photos from the front lines…
This exhibit opened at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery in Buffalo, New York on 3 October 2014 and ran until 5 December 2014.
The photos document impacts of and resistance to climate change and false solutions, spanning five continents and more than 25 years.
Many of these photographs convey the harsh reality of destruction due to climate change, others show what is under threat but still remains, additional shots point to what millions of people around the world believe are the drivers and causes of this phenomenon. Additional images expose those who promote false solutions for profit; further photos are of protest – confronting those in power who threaten the web of life on Earth.
[For an excellent review of the exhibit by Jack Foran from Bufffalo, NY’s newest weekly The Public, please see the link at the end of this post.]
Statement of the Photographer on the Exhibit:
This statement is quite similar to the one I read at the opening in Buffalo, NY.
One of the most important things I have learned in my life is that everything is interconnected.
One of the greatest influential environmentalists of the last century, David Brower said, “Ecology teaches us that everything, everything is irrevocably connected. Whatever affects life in one place—any form of life, including people—affects other life elsewhere.
At this point in history life is out of control. The Hopi word is koyaanisqatsi.
There is not a magic bullet nor technological fix that will enable humans and other species to survive this crisis. But there still is hope. In fact there may be “thousands of solutions to climate change” as La Via Campesina says. La Via Campesina is the international movement that brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, Indigenous Peoples, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world.
La Via says these solutions are small in scale and controlled by communities not corporations.
I take my responsibility as a concerned photographer very seriously. I eschew the concept of objectivity; photojournalism should present truth. Great journalists like John Reed and photojournalists like Robert Capa told the truth, and did not worry about being “objective.” The trend toward “objective” journalism, where both sides must be represented, where the truth must be counterbalanced by the untruth has no place in a just society, especially when corporate propaganda already dominates so much of the media.
As the late Buffalo photographer Milton Rogovin stated, “The rich have their own photographers.”
Orin Langelle – Asunción, Paraguay – 29 November 2014
The Gran Chaco, Paraguay: Campo Loro is a 10,000-hectare field that was given to this Ayoreo community in exchange for their nomadic realm of more than 10 million hectares. The Ayoreo were the masters of the harsh northern Gran Chaco territory. They lived off hunting and gathering. Because they posed a “threat” to the expansion of white “civilization,” they were forced into settlements. The subhuman confinement conditions, which subdued these proud people, depleted their self-esteem, but today continue with their resiliance. They have a more than 50% unemployment rate.
Survival International reports, “Since 1969 many [Ayoreo] have been forced out of the forest, but some still avoid all contact with outsiders. Their first sustained contact with white people came in the 1940s and 1950s, when Mennonite farmers established colonies on their land. The Ayoreo resisted this invasion, and there were killings on both sides.”
The largest settlement is Campo Lorro.
Today, so-called “renewable energies” threaten to displace the Ayoreo People. Expanding genetically modified soybean plantations, in part for biofuels, and hydroelectric dams are causing a grave deforestation crisis in the forests of the Chaco.
Bosawas Reserve, Nicaragua: Indigenous Mayangna traveling by panga (dugout canoe) on the Rio Pis Pis in the Bosawas in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region (1996). The Bosawas rainforest is the largest rainforest north of the Amazon Basin. Illegal logging threatens the rainforest’s biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples.
A 1997 action at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC to protest the logging of the Bosawas rainforest was widely publicized in Nicaragua and led to the Nicaraguan government cancelling a 150,000 hectare illegal logging concession on Indigenous Mayangna land in the Bosawas. Unfortunately illegal logging continues and the reserve is being destroyed, threatening the lifeways of forest dependent peoples.
Bonn, Germany: An Indigenous man watches UN decision-makers from the balcony at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
Scholar, Historian and activist Vine Victor Deloria, Jr., said, “Progress is the absolute destruction of the real world in favor of a technology that creates a comfortable way of life for a few fortunately situated people. Within our lifetime the differences between the Indian use of the land and the white use of the land will become crystal clear. The Indian lived with his land. The white man destroyed his land, he destroyed the planet earth.”
Whapmagoostui (Great Whale), Hudson Bay: Cree elder women listen to a presenter in Whapmagoostui at the first gathering of Cree, Innu and Inuit assembled to discuss Hydro-Quebec’s James Bay Project. (1993)
Cree Helen Atkinson stated, “Cree culture has a lot to offer in the area of nature, which is something very much needed in the world. In western society, everything is segregated. That is what is ruining the world. People have to think more holistically about their actions. Everything comes down to ‘how much money can I make from this.’ Until this changes, all this talk of environmental protection is bullshit.”
