By Orin Langelle
Global Justice Ecology Project’s Co-director/strategist
Yesterday the alternative forum to the official UN climate conference opened: Klimaforum09. Global Justice Ecology Project will have several events there including a panel discussion on genetically engineered trees and an event co-organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network and co-sponsored by Global Forest Coalition.
Prior to the opening at Klimaforum 09 we hung photos of my new exhibit that is premiering here in Copenhagen. The exhibit is entitled “The Roadmap to Extinction: Are Humans Disappearing?”
The following is my Photographer’s Statement:
The theme of the exhibit is climate change and the possibility of human extinction. These are not the usual photographs one associates with climate change: ice caps and glaciers melting or polar bears adrift. The photographs in “The Roadmap to Extinction: Are Humans Disappearing?” are images designed to show that time and space are fleeting and we are on this planet for only a brief time, so we should use that time meaning-fully.
The exhibit shows people passing through time, demonstrating that existence and time do not stand still and that mass extinction is a sad possibility due to the climate crisis if action is not taken. Instead of looking at razor sharp recognizable photojournalism, “The Roadmap to Extinction: Are Humans Disappearing?” engages the viewer to observe a progression of images moving in stages from recognizable human forms to figures almost completely unrecognizable.
This exhibit is a visual warning and wake-up call. Although I have a background in photojournalism, this breaks away from my usual documentary work. The inward disturbance I feel moved me to look existentially through a photographic lens. I felt the need to take this leap with my visual expression in this exhibit in order to confront the viewer with a thought-provoking and perhaps disturbing image of the ephemeral nature of life in order to encourage them to consider what they can do to prevent climate catastrophe and the potential extinction of humans. The images in the photographs in ” The Roadmap to Extinction: Are Humans Disappearing?” are directed at making the viewer look inward to provide a sense of time and space that are fleeting, not only to the viewer, but to humankind as well. In so doing, the exhibit intends to provoke people to take action to avoid the potential cataclysmic consequences of climate change. Not only humans can disappear-so can all species. And when action is taken it must be for climate justice.
Origin of the photographs:
These photographs were taken on two successive evenings, 10 and 11 October 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. During the day I attended the annual meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held in that city. The IUCN meetings were quite disturbing to me, as the overwhelming majority of strategies to protect nature put forth to the 8,000 in attendance emphasized market-based mechanisms.
The premise of letting the market solve the environmental crisis is deeply troubling since it is the market that has driven us into the myriad ecological and social crises we face today.
This emphasis on business to solve the environmental crisis is reflected across numerous fora. In May 2008, I attended the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) in Bonn, Germany where the CBD welcomed business with open arms. In Poznan, Poland I participated in the UN Climate Convention and watched as the same market-based mechanisms were pushed forth, complete with false solutions to climate change. Indigenous Peoples’ voices and those affected by climate change were not heard in Poznan, Bonn or Barcelona.
We will post the exhibit in our Photo Gallery in our newly launched and very exciting GJEP webpage http://globaljusticeecology.org/