The title of this exhibition, DEGREESº refers to three concepts.
The first and most obvious reference is to the DEGREES of latitude that I visited. Over the last four years, my travels have taken me from latitude 67ºS (Antarctica) to 85ºN (Arctic Circle).
Second, I wanted to go to those places where people seldom travel but where by DEGREES, our impact on this remote and beautiful wilderness has left a deep and lasting impression. Areas of the world that we think of as pristine and untouched have a surprising amount of human detritus. I saw whaling stations with large amounts of asbestos, rusting machines and crumbling buildings that had been left to rot, while animals live amongst the ruins. Indeed, human impact is so keenly felt that according to scientific studies and considerable physical evidence, polar bears are likely to become extinct in less than a generation.
The third reference to DEGREES I became aware of in 1970. I was attending school in Philadelphia and my science teacher explained to us how global warming could affect the Earth. He said scientists were theorising that if by 2020 we did not cut back on CO2 emissions, temperatures were due to rise about 2ºC. This warming could cause a serious rise in sea levels; some countries would become uninhabitable and many animals would be headed for extinction. My teacher’s lesson was correct: his prediction has become fact. The effects of climate change are already being felt in major cities like Miami, Florida where the rise of sea level causes significant flooding on a regular basis – even on sunny days.
In 2015, the tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati became the first country to declare that global warming has rendered its country uninhabitable. In 1999, the death of the last Golden Toad in Central America marked the first documented species extinction driven by climate change. The illustrious Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner stated in June 2010, “We are the only species in the history of our planet that is evolving itself to extinction."
I hope you enjoy looking at my photographs. But, I also hope you are moved to make a positive change for our environment. We need to work together to save what is left of our beautiful, blue planet … and ultimately ourselves … before it’s too late.
Joyce Ferder Rankin LRPS March 2016