Cree Robbie Dick added, “The importance of saving the environment is as important as saving one’s life. The land is our life.”
James Bay, Quebec: The Rupert River, one of the rivers that was scheduled to be dammed by Hydro-Quebec as part of the James Bay Project on Cree Indigenous Territory. (1993)
Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle spent a month on a documentary and fact-finding trip to the James and Hudson Bay regions of Northern Quebec, Canada. They found out first-hand from the people involved in the day-to-day struggle against the multinational Hydro-Quebec exactly what the current situation was, both from those already impacted by the La Grande (Phase I) Hydroelectric Project and also from the people fighting to stop Phase II, the Great Whale Project.
Chisasibi, Quebec: Hydro-Quebec’s La Grande hydroelectric dam project flooded thousands of hectares of Cree land, displacing traditional Cree villages into prefabricated towns like Chiasibi. An untimely water release from the La Grande dam drowned 10,000 migrating caribou. Dams are being advocated as a “renewable energy” despite their tremendous social and ecological destruction; and despite the fact that they release huge amounts of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.
In April 1994, the Native Forest Network organized an International Day of Action on Hydro-Quebec’s 50th anniversary. There were more than eighteen protests in six countries. After many years of First Nations’ intense resistance, and shortly after the global day of action, Hydro-Quebec put the Great Whale Project “on ice” indefinitely.
Copenhagen, Denmark: Clayton Thomas Muller, a Cree Indigenous man from Canada, joins other Indigenous Peoples from around the Earth to lead the “Reclaim Power” march out of the UN Climate Conference in 2009. The march out of the conference was to meet with non-accredited protesters marching towards the conference for a Peoples’ Assembly at the fence surrounding the conference center. Here, participants from both sides would discuss collaborative efforts to find real, peoples’ solutions to the climate crisis. The marches on both sides of the fence were violently attacked by the Danish police and the Peoples’ Assembly did not take place. Some Danish organizers were jailed and charged under anti-terrorism laws.
The Copenhagen Climate Conference was where the second round of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol were to be finalized that would take over after the first round of Kyoto commitments expired in 2012. As such, it was a focal point for protests by social movements, Indigenous Peoples and activists from around the world. It ended with the disastrous “Copenhagen Accord,” pushed by the US government, being rejected.
Durban, South Africa: On 3 December 2011, thousands of people from around the world hit the streets of Durban, South Africa to protest the UN Climate Conference there.
Nicknamed by activists “The Durban Disaster,” at one point it appeared that the talks might actually collapse, but a small cabal of 20-30 countries held exclusive closed-door talks over the final days to create the Durban Platform.
This platform was described by carbon analyst Matteo Mazzoni as “an agreement between parties to arrange another agreement.”
Posoltega, Nicaragua: This tree was uprooted and stuck upside down in the mud after the crater lake of the Las Casitas volcano collapsed during Hurricane Mitch causing a major mudslide that buried entire villages near Posoltega, Nicaragua. The tree marks a mass grave, and the land affected by the mudslide resembles a desert.
The crater of the Las Casitas volcano broke at 11 a.m. on Friday, 30 October 1998. Nearly 2500 people were killed at the onset possibly upwards of 3000 people perished in total. There were over 5000 refugees.
The main drivers of Hurricane Mitch’s devastating impacts were deforestation and Climate Change. Climate change strengthened the Hurricane and heavy rains caused massive flooding. This inundation, exacerbated by deforestation around the crater lake in the Las Casitas volcano caused it to collapse.
Nicaragua National Assembly Congressman and member of the Environmental Commission, Jose Cuadra, blamed Congressman Eduardo Callejas for deforesting the slopes of the volcano in the 60’s and 70’s. Callejas was also blamed for cutting part of the forest there in 1998 for coffee production, and allowing telecommunication towers to be built on top of the volcano along with a road built up its side. Jose Cuadra was assassinated on 18 August 1999.
Posoltega, Nicaragua: During Hurricane Mitch, Johana Medín and her baby boy were swept away in the torrent of the Las Casitas volcano mudslide. For over 2 kilometers she held on to her baby and saved his life. Other survivors were not so lucky. Some were stuck in the mud for up to six days and had to have their limbs amputated. Others swallowed stomachs full of the mudslide and became sick. There were over 5,000 refugees.
