When the vipers reach the artic region in Lapland or the banality of Climate Change

Comment on the Exhibition “Climate Change in Lapland, what can we do ?” presented by Stéphanie Lefrère, French biologist, Arktikum, Museum Rovaniemi (Finland), in cooperation with SYKE (Finnish Environment Institute) at the COP21 in Paris Le Bourget, November-December 2015




left : UN entrance for the diplomats with the Finnish flag on its pole, right : the main hall in the Climate Generation area, opened to the public visitors.
(source : Cyrille Clément)

Despite the terrible terrorist attacks suffered by the French capital during November 2015, the French government maintained with the determination and the success that we know now, under the authority of the Foreign Minister of the time, Laurent Fabius, the organisation of the long planned conference COP21, a global forum for many actors in the growing and strategic sector of environment, meeting industries like energy, consuming and many others.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, UN Secretary-General Ban, and French President Hollande Raise Their Hands After Representatives of 196 Countries Approved a Sweeping Environmental Agreement at COP21 in Paris (text : wikimedia commons)
(source : By U.S. Department of State from United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

It is not a trivial point to say that the tension was palpable among attendees while reaching the site of the event or leaving it for the city center, by the public transportation. But nonetheless the apprehension, everybody was there and the frequentation was at the height of the expectations.

In this context, the full programme was given without a cancellation. My choice was made in relation with the content of this blog, centred on Europe and, despite its tiny geographical dimensions and the density of its urban and industrial structuration, Europe still keeps a natural life, specially in its extremes.

Let’s turn to the north.

It may sound anecdotal that vipers find the temperatures acceptable enough, nowadays, to settle and survive as up in the north of Europe as the extreme north of the region of Lapland in Finland but this information is far from being just a funny curiosity. Rather a clue of an on-going evolution which will overturn the balance of the lifeforms in the far-north of Europe during the forthcoming decades. This is therefore also a signal left by the Climate change that will have far reaching consequences.

Stéphanie Lefrère during the conference at the COP21
(source : Cyrille Clément)

That’s the alarming message which the French biologist Stéphanie Lefrère endorses to bear, with the energy of an activist, to the public knowledge, from teenagers to top-ranking officials. And, among the wide programme of the COP21 which, besides the UN negotiations during 2 weeks, welcomed  “120 stands, around 20 interactive educational exhibitions, almost 340 conferences and more than 60 film screenings.” (to quote the official website of the event), the motive delivered by Mrs. Lefrère was not the most commonly known and the most advertised compared to desertification in the Sahel or submersion of the tiny low-levelled islands in the Pacific Ocean but in this choir of concerns, it does not mean that it is the least relevant or the least significant.

To demonstrate this point, this scientist, PhD of the University of Paris, is well organised to alert on a topic which is not as benign as it could be superficially seen : her exhibition, made of panels with scientific data, maps, projections, pictures, texts and graphics exists in three combinations of languages : Finnish/English, Russian/English, French/English, which fits to the places and countries where the exhibition is presented to a growing public : Finland, Russia, France and more. And she presents herself all the material to the public gathered in groups, like she already did it for the Finnish Embassy in Paris in September 2015.

Stéphanie Lefrère in front of a panel of her Exhibition “Climate Change in Lapland”
(source : Cyrille Clément)

Among all the mentioned species in the panels which compose the exhibition, I chose the viper as an example to illustrate this situation since this snake is common in the tempered regions, feature which would make it familiar and harmless though its place is not in specific landscape of the toundra or the tunturit (in Finnish) or fells (in English) like the Korvatunturi in Lapland.

And beyond one example, Stéphanie Lefrère describes not only individual species or lists or collections of animals and plants which are in danger but also whole organised and coherent systems and habitats existing since thousands of years. And the correlations are multiple : increased risks of forest fires, depleted morasses and a complete colonisation of the sub polar environment by species coming from the south (the tempered continental regions) and monopolising the resources for their needs.

Yllästunturi in Kolari, Finnish Lapland 
(source : J-P Kärnä [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

This is why Stéphanie Lefrère’s message is a clear and relevant alert to those who have to decide or influence the future of the human productions : what will be lost up until 2100, in the fragile northernmost forms of life, will represent a loss forever and an irreversible impoverishment in the natural life of Europe.

And there is no reason for that the ecosystems of Lapland appear to be just a marginal case which can be to easily downgraded from the list of priorities : what is true in Lapland is confirmed in the wider strip of the arctic regions in the Federation of Russia. This is why the creator of the exhibition avows that the public in Russia reacts very positively to her exhibition, yet more than in any Western country. So, certainly, a lesson to draw from such an experience.

the municipality of Inari in northern Lapland, the northernmost limit of recorded implantation for the vipers according to Stéphanie Lefrère

More about the exhibition :
Changement climatique en Laponie, que pouvons nous faire ? (in French)
Exposition sur l’impact du climat sur la nature lapone (in French)

4 thoughts on “When the vipers reach the artic region in Lapland or the banality of Climate Change

      1. I see. I have never met them in forests or elsewhere. Maybe it is due to that why I am afraid of them.

        In Finland, we make hikes and pick blueberries in the woods. I do not know if I am right, but vipers do not love forests, but they love stony landscapes and they love to sun. One fact I know, which applies in Finland that if there are ants, then there are no vipers. This must be the reason that when in the forest picking blueberries, we have not met vipers.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. They enjoy sun and sand and stones, yes. But, in the forest of Fontainebleau (South East of Paris) there is a wet part and a dry part. In the dry part, with sand, blocks and heather, they are often seen between May and October. To behave with them is, at first, not to be anxious because they are more anxious than you are. Either you just pass besides them, trying to avoid to make any noise, or you strike the ground with a stick and they will go away. The problem can appear if you just don’t see one of them and that you walk straight beside one without noticing. In this case, the best is to have high trekking boots protecting the ankles.


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