600 strip naked on glacier in global warming protest

Chilling message from wear-nothing activists to do-nothing politicians

Feature story - 18 August, 2007
An emergency provokes extreme responses: human beings in danger will abandon social niceties, etiquette, and the norms of acceptable behaviour to raise an alarm any way they can when lives are in danger. Today, six hundred people shed their clothes on a glacier in the Swiss Alps to bodily cry out for help against a planetary emergency: global warming.Parental warning: the story below contains nudity

Naked volunteers express the vulnerability of glaciers and human life in a warming world.

The nude volunteers posed for us and renowned installation artist Spencer Tunick on the Aletsch Glacier.

Without clothes, the human body is vulnerable, exposed, its life or death at the whim of the elements. Global warming is stripping away our glaciers and leaving our entire planet vulnerable to extreme weather, floods, sea-level rise, global decreases in carrying capacity and agricultural production, fresh water shortages, disease and mass human dislocations.

If global warming continues at its current rate, most glaciers in Switzerland will completely disappear by 2080, leaving nothing but valleys and slopes strewn with rock debris. Over the last 150 years, alpine glaciers have reduced in size by approximately one third of their surface and half of their mass, and this melting is accelerating. The Aletsch Glacier retreated 115 meters (377 feet) in a single year from 2005 to 2006.

Eight years to act

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the world only has eight years remaining to take the urgent action needed to curb catastrophic climate change.  Without swift action, the damage could become irreversible.  Never before has humanity been forced to grapple with such an immense environmental crisis.

Climate change now requires fast and courageous political decisions to radically cut green-house gas emissions and stabilise global warming. Governments around the world must know that the people they represent expect and demand them to take action.

Known around the world for his installations, Spencer Tunick wants people to know that global climate change is not an abstract issue, but a hazardous threat which affects us all.

"I want my images to go more than skin-deep. I want the viewers to feel the vulnerability of their existence and how it relates closely to the sensitivity of the world's glaciers", he said.