Beloved, my latest series of reduction linocuts, looks at places that are in danger because of global warming. Ephemeral Sanctuary looks at the delicate islands that ring the southern United States and the Caribbean, such as The Bahamas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda and many others. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on Bermuda. These pink sand beaches and shallow aqua waters hold a special place in the hearts of many throughout the world.
How do we think about these islands? On the one hand, they provide respite and refreshment to countless people who can afford to visit them, either by plane or cruise ship. They are the playground of the wealthy who can afford to rent or purchase an entire island. The islands are also home to many descendants of the victims of the European/American slave trade, and the economies of these communities rely heavily on tourism.
When global warming and tourism collide, things get complicated. Tourists like sandy beaches, so the impetus would be to put in sea walls and develop high rises. Yet the science says that the scarce resources of the islands should be put toward maintaining and increasing wetlands and mangroves that can protect the islands against strong storms.
The steady march of sea level is hard to see in the short term -- but consider that 80% of The Bahamas is at an elevation of less than one meter above sea level. The combination of warmer seas and the melting of polar ice caps makes predicting levels even more difficult. How can nations without substantial resources plan for this type of change?