On December 6, over 170 people gathered at Pakhuis de Zwijger for a talk and presentation organized by NOOR Foundation, an Amsterdam-based non-profit organization. NOOR is dedicated to raising awareness of worldwide social issues through photojournalism. The organization assembled a panel of journalists and photographers who shared with the audience details of their Arctic expeditions, exploring climate change’s impact on the region.
The guest speakers aimed to make the public more attentive to the irreversible changes that have been taking place in the Arctic. In addition, their goal was to illustrate the consequences of the melting ice-caps, not just for the climate but for humans, flora and fauna too. The first guest of the evening was Bernice Notenboom, 56, a climate journalist and professional adventurer. Notenboom embarked on her first expedition to the Arctic about 20 years ago. “I live in Canada… so, there is an unbelievable fascination with the ice,” Notenboom said. One key discovery from her travels was the exceptional dynamic of the Arctic. “The Arctic is such a changing environment: it’s moving, it’s cracking, it’s unbelievably active.”
Her first engagement with the region was when she received a request from National Geographic to document a rather exceptional voyage. “They said to me: ‘You know, there is a group of ten investment bankers from London and they want to prove that they can ski in ten days to the North Pole. So, they’ll leave on a Thursday, ski the whole week and be back in the office on Monday.” But Notenboom’s journey took a new turn when she touched down on the ice. “We landed at the place that we were supposed to get dropped off… and we weren’t going anywhere. The ice was the worst that has ever been recorded,” Notenboom added. Though they had to put the skiing on hold, Notenboom recalls that this was the moment she got the ‘pole virus’. While everybody else was trying to contact their families and get in touch with close ones, Notenboom was engrossed by the majesty of the Arctic.
The main event of the evening was the presentation by visual-storyteller Kadir van Lohuizen, 55. The photographer discussed the investigative photo reportage done in partnership with Yuri Kozyrev, which was awarded last year’s Carmignac Photojournalism Award. Their polar expedition project, Arctic: New Frontier, focuses on the consequences of the melting sea ice for the planet, and what to expect in the event of its total disappearance. “What we witnessed a couple of years ago is that… the speed that [climate change] happens in the Arctic is probably four times higher than anywhere else in the world,” says van Lohuizen.
Van Lohuizen observed how the ice melting affects the communities in Alaska in ways that are not immediately obvious. A lesson he learnt after meeting Art Oomituk, an Inupiaq artist from Point Hope, Alaska, is that “many communities – which are all native – on the coast are suffering from erosion. This erosion is partly created because the sea level is rising, but it’s also happening because the sea ice, which normally is there as a natural protection for storms, is disappearing very early and arriving very late.”
The project divided the Arctic’s regions between van Lohuizen and Kozyrev in order to cover as much ground as possible. “The reason to do it together was we believed, that Yuri would have probably had better access to the Russian Arctic, being Russian, and I probably would have had better access to the Western Arctic, being Dutch.” Despite having two journalists working on the project, it was more demanding than it seemed. “It was an incredibly hard project to do… because of the timing and money.”