Polar Bears, Svalbard, and Climate Change

polar bearPhoto: Copyright Nima Sarikhani/Natural History Museum

Wherever you are on the internet today, you are bound to see “the sleeping polar bear.”

Amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani’s stunning photo of a polar bear sleeping on ice has won the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 59 People’s Choice Award, by London’s Natural History Museum. More than 75,000 participated in the voting.

James Ashworth writes on the Natural History Museum website: “Titled Ice Bed, Nima’s photo was crowned champion following a contest in which a record 75,000 people voted. Taken off the [Norway’s] Svalbard archipelago, the image shows a male polar bear who has just laid down to sleep on a small iceberg. Nima spent three days searching for polar bears aboard an expedition vessel but had been thwarted by thick fog around the Norwegian islands. Fortunately, his luck was about to change when, on coming across an area of sea ice, the ship encountered a pair of bears–one younger and one older male. Shortly before midnight, the younger male decided to rest. Under the light of the midnight sun, the bear used its powerful arms to claw out a bed on a small iceberg before drifting off to sleep.”

Although Svalbard may be a long 3,000 miles from Syracuse, it’s closer than you think!

The Everson Museum of Art, in downtown Syracuse, is proud to present the opening of its latest exhibition, Janet Biggs: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, on view February 10, 2024-May 12, 2024, with an Opening Night Reception at the Everson on February 9, 2024.

Janet Biggs traveled to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard with a crew of artists and scientists to document the changing Arctic landscape. As the subject of centuries of exploration, the Arctic was once seen as indifferent to human enterprise, so vast and inhospitable as to be immune to any imposition. Today, scientists expect climate change to leave Arctic summers ice-free as early as the next decade, and Svalbard, located halfway between Europe and the North Pole, finds itself at the epicenter of this metamorphoses. Using footage compiled on her voyages north, Biggs explores this history and the alarming consequences of human enterprise in three videos: Warning Shot (2016), Brightness All Around (2011), and Fade to White (2010). Shown together, these works are a clarion call for a heroic landscape that will completely transform within our lifetimes.

Janet Biggs and Nima Sarikhani hope that their art will bring attention to climate change and its effects on the world’s environment.

“Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope. There is still time to fix the mess we have caused.” Sarikhani wrote on the Natural History Museum website.

polar bear