Copenhagen, Denmark: Tens of thousands of people marched at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the UN was to commit to a new round of binding commitments following the expiration of the first round under the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. There were no new binding commitments, however, leading to outrage by people around the globe. Already the UN estimated that millions of people have died as a result of climate-induced disasters and there are more environmental refugees worldwide than refugees from war.
Copenhagen, Denmark: During the first week of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, information was leaked from secret meetings held by the Danish government with some of the world’s largest emitters, in a document dubbed “The Copenhagen Accord.” The Accord allowed for global increases in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius. This led to outrage by excluded African delegates who responded with a spontaneous protest in the UN Climate Convention.
They marched through the Bella Convention Center chanting, “two degrees is suicide!” The Copenhagen Accord cabal responded, and on 15 December, French President Sarkozy organized a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles. After this meeting and a phone call from President Obama, Meles announced that he was speaking for all of Africa when he agreed to the Copenhagen Accord position.
Mithika Mwenda, of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance responded, “The … science is clear – 2 degrees globally means 3.5 degrees in Africa – this is death to millions of Africans. If Prime Minister Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance – he is welcome to – but that is not Africa’s position. Every other African country has committed to policy based on the science. That means at least 45% cuts by rich countries by 2020 and it means $400 billion fast-track finance not $10 billion.”
Waterbury, Vermont: Hurricane Irene struck the landlocked US state of Vermont on 28 August 2011. As of Tuesday, 30 August, thirteen towns in Vermont were completely cut off from the outside world due to the devastation wrought by the hurricane. Roads like Route 100, a major artery running north and south through the state, sustained catastrophic damage to culverts and bridges for many miles. In all, over 200 roads across the state were closed due to washouts from the heavy rains that drenched the state for nearly 24 hours.
In Waterbury, one of the hardest hit cities, dumpsters lined the streets and debris was piled according to type with electronics in one pile, hazardous materials (mostly paint and household chemicals) in another, and everything else going in the dumpsters. “Oh well,” said one woman looking at a broken family heirloom. “It’s just stuff, right?” then threw it into the dumpster. “Bye.” The loss, however, was clearly overwhelming.
Waterbury, Vermont: Waterbury, where Vermont’s state offices are located, sustained heavy flood damage during Hurricane Irene. Waterbury was submerged under 10 feet or more of water when the Winooski River rose to record flood levels in minutes. Even the state’s emergency management office succumbed to the flooding waters and had to relocate to Burlington—the state’s largest city. When Irene hit Sunday, Waterbury-based WDEV radio station stayed on the air all day and night with a generator, despite losing electricity due to the storm. WDEV provided invaluable information to residents about rising waters, flooding damage and impassable roads during the disaster.
Missouri: Food prices continue to rise around the globe due to severe and, in some cases, extreme drought and other weather disasters. And in coming years, more droughts, floods and other extreme weather are expected to exacerbate the growing problem.
The photo above was taken in September 2012 near St. Louis, MO. The drought was one of the worst on record in Missouri and a prolonged state of emergency was declared by Governor Jay Nixon.
Extreme weather such as this is not just of concern for rising food prices, but is a threat to biodiversity and all life. Today companies like Monsanto are taking advantage of the extreme weather to push their GMO “climate smart” crops.
St. Louis, Missouri: This photo was shot in 1988, the same year that NASA’s Dr. James Hansen testified before a Congressional Committee in the US Senate that climate change was real and was already starting to cause changes in climate and weather.
Photographer Orin Langelle received an award for the above photo from the former Environmental Action Magazine for “…recognition of photographic excellence in exploring humanity’s effect on the earth and action to protect the environment.”
The photo is symbolic of corporate strategies to continue discharging pollution while claiming to mitigate climate change through failed schemes including carbon trading and carbon offsets.
Bali, Indonesia: At an Indigenous Peoples’ Protest in Bali, Fiu Elisara of the O Le Siosiomaga Society of Samoa stated, “This [UN] process has become nothing but developed countries avoiding their responsibilities to cut emissions and pushing the responsibility onto developing countries. Projects like REDD [forest carbon offsets] sound very nice but they are trashing our indigenous lands. People are being relocated and even killed; my own people will soon be under water. The money from these projects is blood money.”
Durban, South Africa: Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, speaks to protesters during the major march in Durban. South African activist Virginia Setshedi (left) watches in disbelief and disgust.
