Rainforest degradation is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and robs one billion of the poorest people on Earth from their source of livelihood. These are just two of myriad reasons that the world leaders meeting next month at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen must achieve some type of progress toward binding a international treaty to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Most pundits agree that COP15 is unlikely to produce a finalized treaty, but the work of Daniel Beltrá, a Spanish photographer living in Seattle, just might push the process forward. At the very least, it will remind the leaders of what they are trying to protect.
Some of Beltrá’s photographs are shockingly beautiful, but many are just plain shocking: images of burning, drought-stricken and clear-cut rainforests of Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. The Prince’s Rainforests Project, an effort that Prince Charles of Wales established in 2007 in order to raise awareness about rainforest destruction and raise funds to support rainforest preservation, appointed Beltrá (through the Sony World Photography Awards) to photograph the world’s largest and most important rainforests as part of the campaign.
Now, some of these images—which show not only wide-scale damage to the rainforests but also vignettes of pristine sections—are collected in a limited-edition book, Rainforest: Lifebelt for an Endangered Planet, which key world leaders at COP15 will receive.
The idea is that Beltrá’s images will bring the facts around rainforest degradation into greater focus.
Beltrá, who has shot for Greenpeace and other NGOs and for Reportage for Getty Images, says his contribution to the Prince’s Rainforest Project is small in comparison to the greater effort—”I just do the artsy stuff,” he demurs. But take a look at his work. It’s artistic, for sure…and come December, it might also impact international policy. Beltrá’s documentation of our changing rainforests will likely linger in the minds of our world leaders.