Today I have the pleasure to host a different but exciting post from the photographer Ashley Cooper. I was astonished by his work “Images from a warming planet‘ , a collection of 495 photographs that document climate change impacts all around the world. In brief, Ashley Cooper, in 1986, he became the first person to climb every 3000 foot mountain in Great Britain and Eire in one continuous expedition, a feat that involved walking over 1,400 miles and climbing over 500,000 feet. He has been a professional environmental photographer for the last 20 years, specialising in climate change. This year, he is one of the Judges of the worldwide, Environmental Photographer of the Year competition, along with Stephen Fry. He is the only living photographer to have documented the impacts of climate change and the rise of renewable energy on every continent on the planet. Enjoy his post.
“In 2004, I started to read about climate change. As a photographer I know that the medium is a powerful tool for engaging and getting across messages to people. I decided to plan and undertake a specific climate change photo shoot. I spent a month in Alaska looking at glacial retreat, permafrost melt, and Boreal forest killed off by the march north of Spruce Bark Beetles, that never used to be able to survive and Alaskan winter. The highlight of the trip was a month spent on Shishmaref, a tiny, extremely remote island between Alaska and Siberia in the Chukchi Sea. Home to 600 Inuits, whose houses were being washed into the sea. The sea ice used to form around their island around late September, as temperatures rose the sea ice wasn’t forming till maybe Christmas, even back in 2004. Any bad storms that came through before the sea ice formed were knocking huge chunks out of their island and washing their houses into the sea. I documented Raymond Weyiouanna, a Shishmaref resident considered by many to be the worlds first refugee from climate change. I learnt something for the first time that I have witnessed many times since. that those least responsible for climate change are most impacted by it.
I returned from Alaska blown away at how rapidly the Arctic was changing, and that at a time when around 50% of the population hadn’t even heard of climate change. I started to plan my next climate change photo shoot to Tuvalu to document sea level rise this low lying carol atoll chain will probably be the first country in the world to disappear completely due to climate change. My trip coincided with the highest, king tides of the year. With a flat calm sea, at the highest point of the tide, the middle of the island was four feet under water.
I returned from Tuvalu and decided this needed to be my lives work, and hatched the plan of documenting the impacts of climate change and the rise of renewable energy on every continent on the planet. Fourteen years on I have become the only living photographer to have documented climate change on all continents. This epic journey took me to over 30 countries and was entirely self funded from image sales. It cost me around £300,000 to capture all the images.
I had many memorable moments including being arrested by the Chinese Army, being tailed for eight hours around London by four Met Police officers, and being threatened with arrest by the Royal Canadian mounted police whilst documenting the tar sands, the most destructive environmental project on the planet, and a climate change disaster. I narrowly avoided being avalanched in the Himalayas and came close to falling down a crevasse on the Greenland ice sheet when my leg fell through a snow bridge over the chasm below.
I have documented coastal erosion, coral bleaching, carbon offset, climate refugees, deforestation, drought, desertification, floods, fracking, forest fires, glacial retreat, green transport,permafrost melt, sea ice melt, sea level rise, every type of renewable energy and much much more.
Having put together the world’s single largest collection of climate change images, my next step was to produce an art photographic book with 500 of the best images from my journey around the planet. I crowd funded the income to cover the book costs, and just made target, when following a promo piece on TV news, I was contacted by a lady who had seen the program and wanted to help. She sent me a cheque for £20,000.
As the book went to press I heard that the residents of Shishmaref had taken the unprecedented step to vote as a community to abandon their island, which had been their home for hundreds of years. It was simply no longer sustainable.
Jonathon Porritt who wrote the foreword for the book called in “An extraordinary collection of images and a powerful call to action. The book has received support from Sir Tim Smit, Emma Thompson, Chris Bonington, Tim Farron, Vivienne Westwood, Mark Edwards and The Pope.
The link to the book site is www.imagesfromawarmingplanet.net “
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