It’s been a mixed week for those of us who care about protecting our environment and securing a decent future for generations to come.
On the one hand, we’ve had Pope Francis’s powerful encyclical on climate change urging governments to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy, and a huge rally at Westminster calling on politicians to do more to tackle climate change. At the same time, we’ve seen the Tory Government slash support for onshore wind and cement their backing for fracking.
There are aspects of the pope’s declaration I don’t agree with, but the main thrust of his argument is compelling. Crucially, he notes that climate change disproportionately affects the poor and that governments across the world have a duty to act for the lasting change we so desperately need. His message of hope, that “human beings are capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”, is a powerful rallying call for world leaders as they prepare for crucial climate talks in Paris this year.
It’s particularly dispiriting to see such bad news on climate change here in Britain. On 16 June, an EU report revealed that the UK is set to miss a key target of producing 15 per cent of our energy from renewables by 2020 – in stark contrast to the majority of other EU countries who are on course to hit their targets.
Environmental Photographer of the Year 2015
Environmental Photographer of the Year 2015
1/15 Fishing net checking, Vietnam 2014 by Hoang Long Ly
Fishermen check their nets in Vietnam. The marine economy is one of the strongest economic sectors of Vietnam; it is targeted to reach 53 to 55 percent of GDP by 2020 and to comprise more than 60 percent of the country’s export turnover
2/15 Glacier 1987, Mount Kenya 2014 by Simon Norfolk
Climate change and the melting of Lewis Glacier, Mount Kenya, from a series entitled ‘When I Am Laid in Earth’. The flame line shows the Lewis Glacier's location in 1987. The glacier has receded about 120m. In 1987 the Curling Pond's surface was 15m higher than presently and the back wall was a tall wall of ice, the glacier's snout. The fire is made from petroleum. The photographer insists that his images contain no evidence that the glacier's retreat is due to man-made warming (glaciers can retreat when the don't get sufficient snow, or if the cloud cover thins, for example,) but it is nonetheless my belief that humans burning hydrocarbons are substantially to blame
3/15 Plastic tree #20, Bolivia 2014 by Eduardo Leal
Plastic bags are part of the landscape in the Bolivian Altiplano. The accumulation of plastic bags on the environment cause deterioration of the landscapes and agriculture soils and it is associated to the death of domestic and wild animals. The world consumes over one million plastic bags every minute
4/15 Collecting crabs, Satkhira 2014 by Kazi Riasat Alve
This man has a huge area of land capable of being farmed productively. A severe cyclonic storm Aila hit the west Bengal coast, west of the Bangladesh border, on 25 May 2009. It caused a storm surge of 2-3m above tide levels along the west Bengal and Bangladesh coasts, with severe devastation to these areas. His land was waterlogged and is no longer cultivable due to the high salinity of soil and water. Now he supports his family by collecting crabs and selling them at the market
5/15 Sandstorm in the city, Kuwait 2011 by Rizalde Cayanan
On Friday 25 March 2011 a severe sandstorm very suddenly enveloped parts of Kuwait. It shut down Kuwait's International Airport and the dust storm reduced visibility to less than 500 metres; in some areas, there was reportedly no visibility at all
6/15 Beauty Salon, Lagos, Nigeria 2014 by Petrut Calinescu
Two women, dressed in purple and holding hair weaves, stand in the doorway of a hair and beauty salon, one of several such waterside establishments in Makoko, Nigeria. They are usually very busy on Sunday, when the women of the local community are preparing for church
7/15 The abandoned village of Geamana, Romania 2014 by Glyn Thomas
The abandoned village of Geamana in the Apuseni Mountains in Romania - a village that was deliberately abandoned and flooded to form a tailings pond for a vast copper mine.400 families were evacuated and the village flooded to create a tailings pond for the toxic waste from the nearby copper mine at Rosia Poieni. The church tower and a few houses are all that remain, engulfed in contaminated sludge
8/15 Retrace our steps, Fukushima 2014 by Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bression
