The Warmest Place on Earth

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

Carl Sagan

This series is a cautionary tale against the climate crisis  and a celebration of the beauty of Earth in its permanence through change. I want my work to be a reminder that while we are part of a whole, we are not needed on this planet, and what's really at stake is the future of our civilisation. Earth was there long before humanity and will exist long after we're gone. 

Like many others, I didn't know what the climate crisis was until I saw it with my own eyes. 


In 2010 I was intellectually aware of environmental issues and took an interest in Environmental Economics. During my exchange semester at the  University of Sydney, I signed up for a class called Economics of Minerals and Energy Industries. All students had to go on a field trip to Hunter Valley, NSW, where we visited a coal mine and a power plant and met a member of the local city council. He explained to us the environmental damages and health issues related to the local coal industry.


I remember standing on the edge of the huge hole in the ground that is a coal mine. Listening to that man telling about the suffering of his neighbours. Watching the grey smoke rise up from the chimneys of the power plant. I was finally, inevitably facing the consequences of human activities on the environment. Since then, I could never stop seeing them everywhere and I began to capture them on camera.


This experience triggered the still ongoing series of changes in what I eat, what I believe, in my career choices, in how I travel, in what I do with my free time. My hope is that my work will inspire other people to change, too.

The Warmest Place on Earth - Death Valley, January 2016

The name of the project was inspired by my trip to Death Valley, one of the most dramatically beautiful places I have ever visited and the warmest place on Earth. Not only holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded (54° Celsius, in June 2013), but also for the hottest month ever recorded. In July 2018 the average temperature in Death Valley was 42° C, reaching peaks of 53° C. 

The Beauty at The End of All Things - Hamburg 2013 - 2023

 It is now ten years since I moved to Hamburg, and just a little bit longer since I first visited. 


I remember all the layers of clothing I was missing when I arrived, the sharp wind carrying the smell of the sea from one hundred kilometers away. I remember choosing to smoke outside the club in the freezing night rather than stop looking at the harbor lights. During the first winter, the river froze over one polar week and the first day the temperature climbed back to 0° C, I went to see the ships wading through blades of ice with my new lover. In the first summer, I realized I wasn’t going to sleep more than a few hours a night until the equinox and that the sheer amount of daylight could almost make up for the lack of heat. 


In the following years I kept bracing myself for unbearably dark and cold winters and bright and disappointing summers that didn’t always come. I knew that the world was getting warmer and wilder, but I didn’t expect to witness it so clearly over such a short - in Earth terms - period of time.


According this data (or this data) the mean yearly temperature has been going up in Hamburg like in many other places. Every single year that I have been here, this value has been higher than expected and almost every year as been warmer than the previous one. In early 2022 Hamburg was hit by three different hurricanes in a few weeks, and only a few months later by the highest temperature ever recorded.


It’s not just the data: each year the last frost seems to come a little earlier and first a little later. The seeds I plant sprout sooner and I get to harvest herbs and flowers each time a little longer than I had been expecting, while the time of the year when my cats and I get to bask in the sun on our terrace stretches in both directions. Each summer, I see how more and more ofter the hot and stiff air from the land clashes with the colder winds from the north, creating galerna-like storms that I never thought I’d see so away from the Atlantic Ocean. I feel the air getting heavy, and tired, ripe with a tropical feeling that makes me think of doom rather than bliss. Each winter, I believe I will need much warmer clothes than I will end up wearing, and the snow and frost are being more and more often replaced by heavy rains and winds. 



And while my southern body can’t help but enjoying the additional sunshine, the warm rainstorms to dance into, and the widely above-freezing winters, I can’t help but thinking that I am just witnessing the beauty at the end of all things.

La Isla - Tenerife, 2023

The first time I travelled to this Island, I wasn’t sure what to expect: I was chasing sun and friends, without much of a plan or expectations. I ended up traveling solo in a van and up being absolutely captivated by it’s rugged volcanic shores, scorched by Atlantic winds and the African sun. When I researched how the climate crisis was affecting the climate in Tenerife and, more generally, in the Canary Islands, I couldn’t find much. One study explained that the Islands, just like any other place, are experiencing rise in temperatures and the local population and ecosystems are vulnerable to it's consequences, especially in the mountain areas. I also spoke to many locals, and while no one had any illusions about the future, they all agreed that there weren’t any obvious signs of disruption in the climate patterns, yet.



Less than two years later, they told me another story. A story of wildfires and extreme temperatures on land as well as in the water. A story that I can confirm, as I also entered the water bracing myself for a a blissful Atlantic chill and felt like stepping into the Mediterranean. As I climbed the 3700m of the Teide, I was expecting freezing winds a close-to-zero temperatures as I went up, and was able to do the entire climb in shorts instead.



