Blame it on the “limited edition” reusable water bottles and shopping bags but with each Earth Day that passes — welcome, yet again, to the high season of greenwashing, folks — I become just a bit more jaded.
Still, I can’t help shake that feeling that something big needs to happen when April 22 rolls around and my inbox is finally allowed to breath a sigh of relief.
In the past, I’ve tended to focus on community-based environmental initiatives on and around Earth Day. This year, I can’t stop thinking about how my own neighborhood, the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, suffered tremendously at the hands of climate change in the form of Superstorm Sandy’s surge waters.
This was my street on the evening of Oct. 29, 2012. I hope to never see it like that again.
Beyond my little corner of the world — a little corner that’s bounced back with remarkable grit and gusto over the past several months thanks to community-based recovery and rebuilding efforts — the threat that climate change-aided sea level rise and flooding will have on major coastal cities is profoundly devastating to say the least. And this is why for my obligatory Earth Day post, I’m sharing these sobering GIFs of landmarks in four major cities, New York, Boston/Cambridge, Miami, and Washington, D.C., partially and completely overcome with seawater.
The handiwork of Pittsburgh-based researcher and photoillustrator Nickolay Lamm, the images were inspired by a series of interactive maps published by the New York Times this past November titled “What Could Disappear.” Focusing on numerous cities across the country, the maps demonstrated how much dry, habitable land would be submerged by rising sea levels at 0, 5, 12, and 25 feet. The Global Mean Sea Level has risen 4 to 8 inches over the past century according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. And by NOAA estimtes, it will continue to rise between 8 inches and 6.6 feet by the year 2100.
The Statue of Liberty, New York City
Although maps published by the Times were indeed revealing/terrifying, Lamm sought to bring the data to life using stock photos, Google Earth, topography maps, and plenty of Photoshop magic.
In an email interview with Mashable — the site took the liberty of coverting Lamm’s already dramatic images of various waterlogged landmarks into GIF form — Lamm explains: "I felt that if I could bring these maps to life, it would force people to look at sea level rise in a new way."
On February 8 he [Lamm] got in touch with Remik Ziemlinski, from Climate Central, who had helped the Times create the maps and he received the high-resolution maps from him. Lamm then chose different U.S. landmarks to illustrate the potential floods and found stock photos of the landmarks (he initially wanted to use screenshots of Apple 3D Maps but couldn't get permission from Apple to use them). He decided to use the same levels the Times had. To 'figure out the depth of flooding for each sea level rise,' he used Google Earth and topography maps.
Once he had all that figured out, all he needed was to work with Photoshop. Lamm told Mashable that it took approximately between 5 and 15 hours for each scene to be illustrated.
Commissioned (somewhat randomly) for a self-storage facility search engine called StorageFront.com, Lamm’s images, as mentioned, depict several landmarks when overcome with sea level rise of 5 feet (100 to 300 years), 12 feet (potential level by the year 2300), and 25 feet (potential level in coming centuries) starting from 0 feet.
The Back Bay, Boston
Harvard University, Cambridge
Lamm further explains in his initial post for StorageFront.com: "The maps — which these illustrations are based off of — are tidally adjusted, meaning they map out areas below different flood heights relative to high tide. The illustrations, on the other hand, imagine what the affected areas would look like based on varying degrees of low and medium tide."
You can view additional maps and photos and learn more about Lamm's process in creating the images at the aforementioned blog post. You can also learn about how, umm, self-storage facilities are helping to combat climate change.
And for even more dramatic effect, I recommend playing Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Hello Earth” (embedded at the bottom of this page) while viewing the seven GIFs that I've included.
Just look at it go, indeed.
Happy Earth Day.
Ocean Drive, Miami
South Beach, Miami
The Washington Monument/National Mall, Washington, D.C.
The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.