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These Heartbreaking Pictures Show The Reality Of Climate Change And Inequality

"I want people to come away from this exhibition with an awareness that inequality and climate change are at critical states and that we need to address them globally."

Posted on September 24, 2019, at 5:04 p.m. ET

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Ami Vitale

Samburu warriors touch an orphaned black rhino for the first time at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya. They were so excited. Not one of them had ever seen a rhino, not even a photo. Here, people understand that wildlife are worth more alive than dead.

At this year's Photoville festival in New York City, one exhibition, Inequality and Climate Change: The Double Threat to Life on Earth, highlights the growing and deeply intertwined threat posed by economic inequality and climate change.

In this powerful exhibition, presented by the United Nations Development Programme, seven photographers — Solmaz Daryani, Felipe Fittipaldi, Josh Haner, Johnny Miller, Hannah Reyes Morales, Muhammed Muheisen, and Ami Vitale — capture vastly different perspectives of the world, but establish a common theme: The world's poorest populations are affected first and greatest by climate change, and ironically contribute the least to global warming.

Sumaya Agha, the photo coordinator at the United Nations Development Programme who helped to organize this exhibition, spoke with BuzzFeed News about the photographs and the powerful message behind them:

For the United Nations Development Programme, addressing inequality and climate change is a priority. Since we are at a critical stage for both issues, we decided to do an exhibition that would focus on the need to address the issues and hope that they come across in a tangible way so that the viewers will see the need to take action.

Solmaz Daryani

A dilapidated ship sits on dry land in Sheikh Wali, a coastal village in the northeast of Lake Urmia, Iran. Sheikh Wali used to be a very popular tourist destination. Once Lake Urmia dried up, the value of the surrounding lands was reduced, creating significant financial problems for the families who live there.

Felipe Fittipaldi

Russo is an environmental migrant. The erosion of the shore has already yielded hundreds of environmental migrants throughout the past five decades in Atafona, Brazil. Convivência Island, close to Atafona beach, saw its population shrink from 200 to a mere three families. The island is bound to disappear completely in the coming years.

I went on a search for projects from around the globe so that we can also show that this is a global issue. We found Felipe Fittipaldi in Brazil, where he had been documenting the town of Atafona, which has been affected by a combination of water mismanagement and the exacerbation of climate change causing erosion.

In Kenya, Ami Vitale has been documenting animal conservation for years, working with conservation organizations trying to protect endangered animals. There’s a connection between climate change and how it affects the communities that live in the same area as the endangered animals.

In all of these stories, it's [people living in poverty] who suffer the most at the expense of climate change, and [they] are the least responsible for its effects. Hannah Reyes Morales’s project from the Philippines is a really good example of that. For the fishing communities in the Philippines that she documented, their ways of life are disappearing as the fish population is depleting and their homes are being swept away. Their lifestyles are completing changing and they’re being forced to relocate and find new ways of making a living.

Hannah Reyes Morales

A young man fishes off of the coastline of Dulangan, a fishing village in Oriental Mindoro. Oriental Mindoro is taking active steps to effectively manage their marine resources, with a three-month seasonal fishing ban that prohibits commercial fishing boats from fishing in the municipal waters that lie within 10 kilometers off the coast, but permits those who fish to feed their families. Even after only a few years, the program is already seeing positive results.

Johnny Miller

The population of Mumbai, India’s largest city, has burgeoned in the last few years as people migrate from other regions in search of work. A leader in finance and film, the city is also an in-progress experiment in growth and development.

There’s so many things that we can do to help change this. People can be much more thoughtful about the way they go about their lives. In a lot of communities and societies, we’ve gotten into a habit of being rather wasteful, but if you think about recycling, it’s not that long ago that nobody ever thought about recycling. We’ve since been able to integrate recycling into our lifestyle.

I’m not an expert on climate change — but what the experts do tell us is that climate change can be stopped, but to do that we have to take action now. We need to use less plastic, be more proactive about carbon emissions, and just be less wasteful. I want people to come away from this exhibition with an awareness that inequality and climate change are at critical states and that we need to address them globally.

Ami Vitale

Thanks to dedicated community-based conservation, Namunyak, Kenya, is thriving. More than 6,300 elephants live here, and their return has transformed the landscape and many other species that depend on it. Today, you can see endangered Grévy’s zebra, leopards, reticulated giraffes, wild dogs, kudu, and elephants in increasing numbers. It’s a testament to how resilient nature can be when given a chance.

Ami Vitale

A student wears a giraffe mask during a visit from Twiga Walinzi wildlife club at Ntepes Primary School near Wamba, Kenya. The club teaches conservation of the local reticulated giraffe.

Solmaz Daryani

Remnants of a pier in Sharafkhaneh port, Iran.

Johnny Miller

Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course is located along the lush green slopes of the Umgeni River in Durban, South Africa. Almost unbelievably, a sprawling informal settlement exists just meters from the tee for the sixth hole. A low-slung concrete fence separates the tin shacks from the carefully manicured fairways.

Felipe Fittipaldi

The decaying landscape of Atafona, Brazil.

Hannah Reyes Morales

Laila Beltran sits in a hammock fashioned from an old nylon net in Carbonan, Philippines, a village nestled in a mangrove forest. The village regularly floods, especially during the rainy season, when even the solitary concrete road becomes submerged. The villagers struggle with the rising waters and have been forced to put their homes on stilts, but they have also found a way to make the most of it, turning their "backyard" into a wading pool where the children play after school and the adults cool themselves and chat.

Hannah Reyes Morales

Fishermen in Isla Verde, Philippines, fill bags of exotic aquarium fish with oxygen from tanks, preparing them for the boat trip to Batangas City, where aquarium fish traders wait to make their prearranged purchases. It takes several fishermen a week to fill three boats, and the fish sell for a total of around US $60–$100. The San Andres fisherfolk no longer use cyanide or dynamite, but as fish populations continue to diminish due to overfishing, pollution, and ocean warming, they are hoping to transition to the more sustainable livelihood of ecotourism.


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