World Environment Day 2021
To mark World Environment day 2021 on 5th June, we are focusing on the photography of Ashley Cooper. In 2004 Ashley set out on an epic journey to document the impacts of climate change and the rise of renewable energy on every continent on the planet. In fact, Ashley has probably witnessed more impacts of climate change than anyone else on Earth and in the process has built up a unique collection of images on this vitally important subject.
We selected 20 images, illustrating the range of his work, and asked Ashley to tell us more about the key issues shown and the experience of shooting them.
Fossil fuels and alternative energy
“Here we see the ying and yang of climate change. A wind turbine shadowed by the stacks of a coal-fired power station in Amsterdam, Netherlands.”
“This shot shows the edge of a rapidly retreating glacier, on Livingston Island in the South Shetlands, Antarctica. Fortunately, I have been privileged to spend three seasons in Antarctica, and although it is the most pristine continent on the planet, it is also one of the most rapidly warming areas.”
“Plastic rubbish washed ashore at Talisker Bay on the Isle of Skye. This Scottish isle is famous for its fine whisky, but like most coastlines it is sinking under an ever greater weight of marine plastic. Soon there will be a greater weight of plastic in the sea than fish.”
“Tailings pond in Alberta, Canada. Unlined ponds in the tar sands leach toxic chemicals into the Athabasca River. Documenting one of the most environmentally destructive projects on the planet was for me deeply depressing. I was tailed by security guards wherever I went and threatened with arrest by the local police, if I took one step off the highway. However, I didn’t let this intimidation stop me from documenting this mindless destruction.”
Four faces of climate change
Ashley witnesses the impact of climate change in four different continents.
Melting permafrost, Alaska
“Here we see a house in Fairbanks, Alaska being moved after it started collapsing into the ground due to permafrost melt caused by global warming. Indeed, I saw many structures impacted by melting permafrost on this my first dedicated climate change photo shoot at a time when most people hadn’t even heard of climate change.”
Rising sea levels, Tuvalu
“Trees on the edge of Tepuka Island on Tuvalu felled by ever rising seas and increasingly stormy weather. Some smaller islands have already been stripped bare and are sinking beneath the waves. It is devastating to see the destruction wrought on innocent communities. Tuvalu will probably be the first country in the world to disappear due to climate change. Here we see clearly the tragic irony that those least responsible for climate change are most impacted by it.”
Frequent flooding, England
“One of many bridges damaged or destroyed by flooding in Cumbria, UK. With every passing year flooding is becoming more frequent and more aggressive, as we continue to load the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. I think that infrastructure damage will soon either bankrupt the insurance industry, or make climate related destruction uninsurable.”
Increased avalanche risk, Nepal
“Avalanche on Machapuchare in the Annapurna Himalaya, Nepal. This was caused by a massive block of glacial ice that detached from the summit of the peak. Worryingly this was in mid winter when everything should be frozen solid. I narrowly avoided being buried by this massive avalanche, as shortly before I had been in the valley below it taking photographs.”
Warning signs and visions of hope for the future
This year’s theme for World Environment Day is #GenerationRestoration. From Australia, Canada, Chile, India and the UK, Ashley’s images highlight warning signs of destruction and visions of hope for the future. Just click on any of the images below for more information about what is shown.
Watching glaciers and investing in alternative energy
The world’s glaciers are clear indicators of climate change. The move from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources becomes more urgent.
Andean water shortage
“Laguna Miluni is a reservoir fed by glacial melt water from the Andean peak of Huayna Potosi. Many of Bolivia’s reservoirs are running critically low as the glaciers that feed them disappear. In fact La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city is critically short of water, and may have to be abandoned in the near future.”
“A scientist takes measurements as part of a study to measure the speed of the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuag in Greenland. Of course, science underpinned all my climate change photo shoots.”
Air pollution – bad for the planet, bad for people
“Air pollution from smoking chimneys, Heilongjiang Province, China. Burning fossil fuels isn’t just a disaster for climate change; it is also seriously bad for our health. Every year millions of people die early deaths due to pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
Harnessing the power of the sun
“One of the solar towers reflected in heliostats at the Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Plant, the largest solar thermal plant in the world. It covers 4,000 acres of desert. Many of these plants can now generate energy for long after the sun has set. It is always wonderful to see how technology is able to wean humanity off fossil fuels.”
Iceland shows the way forward
“A pipeline takes geothermally heated water from Hellisheidi power station in Hengill, to Reykjavik, Iceland. 100% of Iceland’s electricity comes from renewables, 70% from hydro, 30 % from geothermal.”
Explore the issues in more depth
If you’d like to know more about the environmental issues that Ashley Cooper has documented, take a look at our new Ashley Cooper environmental images gallery. Here you will you find more than 200 great images from his epic journey to document the impact of global warming, plus examples of sustainable living and renewable energy. The #GenerationRestoration message of World Environment Day rings out loud and clear from these images.
If you would like to see more about Ashley’s climate change journey, you can purchase the award winning book ‘Images From a Warming Planet’ at www.imagesfromawarmingplanet.net.