- A sculpture of a drowning girl in Spain hints at the threat climate change poses to young people.
- The 3.5-ton sculpture was quietly installed without warning last week.
- Babies born in 2020 will see up to seven times more extreme climate events than their grandparents.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
On Spain's northern coast, residents awoke to a shocking sight last week. The head of a young girl was nearly submerged in Bilbao's Nervion River as the water rose, covering her mouth, nose, and eyes.
The fiberglass sculpture is the work of Mexican hyperrealist artist Ruben Orozco Loza. It's titled "Bihar," meaning "Tomorrow" in Basque, the language spoken in the region.
"At first it gave me a feeling of stress, when more of the face was out of the water, but now to me she communicates sadness, a lot of sadness," Triana Gil, a visitor viewing the sculpture, told Reuters on Tuesday. "She doesn't even look worried, it's as if she is letting herself drown."
Loza does not explicitly say that the "Bihar" refers to climate change – in an email to Insider, he described the piece as a reflection on the decisions we make for future generations more broadly. But it's hard not to make the connection. The latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that from 1901 to 2018, the world's seas rose by half a foot on average, and the annual rate of sea-level rise nearly tripled.
"Bihar: Choosing Tomorrow" is an exercise in pausing, looking at what's changing, and above all, a future reflection of what can happen if we continue to bet on unsustainable models," Loza told Insider in Spanish.
"I hope that this piece helps people reflect and see how, like the sculpture, we can get to a point where we are no longer afloat," he added.
The piece was and installed quietly in the river at dawn, without warning. It was commissioned by the BBK Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Kutxabank, a Bilbao-based bank.
Tomorrow looks worse for the next generation than it did for the last
It took Loza three months to complete the artwork, which he designed and crafted in Mexico with the help of his wife. He then flew it to Bilbao in eight parts, where it was later assembled and brought to the river by boat. A steel structure keeps the 3.5-ton girl submerged, Loza explained.
Just days before the sculpture appeared, a paper published in the journal Science reported that babies born in 2020 will experience two to seven times more extreme climate events - such as heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, droughts, floods, and tropical storms - than someone born in 1960.
"Our results highlight a severe threat to the safety of young generations and call for drastic emission reductions to safeguard their future," the authors wrote.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the burden of extreme weather on younger generations, the Science authors note. Indeed, extreme temperature changes would be twice as pronounced at 2 degrees of warming than at 1.5, according to the IPCC report. But we're on track to pass that lower threshold in the next 20 years, since the planet has already warmed 1.1 degrees.
So it's not surprising that many young people around the world are concerned. In a pre-print survey of 10,000 people from 10 countries between the ages of 16 and 25, 59% said they felt "very worried" or "extremely worried" about climate change.
The survey, which was released by the journal Nature this month but has not yet been peer reviewed, also found that 57% of respondents described climate change as making them feel "powerless." Another 30% said it made them feel "indifferent." That's where Loza's piece might come in.
"Art leaves no one indifferent. That's its function," he said.