We don’t have to look far to see the impacts of climate change. They are visible on local coastlines.
Now a Coastside author and artist has released a book that details the stark reality of rising sea levels and what we can expect if we don’t take action.
Longtime Coastsider Christina Conklin has always drawn inspiration from nature and was motivated to environmental action a decade ago by a flippant comment on an article about future flooding risk on the coasts. A coastal resident didn’t understand why he should care about future effects of the climate crisis as he’d probably be dead long before he’d see the effects.
“I was so shocked and angry that somebody could say that, and it really spurred me to get involved in sea level rise work, and that was part of the beginning of this journey,” said Conklin. “I’m grateful to the grumpy old man who got me annoyed and sent me on this path.”
Conklin’s book, “The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis,” was released in July and provides a blend of place-based storytelling with detailed explanations of science and policy to inform of the impacts of climate change on communities big and small around the world.
Conklin was connected with sustainability expert Marina Psaros by Moss Beach resident Deborah Hirst, who was San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley’s legislative aide at the time. Together, Conklin and Psaros created this book.
“I thought it was important that we actually have the ocean be the main character in the book and not humans,” said Conklin. “Sea level rise is mostly about us. We build our cities next to water, so we’re going to have to deal with sea level rise. But there are changes happening throughout the ocean and I wanted to really understand what’s happening in the deep ocean, what’s happening with ocean warming. All these different global impacts and not just the human suffering point of view.”
The atlas is divided into four sections: Changing Chemistry, Strengthening Storms, Warming Waters, and Rising Seas. Each of the chapters pairs the issue with a specific place and is illustrated with maps created by Conklin using an ink-on-dried-seaweed technique.
“I like working with unusual materials,” said Conklin. “I was going up to the harbor and gathering some of those giant green tides of seaweed that get washed up a couple times a year, and so I started working with those and that coincided with the book project. I just really like the idea of using seaweed to illustrate issues in the ocean.”
The maps detail the current and projected impacts of climate change and each chapter closes with a speculative image of what the world could look like in 2050. While alarming, they highlight the steps that can be taken by both the government and smaller organizations to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
“I hope from this book people develop an understanding of the depth and extent of the crisis,” said
Conklin. “We’re in a pretty bad situation, so we wanted to convey all of the facts that are current now and then also talk about the trend lines and where things are going over the next few centuries.
“Right now, we’re at the very beginning of a lot of very dramatic changes that are going to happen at an increasing rate over the coming decades,” she said. “Quite a bit of alarm is called for and we wanted to highlight what people can do and how many people have already committed all of their energy and lives to writing news stories and creating, sometimes a technical solution or sometimes it’s an artistic solution or political solution.”
Conklin has also drawn comparisons between the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. In a blog post in March of 2020, “Fluid Times: What coronavirus and the climate crisis have in common,” Conklin addresses the similarities of these global emergencies.
“I think COVID-19 showed us very clearly how connected everything is,” Conklin said. “It is a very complex, interconnected, sudden
shift that we all experienced, and the climate crisis is similar. It’s all of these very complex, interconnected systems.”