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Brussels artist climbs volcano to deposit ice to 'pay back' CO2 debt

06:52 14/09/2022

A Brussels artist carried a tonne of ice up a dormant volcano in Iceland as a way to draw attention to the climate crisis, with the ice said to represent payment of a CO2 debt.

“I am paying off the debt for my air travel,” Floris Boccanegra, originally from West Flanders but now living in Molenbeek, explained to Bruzz.

Boccanegra made 33 trips up the volcano in order to deliver the ice, which he carried in a backpack to an altitude of 1,198 metres.

It took six to eight climbs a day over the course of five days in order to see the task through.

The amount of one tonne was chosen because that is the equivalent amount of ice melted by flying to Iceland. Boccanegra chose the Ok shield volcano in Iceland because it was once topped by the Okjökull glacier, which is now thought to have disappeared as a result of global warming.

Sometimes called “the lost glacier”, a plaque on the site reads in part, “A letter to the future: Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier.

"In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done.”

Boccanegra titled his symbolic climb ‘The Debt’.

“When I was planning a project in Iceland in 2020, I looked up the CO2 emissions of my flight and found the Carbon Footprint Calculator, which told me that it would melt 1,000 kilograms of ice,” he told Bruzz.

“I later discovered that the calculator came from the major oil company BP. I found it malicious and absurd that they are trying to instil in individuals that they are personally responsible for global warming and thus divert attention from their own, much larger share."

The climb was far from easy, and Boccanegra found it especially difficult to make it without the ice melting by the time he reached the summit.

“It highlighted the Sisyphean task even more: with my individual action, I make little impact, no matter how much big polluters want me to believe that,” Boccanegra said.

Nevertheless, the goal was not an actual repayment of the debt but rather a piece of performance art intended to draw attention to the climate crisis and the fact that industry and businesses have a larger role to play in solving it than individuals.

“I mainly wanted to inspire people to look at the climate issue in a different way,” Boccanegra explained.

“With my useless approach, I showed how absurd it is that large polluters shift the blame to individuals, without taking far-reaching measures themselves or accepting their responsibility in climate change.”

Written by Helen Lyons