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London: Postcards from the Future

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Stephanie Ostroff, an intern with National Geographic Digital Media’s Travel team, ponders London’s future. 

The din that once defined Piccadilly Circus has been replaced by an eerie silence. In lieu of bustling Londoners are water lilies, fish, and wind turbines. Climate refugees flee the waterlogged city center and set up camp behind Buckingham Palace. Camels are the new stars of the Horse Guards Parade. These are just a sampling of the startling images that make up the “London Futures” exhibit at the Museum of London, a photo display that envisions the drastic impact of climate change.

See more images after the jump.

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The exhibit, which opened October 1 and will run until March 6, is a collection of 14 familiar London scenes that have been digitally transformed by illustrators Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones of London-based digital illustration company GMJ. The photos paint a haunting portrait of a city ravaged by rising sea levels, food scarcity, and global warming. In the face of these challenges, Graves and Madoc-Jones imagine a London that’s learned to adapt.

This means rice paddy fields in Parliament Square to aid London’s food production effort, empty buildings huddled around a flooded Piccadilly Circus to support the infrastructure of power generation, and shanty towns surrounding Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. Camels can hold up better in the scalding heat of the Horse Guards Parade, so they become the standard participants in this London tradition. The banks of the Thames well up and render the city into a metropolitan Venice, and winter skating at Tower Bridge becomes a popular London pastime as a slowing Gulf Stream creates a mini ice age.

“London Futures” is part of the Mayor’s Story of London Festival, which celebrates the city as a center of innovation and looks at how it will develop and change going forward. And as part of the exhibit, the artists are encouraging people to create their own “Postcard from the Future” by creating a Flickr group to showcase other eerie images. They’ll select a favorite by the end of this month; the winner will be presented at one of the series of gallery talks scheduled to coincide with the exhibit.  

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