Virginia Setshedi, from the Anti-Privatization Forum in Johannesburg, affirmed that “resistance to neo-colonialism [will succeed] in changing the international agenda.”
Bali, Indonesia: An Indigenous man with his mouth covered by a UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) gag during the Indigenous Peoples’ protest at the UN climate talks held in Bali, Indonesia.
Indigenous peoples were protesting their exclusion from the official negotiations even though it is their lands that are being sought to provide resources and carbon offsets to allow companies to pursue business as usual in the face of mounting climate disasters.
Inside and outside the convention center, activists demanded alternative policies and practices to protect livelihoods and the environment. In dozens of side events, impromptu protests and press conferences, the false solutions to climate change being pushed by governments, financial institutions and multinational corporations – such as carbon offsetting, carbon trading, agrofuels, trade liberalization and land grabs – were exposed.
Affected communities, indigenous peoples, women and peasant farmers joined together to call for real solutions to the climate crisis.
Bali, Indonesia: During the UN climate talks in Bali, a woman holds a banner that sums up the thoughts of a very diverse group of activists, indigenous Peoples’ organizations and social movements during a protest outside of a press conference where then-World Bank President and former U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, was announcing the launch of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
Close to 100 people protested outside of the press conference, chanting slogans and staging a die-in, with different people representing island nations, Indigenous and women’s groups, ecosystems and species threatened with annihilation from climate change due to false solutions. They charged that the focus of the World Bank and UN on profit-oriented “false solutions,” like carbon trading and carbon offset projects including industrial tree plantations, is actually causing an acceleration of climate change.
Copenhagen, Denmark: Marchers at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark point at Corporations and Bankers as the drivers of climate change.
Cancun, Mexico: After youth activists led a walkout of the 2010 UN Climate Conference during a Global Justice Ecology Project press conference there, the Plurinational State of Bolivia’s UN Ambassador Pablo Solon (center) joined them to address the media from the stairs of the building. The youth activists were denouncing the “inaccessibility and unjust nature of the talks” and expressed outrage over having been repeatedly denied permission to hold a youth protest on the UN grounds. As the youth marched away, they were detained by UN security, stripped of their badges, put onto buses powered by jatropha-based biofuels, and evicted from the climate conference.
“It is unfortunate that the industrialized countries fail to assume their responsibility and expect developing countries like Bolivia to carry on their shoulders the crisis generated by Capitalism.”– Evo Morales, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, at the 2010 UN Climate Conference in Cancun.
Montpelier, Vermont: Members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace speak out against the injustice of wars for oil during a Gulf War protest.
In 1969, pioneering environmental activist David Brower pointed out that “the Vietnam War and subsequent proliferation were triggered by the deepening global addiction to exponential growth in material wants, in energy consumption, and in the build-up of military strength of the nations competing to secure those wants…”
The US pursuit of resources to support our addiction to growth at any cost has led to the US military being the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet.
Miami, Florida: Police in cloud of tear gas prepare to fire rubber bullets on protesters in Miami, FL who were demonstrating against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit there. After the major permitted march on November 20, 2003, police clashed with protesters on the streets of Miami. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bags, electric tasers and other less-lethal weapons to attack the protesters. Many protesters and bystanders were injured.
An estimated 20,000 or more marched that day in Miami against the FTAA. Trade ministers from 34 countries had come to Miami to negotiate a new neoliberal trade agreement that would stretch from Alaska to Chile encompassing all of the Americas, except for Cuba. The talks were considered a failure.
Bali, Indonesia: A protester raises his fist on 8 December 2007 during the International Day of Action against climate change. On an extremely hot and humid day, the march drew thousands to the streets of Denpasar, close to the UN climate talks in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. Indigenous Peoples deep in the forests of Indonesia are routinely murdered in land grab schemes to clear land for oil palm plantations for biodiesel.
Some praised the outcomes of the UN Climate Convention, which resulted in consensus on a “Bali Roadmap,” an agreement to continue climate change negotiations with a deadline of 2009 for a new plan to succeed the first round of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol that would expire in 2012. Others condemned the conclusion as acquiescing to the United States with a process moving much too slowly to match the urgency of the situation, and without any commitment to legally binding emissions cuts.
Cancun, Mexico: This youth activist and others were forced onto a bus and evicted from the UN Climate Convention in Cancun, Mexico following a youth-led march out of the conference in protest of the exclusion of youth voices from the negotiations about their future.
