advice would be to join up with communities of people who are working to build a better world. This could be a political party, a local volunteer group or a vegan activist society. If you feel confident enough, try to spread the word about the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption in a positive, understanding and helpful manner.
Have the facts ready so that when people inevitably ask questions about your plant based lifestyle you can tell them how much CO2 and water you have saved since you made the transition, as well as all the animal lives. Looking after the environment is just one of many kindnesses which comes from being vegan, but it’s definitely something worth celebrating.”
For more information you can go to the SubmergedUK website where you can find out how you can get involved with the campaign.