The town hall’s exhibition is therefore dedicated to highlighting what rising sea levels will mean

The town hall’s exhibition is therefore dedicated to highlighting what rising sea levels will mean

19-11-2021R.F.

It was something I came up with fourteen years ago. It was an April fool, after a fashion, as no one with an ounce of Mallorca knowledge could possibly have been taken in by the suggestion and image that Sa Pobla a) had a cricket club and b) had a cricket ground that bore a strong resemblance to the Adelaide Oval circa 1930 - it was the Adelaide Oval circa 1930.

The inclusion of St. Peter’s Cathedral in the image was a dead giveaway that this was one of Australia and the world’s most picturesque cricket grounds; there is of course no cricket ground next to the church in Sa Pobla.

The photo of the ground had been amended slightly. The outfield was partially covered by sea - the SPCC (Sa Pobla Cricket Club) as it might look by 2050. This had been inspired by discussion of the impact of global warming, of rising sea levels and of the sea reaching as far as Sa Pobla. Around that time, an engineer at the Es Murterar power station - on the road from Playa de Muro to Sa Pobla - had joked with me by saying that by the time they got round to decommissioning and substituting coal-fired electricity, there would be water lapping against the base of the power station’s massive chimney.

The decommissioning process is now under way; it should be fully completed by 2026. There are fields of solar panels next to the power station. Energy sovereignty, renewable energy sovereignty, is the government’s aim, and it is something which can’t come soon enough. Climate change is just one reason. There are also the geopolitics of energy, to say nothing of the recent rocketing in price.

Fourteen years ago. Not so long in the past, but plenty of time for perceptions and awareness to have altered radically. Sea in Sa Pobla would still be an exaggeration, but things are deadly serious. They were fourteen years ago, but we had yet to really grasp the immensity. As we now do grasp this, one could fully appreciate what was like despair among some of those attending COP26.

The equivocal outcome on coal seemed perverse when one considered, for example, how rapidly changes and advances are being made in Mallorca.

But for all that there have been these advances, with Es Murterar and its polluting capacity symbolic of these, they are comparatively recent. It has taken the current government to truly press the pedal to the floor. Criticisms there can be of the Armengol administration, but not when it comes to energy transition, except perhaps that the ambitions and pace of transition could in fact be greater and swifter.

We can contemplate different ways in which climate change will affect Mallorca, such as the island’s agriculture, but there can be no more worrying and poignant impact than that on the coast. The beaches of Mallorca are Mallorca. For centuries they were of little value, until they became highly valued and prized in the twentieth century. What is Majorca without its beaches?

At the history museum in Manacor, an exhibition was opened last Sunday. A technician at the town hall, Antoni Pascual, said that the idea is to get away from typical images used to highlight the effects of climate change, such as polar bears on melting ice. Real these are, but something more local and immediate is needed to heighten awareness further.

The town hall’s exhibition is therefore dedicated to highlighting what rising sea levels will mean - the loss of beaches in Manacor and a consequently desolate landscape.

Pascual concedes that it is difficult to predict how much sea levels will rise. But one line of thinking has it that there will be a minimum rise of 46 centimetres and a maximum of one metre by the end of this century. Temperatures will meanwhile have risen by three degrees Celsius.

Earlier than this, 2050, and government estimates put the typical loss of beaches in urban areas at around a half. The sea would therefore be encroaching by around four metres compared to the present. By the end of the century, and the exhibition presents these stark conclusions, there won’t be any beach in Porto Cristo.

Three-quarters of the beach at S’Illot will have disappeared. And with the sea having advanced to this extent, removing natural defences in the process, urban development will be that much more exposed and vulnerable. We witnessed this vulnerability with Storm Gloria almost two years ago, especially on the east coast. It would no longer just be a case of being vulnerable, as storms could devastate whole frontlines.

Manacor’s mayor, Miquel Oliver, says that awareness-raising is “so important, as we are the vaccine against climate change”. True, but one hopes that this isn’t just some other exhibition.

In a way, looking at what could happen can heighten a sense of powerlessness, unless there truly is urgent, meaningful and coordinated action.
There’s no joking now.

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