Many of the of the climate and environmental justice activists present at the UN Climate Convention in Cancun lost their accreditation for protesting the concerted effort by the UN to shut down dissent, and to ignore the input of non-governmental organizations, Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations and opposition governments like the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
Due to its almost exclusive focus on profit-oriented and market-based climate mitigation schemes, the UN Climate Conventions have been renamed by many organizations and social movements, “The World Carbon Trade Organization.”
Asheville, NC: The Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference kicked off with a major presentation by Belgian tree engineer Wout Boerjan entitled, “Engineering trees for the biorefinery.” Industry hopes to genetically engineer trees to be able to more easily and cheaply turn them into ethanol. Boerjan had also presented at the 2011 Tree Biotechnology Conference in Brazil where he showed a video clip of police attacking anti-GMO protesters. His comment: “they didn’t beat them hard enough.”
Industry has requested permission from the USDA to sell billions of GE eucalyptus tree seedlings for plantations across the US South. Protestors argue that if legalized, GE trees would lead to the destruction of native forests and biodiversity, and be economically devastating to rural communities.
Industrial pine plantations have already replaced one in five forested acres in the US South, destroying biodiversity and ecosystems. In the Global South, timber plantations not only destroy forests, they displace Indigenous and poor rural people. If approved by the USDA, GE eucalyptus trees would be the next step in the process of converting native forests to industrial tree farms. GE eucalyptus trees have the potential to wreak havoc by invading native forests, depleting fresh water and being explosively flammable.
Asheville, NC: During a protest against genetically engineered trees in Asheville, NC, police use pain compliance holds as they pin a protester to the ground. GE eucalyptus trees are being proposed for vast plantations across the US South to feed supposedly “renewable” biomass electricity burners.
The protester in this photo is the son of a West Virginia coal miner, who watched his father die at a very young age. Burning wood instead of coal for electricity production will only worsen pollution, and is a dangerous false solution to climate change.
Copenhagen, Denmark: During the Copenhagen Climate Talks, members from social movements around the world came together with organizers of the Reclaim Power march out for a press conference in the official UN venue. Stine (center) was one of the lead local organizers. She led the march toward the convention center during the Reclaim Power action, but was tackled by Danish police and thrown off of the march’s sound truck. She was arrested and charged with terrorism–a charge she fought for more than two years before being acquitted.
Espirito Santo, Brazil: Newly built house with eucalyptus plantation in background. In Brazil, the state of Espirito Santo has been subjected to the unchecked expansion of eucalyptus plantations. In 2005 Tupinikum and Guarani peoples began the process of reclaiming the 11,000 hectares of land that was stolen from them under the military dictatorship and given to the Aracruz Cellulose timber corporation for tree plantations.
Tupinikum and Guarani took over the nearby Aracruz Cellulose pulp mill for several days, demanding the return of their land. They cut down vast expanses of eucalyptus plantation and rebuilt their village on their traditional territory. When the government came in a few months later and used Aracruz Cellulose equipment to raze and burn the village, the Indigenous residents came back and rebuilt again.
Rural Countryside, Kenya: Daughters of Mumbi is a grassroots organization in Kenya that travels to rural villages to speak to women about important issues including how to grow and harvest traditional foods in order to be less reliant on foreign food aid. In the world of extreme weather, relearning about traditional foods will become increasingly important for these rural communities.
La Via Campesina, the global peasant’s movement, says that there are thousands of solutions to climate change; but they must be small scale and community-based. They also say that small farmers cool the planet with their practices.
La Via Campesina brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous peoples, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.
This youth activist along with others were forced onto a bus and evicted from the UN Climate Convention in Cancun, Mexico following a youth-led march out of the conference in protest of the exclusion of youth voices from the negotiations about their future.
The REDD sign she is holding stands for “reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” one of the most controversial issues in the climate change debate–especially among Indigenous Peoples. Activists and youth around the world have protested REDD in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples who would be impacted by it.
REVIEW – Climate Killers: Orin Langelle’s photos at ¡Buen Vivir! by Jack Foran from The Public
Photojournalist Orin Langelle’s exhibit at his new ¡Buen Vivir! gallery at 148 Elmwood in Allentown takes on two enormous issues: world climate change—along with the criminality of its associated corporate denial and delay tactics—and the official media’s so-called “objectivity.” READ MORE