New York City vs. Calcutta … or does it really matter?

One of my interests is Climate Change and related issues, and with Superstorm Sandy fresh on the minds of many and with sea level rise
being the theme of today’s New York Times Sunday section, I thought it was relevant to dig up some of my questions about the issue,
because I’m thinking about reframing my artistic process
and want to test out some ideas.

In a post two days ago, I mentioned Indian Sculptor, Rathin Barman, who lives in Calcutta. After I met him back in October, I started to do some research
and discovered that Calcutta and New York are roughly the same elevation. Two months ago – well before Sandy – I wrote the short essay below
and, even though it is the beginning of much bigger research project
that I’m not sure how to pursue,
I thought I’d share,
because it’s

Calcutta and New York City are roughly the same elevation. Which will succumb to sea level rise first? There is much speculation in this question, but the fact that both cities are vulnerable is indisputable, even when taking into account their different geologic and climatic zones. Sea level does not rise uniformly like water in a bathtub, rather it depends on complex and intertwining issues, ranging from the accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases to more subtle forces like the gravitational pull of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets. How each city copes will depend on their economic strength, their relationship to larger regional governmental bodies as well as their present infrastructure and their ability to adapt to changing climate and changing human behavior.

Before either city succumbs, its populace and leadership will face a wide array of worsening challenges that will stress the viability of each city. Does “succumbing to sea level rise” mean complete submersion by an encroaching ocean? Probably not. The collapse of a city doesn’t mean no one lives there any more, but that the civilization and culture that defines it disappears and that its carrying capacity plummets. Rising sea levels and more extreme weather will help this along.

The landmass of the United States is geologically relatively stable and has both old (the Appalachian) and young (the High Sierra) mountain ranges; the subcontinent of India careens into Asia creating the world’s tallest range (the Himalayas). All these mountains are a product of a tectonically alive planet and help create local weather and influence global climate. Their yearly erosion is intense and – despite the differences in age and tectonic birth – their disappearance will take millions and millions of years. The stress on coastal cities is occurring now; their surrender to the seas will occur in tens to a hundred-plus years unless there is a massive turn around in human behavior.

Humanity is, now, akin to a geologic force that is changing the fundamental cycles of the Earth. There will be regional differences, but anthropogenic climate change and related issues will affect every country, every individual. The climate will get warmer and weirder than we expect, faster than we think. There will be more extreme weather events, almost all of them difficult for us. The United States and India play a major role.

This is just the jotting down of a few ideas and part of a larger piece, which I plan on giving much more attention,
because I am exploring the reframing of my artistic efforts
from investigating breaking stone
to that of laying bare
geologic force. 

This is the difference between an isolated moment of a discreet unit and the deep time of a pervasive cycle … more and … more to do.

1 Comment

Filed under Featured ..., Featured Idea, Geology

One response to “New York City vs. Calcutta … or does it really matter?

  1. Pingback: Flashback India … people of Kriti Residency | i heart uniqueness – i heart infinity

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