Failure of Imagination - Hamburg, Italy, Provence, Summer 2022

 In 2022 Germany registered its sunniest summer, Hamburg its highest temperature (40.1° C on the 20th of July) ever recorded. While Hamburg has not been affected by drought, the low water levels have been uncovering “Hunger Stones” along the Elbe, as well as slowing down the shipping routes on the Rhine and creating supply change issues, ironically, for the coal industry. Italy and France have been significantly warmer: high summer temperatures arose as early as May and kept increasing, leading to drought, wildfires, limited crop yields and hydropower productionTowards late August and early September, when I was there, the temperatures had gone back to bearable (though still warmer than average) with hot days and mild nights, but the effects of months relentless heath were in plain sight and feel. Everyone I met was exhausted, especially the elderly, and told me about many torrid, sleepless nights. The fields were dry, the seawater uncomfortably warm, and the wineries struggling to produce in the same volume and quantity as usual, despite their attempts to introduce heath-resistant vines. Upon my return to the North, summer still didn’t let go. According to several sources Germany has seen its warmest October ever recorded and might be on track for an exceptionally warm winter. The plants on my balcony are still blooming: I am still harvesting chamomile, calendula and lavender and I have just started bringing inside the ones that won’t survive the winter outdoors.


Read the full article on my blog.

High and Dry - Sierra Nevada del Cucuy, Colombia, 2019

Most of Colombia's water, which is used both for drinking and producing electricity, comes from two main sources, and they are both endangered by climate change. All of its glaciers are in the North Andean region, and they have been retreating for decades. Scientists warned that they might entirely disappear within 30 years. The Paramo is a mountain ecosystem that only exists in South and Central America. The flora here has adapted to certain temperature and altitudes, and has a fundamental role in capturing the water and delivering it back into the river system. Due to rising temperatures and higher demand for farmland the vegetation is losing its habitat, and due to the extreme altitude, it will not be able to adapt by simply migrating higher up. The disappearance of the two ecosystems would mean water scarcity, loss of biodiversity - Colombia has the highest concentration of biodiversity for surface in the world - and disrupt agriculture and energy production (~80% of the country electricity is hydroelectric).

Not Ok - Iceland, 2019

Iceland is famous for its dramatic landscapes of glacial and volcanic wastelands, that granted it the nickname of the land of ice and fire. But many don't know that Iceland's glaciers have already been retreating for decades due to global warming, and one of them has melted to the point of losing its status of glacier. The Ok mountain, formerly known as Okjökull (jökull  means glacier in Icelandic), is located in the western part of the country, whereas most of the glaciers I visited are outlets of the massive Vatnajökull, in the South-East. If all Icelandic glaciers would melt, they could submerge the entire country below 30 m of water, or raise global sea level by one cm. For more resources visit the website of the Vatnajökull - Melting Glaciers project or my blog article for more photos.

The Abyss - North-Rhine Westphalia, 2018

Germany remains Europe's biggest CO2 emitter and this is largely due to lignite mining and energy production. Despite the existence of alternative energy sources the Government is stalling in the definition of the terms for the coal phase-out and not meeting its goal in terms of emission reductions and transition to renewables. Besides causing global warming, lignite mining is responsible for depleting water resources, destroying ecosystems (like the Hambach Forest) and villages, and the relocation of thousands of people. More on the topic in this article or in these videos. You can also have a look at my project Inside Keyenberg for a complete overview.

Long Hot Summer - Hamburg, 2018

Like most of Europe, mid-July through mid-August 2018, Germany was hit by a massive heat wave. The unseasonal temperatures led to record low water levels and record high temperatures in lakes and rivers causing trouble to navigation and killing fish by the thousands. Farmers all over the country, faced with unpredictability, have been pleading to the Government for drought-aid, and the wine makers have begun the earliest wine harvest in German history.

Sargassum - Yucatán Peninsula, 2017

Since 2015 Caribbean beaches are suffering from a Sargassum outbreak. The algae have started washing up in large quantities, causing hassles for tourism and occasionally intoxication due to decay fumes. The rise in sea temperatures is causing both large quantities of algae to detach from the sea bottom and the change in sea currents that causes the algae to land on the Caribbean shores. Fertiliser-rich wastewater is also suspected to be contributing to the outbreak. During the same trip,  I witnessed the beginning of Hurricane Franklin: formed in the Atlantic off the coast of Belize, it swept over the peninsula as a tropical storm before hitting the Gulf states of Veracruz and Campeche. It was the first hurricane to hit Mexico since 2010.

The Drought - California, 2016

Between 2011 and 2017 California experienced a massive drought. Until the 2014, the land was at its ever recorded driest. Despite being declared concluded in early 2017 (thanks to the wettest windet ever recorded) the draught came back in 2018 and currently about 86% of the state is suffering from some level of abnormal dryness.


The Endless Rain Season - Australia, 2011

The Australian cyclone season of 2010-11, recorded as a near average one, included tropical cyclone Yasi, considered the strongest to hit Queensland since 1918, and Tropical cyclone Carlos, which shattered the rainfall records in the Northern Territories.  Many crops were destroyed and the price of Queensland produce skyrocketed in the Australian supermarkets. Due to intense and longer-than-usual rainfall, the Outback remained in bloom during the usually dry months of April and May, while the Tropical North remained flooded.