07 September 2018

The Mountain Kingdom on the Front Line of Climate Change

07 September 2018 - Written by Laurence Cornet

Ciril Jazbec approaches climate change from the human perspective, defining his visual language as a bridge between the issue and the viewer.

© Ciril Jazbec, from the series, Bhutan

"Bhutan should be the world’s role model but instead it may become its victim", writes photographer Ciril Jazbec, who spent weeks sharing the life of the communities settled in the vast pristine landscapes of the Himalaya. "The problem is that Himalaya’s glaciers are melting. It’s a big problem that causes erosion and floods. They’ve had major crises, something that didn’t happen much before. So, they are being louder and louder to raise awareness about the situation."

During his tenure, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay established a new constitution that includes a full chapter pertaining to the environment. The constitution states that "every Bhutanese is a trustee of the Kingdom's natural resources and environment for the benefit of the present and future generation". Concrete sustainable solutions accompanied the text – a network of biological corridors was set: animals are allowed to roam free throughout the country; electric cars and eco-tourism are promoted; 50% of the territory was declared a national park and, as such, a protected area; and it was decided that a minimum of 60% of Bhutan's total land shall be maintained as forest.

© Ciril Jazbec, from the series Bhutan

"I wanted to bring a positive example to the climate change narrative, highlighting a country that is on the front line of climate change but where the government is trying to act differently in regards to the problem", Jazbec recounts. Political efforts have paid off, and Bhutan can claim to be the only carbon negative country in the world, setting a world standard for environmental preservation.

Jazbec, who has developed series about climate change in various parts of the world, from the Arctic to Africa, approaches the issue in an intimate way – contextualising landscapes of striking natural features that intermingle with details of people’s lives. "I really want to put a face on these stories", he comments. "I try to take field trips of at least three weeks, which gives me time to establish a connection, live with local families, and get closer to the community. That gives me a special insight."

© Ciril Jazbec, from the series Bhutan

From Bhutan’s Laya region, located almost entirely within protected areas, he captured the wilderness as much as people’s daily activities. Growing food, walking by wild horses running free, bow-hunting or yak herding, locals showcase a rare closeness with nature, and a genuine bonding with animals. "And that is just a part of what makes this mountain kingdom special in the eyes of anyone caring about our planet", Jazbec concludes.


Ciril Jazbec is a documentary photographer from Slovenia who focuses on environmental issues. He has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 2014. See more of his work on his website. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn focusing on cultural and environmental issues.


Getting Closer presents photographic works, mainly in a documentary vein, that speak about the causes and consequences of environmental degradation.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

3 minutes

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