Image of Global Green’s Holy Cross community project, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. © Stephen Wilkes.

An exhibition organized by the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, titled Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change, will be visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific starting Monday, June 1. As part of the aquarium’s initiative to “communicate ocean and climate science to diverse audiences,” the show will offer visitors an intriguing look at worldwide responses to rising sea levels, coastal flooding and increasingly powerful storm surges related to global climate change.

Sink or Swim will be on display at the aquarium through September 2015.

“We are thrilled to bring Sink or Swim to the Aquarium and engage visitors in new ways with the vital issues at the heart of the exhibition and related Aquarium programs,” said Aquarium of the Pacific’s President and CEO Dr. Jerry Schubel in a statement. He noted climate experts’ prediction that sea levels may rise by three feet by the end of the century, emphasizing society’s need to protect coastal infrastructure as well as adapt and “mitigate” the impacts of flooding from coastal storms.

Sink or Swim looks at real world examples of how this can be done,” Schubel said. 


Tacloban, Philippines, November 20, 2013. A man hammers away amidst the destruction caused byTyphoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda), which hit the islands of Leyte and Samar on November 8, 2013. ©Paula Bronstein/Reportage by Getty Images

The exhibition will include works from renowned photographers around the world that have examined the myriad ways people are responding to rising sea levels, including the construction of complex seawalls and dikes in the Netherlands, the building of floating school houses in Nigeria, the innovative school facilities built out of paper tubes and shipping containers in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the flood-resistant housing built in New Orleans following the devastating Hurricane Katrina.

The exhibit focuses primarily on the architectural and urban planning innovations being used to adapt to higher sea levels, as well as the human stories behind each inventive solution, according to the release. Contributing photographers include photojournalists and fine art photographers Iwan Baan, Stephen Wilkes, Jonas Bendiksen and Paula Bronstein.

Sink or Swim looks at climate change and architecture through the lives of those directly impacted by coastal flooding,” said Patricia Lanza, director of talent and content for the Annenberg Space for Photography, in a statement. “The images’ stories of devastation and resilience engage viewers and help foster dialogue about a crucial environmental issue.”


Gaibandha District, Bangladesh, 2010. During the harvest of jute, villagers rest above the floodwaters of the surging Brahmaputra River. A simple adaptation in flood-prone areas is building every house on a two-meter tall mud plinth. © Jonas Bendiksen.

The public can tune in to the opening day webcast at 10:00AM on June 1 to hear experts Dan Cayan, research meteorologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the aquarium’s Schubel, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Curator Frances Anderton and Long Beach City Manager Pat West discuss predicted sea level rise impacts on Southern California and Long Beach.

Viewers can submit questions in real time via Twitter (@AquariumPacific) using the hashtag #aopsinkorswim or by emailing [email protected].

Alongside Sink or Swim, the aquarium will add new sea level rise and extreme weather programming, including daily showings of the aquarium’s Rising Sea and Extreme Weather shows for NOAA’s Science on a Sphere. New programming will also include a lecture series featuring Dan Cayan on June 24, Reinhart Flick on July 1 and Sink or Swim contributors on September 29.

For more information about Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change, click here.

Images courtesy of Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].