28 April 2017
28 April 2017 - Written by Giuseppe Oliverio
Buzzfeed News published a series of articles from the PHmuseum community to celebrate Earth Day and renew the climate change debate.
© Souvid Datta. People scavenging for coal from Jharia’s villages head toward the several open-cast coal mines nearby, such as this one in Ghunudi, every day at dawn. With few other jobs available for those without education or resources, coal mining has become the sole means of subsistence and a way of life for many living here.
While some politicians and part of the public opinion is still questioning if climate change is real, BuzzFeed News decided to highlight those who are working to analyse its impacts and suggest possible solutions.
The special focus promoted by the US media company in collaboration with PHmuseum opened with a work by documentary photographer Souvid Datta who explored the open mines of Jharia, in northeast India, for two years. Mining is indeed a serious issue in several countries around the world and it often compromises the environment and workers' health. The mines documented by Datta are the source of high-quality coal for India’s growing industrial sector, but the conditions of the workers are often ignored. As Datta mentioned in the interview with BuzzFeed News Senior Photo Editor, Kate Bubacz "many of the workers suffer from pneumoconiosis - a common respiratory affliction for miners where coal particles become lodged inside the lungs. Tuberculosis and severe asthma are also an issue. These health concerns are exacerbated by the fact that working conditions in the mines are poor and there is little corporate responsibility for workers’ health and safety priorities."
The second article focused on the work of Misha Vallejo, a documentary photographer based in Ecuador, who explored the area around Lake Poopó in Bolivia, where the water started disappearing in 2016. The lake, which is the second largest in Bolivia and located in the Altiplano Mountains, had shrunk in the past but never to the same extent. The Bolivian government blamed El Niño and climate change, while others said that water mismanagement may have also played a role.
Vallejo commented "In February, Bolivian President Evo Morales confirmed that the lake had been reduced to less than 30% and was drying out again rapidly. This was also confirmed by satellite images. These official reports also do not mention the quality of the water. The mining industry is really powerful in Bolivia and the mines nearby used to drop their toxic waste into the lake, contaminating the water and by extension damaging animals that lived off it (like birds). In some parts of the former lake you can even see changes in the colour of the soil and it smells like rotten egg. So if there is any hope for the lake, it should be the responsibility of the government to regulate mining companies and figure out a safe waste-disposal system. Otherwise the water may do more harm than good." Continue reading the full stories on BuzzFeed News.
The third piece focuses on animals and their possible extinction. There are indeed over 10,000 species threatened with extinction worldwide, a number that’s difficult to fathom.Maximilian Tomozei’s work explores this notion with poignancy, looking at common animals that are preserved in museums as treasures worth sharing. The images play with the idea of loss and preservation as the dioramas themselves veer into both the elegant and absurd.
"In Stilled Lives, I am trying to explain the fact that mankind has already injured the whole ecosystem" says Tomozei. "We no longer live in harmony with wildlife, which has begun to seem almost mythological. Zoos and natural history museums are important places for the appreciation of nature, but they are man-crafted reproductions, like modern Noah’s arks. I frame each subject trying to cut off most of the clues regarding its synthetic character, in order to create the illusion that the pictures are actual wildlife photographs."Keep reading the interview and view 16 pictures from his project here.
The special focus on climate change ends with a look at the future. The unpredictable nature of climate change makes it especially difficult as its nearly impossible” to prepare for challenges that will assume many shapes over the course of generations.Alberto Giuliani's work explores the notion of preparedness, from exploring what scientists are studying in the Arctic Circle where climate change is already having an observable effect, to examining some of the innovations that are being created in response to shifting technological innovations and needs.
When asked about his research, Giuliani commented "What really caught my attention is that after many trips in the future, I realised that scientists are not trying to preserve what we already have. Most of them are looking for alternatives of current life: going to another planet, modifying our bodies with genomics, building some machines able to replace humans, betting on a next life, building structures to preserve nature in captivity." Here you can find Giuliani's full interview.