Why people care about climate change
Last week I visited two villages in Bangladesh that in three years time wont exist. The villages sit on river banks close to the Bay of Bengal in southern Bangladesh. Both villages are currently struggling to contain tidal surges that threaten the flood-protecting embankments which were built after the devastating Cyclone Aila in 2009.
Below a women outside her home in Jaliakhali village, Dacope area in southern Bangladesh. The family lost their original home during cyclone Aila, like others in the village the house is perched on a flood embankment built by NGOs after Cyclone Aila.
It was on assignment for The Asia Foundation that I was able to visit one of the climate change hot spots in Bangladesh. One family who lost their homes during cyclone Aila and have since rebuilt along the embankment spoke of how their floor floods during high tide, while another man spoke of how his family has moved countless times in his lifetime alone.Walking along the narrow embankment that barely keeps the river from completely engulfing the remaining low lying villages I felt a weight of sadness.
After finishing the assignment I was struck by an evening of food poisoning (which I suspect ironically came from a lunch at one of the fancy hotels) this forced me to spend a day inside recovering. Taking a break from the assignment I turned to finalising a portrait series I photographed earlier in the year in my hometown of Newcastle, Australia Newcastle is the worlds largest exporter of black coal and has a strong and passionate community of environmentalists. Many of these people are dedicated to activism which is motivated from a deep responsibility to raise awareness for the implications of coal, which accounts for 1/3 of global greenhouse emissions.
Over the last five years covering peaceful direct actions and protests primarily for breaking news I have regularly questioned how much impact my work is actually having. This thought spiral usually grows into brainstorming around how I coule more deeply engage an audience with my work. For Why climate change I asked people attending the annual blockade of Newcastle harbour to sit for me and also share a diary entry about why they care about climate change. Here is a link to the entire series http://conorashleigh.com/#/australia/why-climate-change/.
I was deeply humbled by the participants honesty and also how the portraits turned out. I am inspired by the results so much so that I now see this concept as a long term project. There will be much more to come.
I am very aware of my limited landscape skills. This in mind, as I ready myself for a few weeks away on assignments in Bangladesh I had to appreciate some of Australia’s beautiful country. A medium format panorama from a cold birthday walk in the Blue Mountains.