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Project Sea-Ice Lifeboat

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Project Sea-Ice Lifeboat (Carberg)

Susan Robb is an artist living and working in Seattle. Her website manifesto says:

“Susan Robb’s sculptures and built environments transform common objects into ideological hybrids of flesh, nature, and technology. Drawing on empirical observation, reflection, and imagination about her immediate surroundings and contemporary social issues, these hybridizations are open-ended investigations into the kaleidoscopic intersection of culture and nature, speaking of the intelligence of nature and dynamic systems.”

Having already explored the environmental impact of plastic waste in her 2007 work ‘Warmth, Giant Black Tubes’, she is turning her attention to the issue of melting Arctic ice.

“Project Sea-Ice Life Boat is a monument underscoring the disastrous effects of global warming. It is a poetic and far-fetched but calculated and potentially far-reaching attempt to rescue polar bears while simultaneously forming a complex expression about personal and corporate involvement in climate crisis.”

Robb intends to create three artificial floating islands that initially will be floated off the coast at Vancouver, Seattle and Portland, before being moved to Alaska’s Chukchi Sea where some of the most rapid sea-ice melting is being seen. The islands are to be constructed from old oil drums, and their design will echo the shape of an SUV, alluding to one of the top causes of climate change. The ‘carbergs’ will provide polar bears with a refuge to replace melting ice-floes.

The project is in the pre-construction phase; searching for funding and venues, meeting with materials people and habitat architecture specialists. Robb is the first to admit that this is not intended as a practical solution to the problems polar bears are experiencing as sea ice melts: “My slant on this project is as poetic gesture, as art.” There are uncertainties as to whether it would ever work. To quote Dr. Steven C. Amstrup of the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska:

“The problem with disappearing ice is that ice is the platform from which polar bears hunt. Polar bears are adapted to a few very specific kinds of predation strategies, all of which depend upon access to seals at the air/sea/ice interface. Giving polar bears a place to rest doesn’t solve their main problem, which is how to catch something to eat in an ice-free environment. Hence, the idea of floating platforms—even if you could figure out how to anchor them in thousands of feet of water (100 miles north of Prudhoe it is 10,000-feet deep)—does not solve the main problem that polar bears are likely to face in the future.”

Hmmm, not sure about some of that. Icebergs aren’t anchored, are they? And surely the whole point is that there’s too much ice-free water; plenty of scope for hunting, but a dwindling number of places where polar bears (and seals as well, don’t forget) can rest up. However, this guy must know what he’s talking about, he’s Ursid and Arctic Marine Team Leader at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, and serves on Polar Bears International‘s Wild Bear Advisory Committee.

More research needed. Must try harder.

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Written by Pete Smith

January 28, 2008 at 10:26 am

One Response

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  1. Belly full … time for a bit of poetry. Oh the luxury of the ‘west’ huh.

    matt

    January 29, 2008 at 12:54 pm


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