A riveting photo essay of images depicting climate change was recently published online. The essay, produced by Magnum in Motion and commissioned by the United Nations Development Program, is based on information found in the latest UNDP report.
What I like the most about this photo essay is the emphasis placed on promoting assistance to developing countries. It is now almost a mantra that poor countries contribute the least to climate change, but are also the most vulnerable to its impacts. It is one thing to hear such statements, but quite another to see such stark, visual representations of what this looks like.
While the photos definitely capture the emotions of viewers, I believe the “call to action” is a little weak. The accompanying text reads that a “low-carbon revolution” is needed within the next ten years and should start first in developing countries. How does this happen? Governments of rich countries charge taxes for carbon emissions and support clean tech research endeavors. This is, of course, the same action guidelines that the UN has been supporting for years now. While government funding and research is important, these are not the only means for starting a low-carbon economy in poor countries. In fact, these mechanisms are often the most time-consuming and cumbersome in their execution and impact, as the recent experiences of the E.U. carbon market can attest.
I think a more powerful call to action would be to support organizations that are directly involved in implementing clean energy solutions in developing countries now. This is what was formerly called the appropriate technology movement, and it involves implementing low-cost, high-efficiency technology on a mass-scale to people who need it most. You can see an example of this here in this Voice of America YouTube video, where organizations have funded the use of fuel-efficient stoves and ceramic water purifiers in Africa.
If we are to “think collectively” for vulnerable communities worldwide, we need solutions that are immediate and effective on a large-scale. This photo essay gets us emotionally engaged in a way that a dry report cannot – but let us be equally creative and direct in our response.
Shannon Arvizu is a clean-tech strategist and educator. You can find her at www.misselectric.com.