'The Fragile Paradise': Planet Earth's turbulent times
As the COP26 climate summit comes to an end, a unique photography exhibition in the refurbished Oberhausen Gasometer in Germany depicts the beauty of planet Earth — and the threat posed to it by humans.
"The Fragile Paradise" is an exhibition of award-winning photographs and video installations showing how humans have impacted the environment — and the climate — over millennia. Its highlight is a 20-meter sculpture of the Earth onto which 3D high-resolution satellite images are projected. The view from space highlights not only the beauty of the blue planet — but also its vulnerability.
Plastic waste in oceans
The exhibition makes clear that the paradise that is Earth is threatened by humans, whose devastating impact on flora and fauna has marked a new era: the Anthropocene. The littering of plastics into the oceans, as reflected in this photo, is just one consequence. Another side effect is the consumption of nonbiodegradable microplastic particles by marine animals — and also humans.
As the planet warms and ice melts, polar bears habitats are under threat. Off Alaska and in northwestern Canada, the number of polar bears has declined by about 40% since the beginning of the century. Polar bears use sea ice to hunt from. As the seals that they eat decline along with the ice, polar bears could be extinct by the end of this century.
Human-induced global heating is causing heavier rain and flooding on the one hand, and more extreme drought on the other. Every year, 12 million hectares of fertile land are lost to desertification — an area the size of Bulgaria. The consequences are fatal: In 2019, the lives of 250 million people were threatened by desertification, despite the 25-year-old UN Convention to Combat Desertification.
Destruction of the forests
Rainforests are considered the world's "air conditioner." They are also the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth — the Amazon rainforest alone is home to around 40,000 plant and nearly 1,300 bird species. But according to WWF, 43 million hectares of tropical rainforest have been destroyed in recent years. The habitat for threatened species, such as the orangutan, is becoming increasingly scarce.
Fascinating natural phenomena
Also on display is an image of the famous sardine run. Huge schools of the fish leave their homes in the waters of South Africa, and head northeast to spawn. For predators such as sharks, dolphins and seabirds, they are a ready meal. Such images illustrate the wonders of the Earth in "The Fragile Paradise" exhibition, which runs through December 30, 2022.