Midori Ito is staged in an abandoned supermarket in Namie City inside the Fukushima no go zone. In this area, nothing has changed since the disaster happened. The products stored in the supermarket have passed the date by sell for several years now. Ironically, a sign written in Japanese says « Fresh products ». The photographers asked former residents or inhabitant from the Fukushima region, and in some cases, the actual owners of certain properties, to join them inside the no-go zone and open the doors to these ordinary, but now unfriendly, places. Facing the camera, they were asked to act as normally as possible, as if nothing had happened. The idea behind these almost surreal photographs was to combine the banal and the unusual. The fact of the historical nuclear accident gives these images a real plausibility
9/15 Cladonia Forest, USA 2014 by Matthew Cicanese
The anatomy of forest micro-biomes consists of an intricate web of organisms with highly complex relationships, interactions, and elements. This photographic series illuminates the beauty of various micro-biota that reside on the forest floor. Earths biodiversity is being snuffed out by the exponential growth of the human population. It is the photographer’s goal as an environmental documentary artist to photograph these miniscule lifeforms in a way that voices the splendor and magnificence of their existence, and promotes the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity
10/15 Life in tidal flood 3, Chittagong, Bangladesh 2014 by Jashim Salam
A family watching TV, waits for water to recede during a tidal flood in Chittagong. In the past few years, tidal surge – sea levels rising significantly - has begun to affect the city, resulting in frequent flooding of residential and business areas. Considering the present warming trends, the report warns that even 20 to 30 years from now shifting rain patterns could leave some areas of the country underwater. If the sea level rises 65cm in 2080, around 40% of arable land will be lost in southern Bangladesh. It notes about 20 million people in the coastal areas are affected by salinity and will be climate refugees. Chittagong is often regarded as the commercial and industrial capital of Bangladesh. If things continue to worsen, most of Chittagong could become completely submerged in the near future and millions will be climate refugees
11/15 Life in the ship breaking yard, Chittagong 2014 by Yousuf Tushar
The ship breaking industry at Sitakunda started its operation in 1960. Due to low labour costs and less stringent environmental regulations Chittagong ship breaking yard boomed in a very short period of time. It has destroyed thousands of trees in the coastal area. It results in constant harmful oily substance leakages from ships, dangerous vapours and fumes from burning materials making this coastal belt a highly polluted area
12/15 Namaj and City, Bangladesh 2015 by Joydeep Mukherjee
On the Day of Bishwa Ijtema, that takes place in Tongi near Dhaka, is the world’s third largest Muslim congregation. People from all over Bangladesh and its neighbourhood gather here to offer Namaj for peace and prosperity
13/15 Solar Portrait, Myanmar 2014 by Ruben Salgado Escudero
Daw Mu Nan, 45, a Padaung farmer and mother of eight, at her grandson's home in Pa Dan Kho Village, Kayah State. This portrait depicts the lives of inhabitants from remote areas of Myanmar who for the first time have access to electricity through the power of solar energy. Each subject was asked how having electricity has affected their life. The portrait was set up within their environment, according to the sitter's wishers. The scenes have all been lit only by solar powered light bulbs which are contributing to the improvement in these peoples standard of living
14/15 Berber 2, Turkey 2011 by Hayri Kodal
A lone barber shop stands in Konya, Turkey, with its electricity supply still working. Konya is best known as a busy university city, and an economic boom town. But this photograph tells a somewhat different story
15/15 The Devil’s gold, Indonesia 2014 by Luca Catalano Gonzaga
Inside the womb of the Ijen Kawah volcano, in Eastern Java, Indonesia, the miners go deep in search of the 'Devil's gold', as sulfur has always been known. lpan, 27, a sulfur miner of ten years, looks for sulfur slabs under the toxic fumes
A sensible reaction might have been for the Government to rethink its plans to cut support for onshore wind, but Energy Secretary Amber Rudd instead pledged to slash this key subsidy a year earlier than expected.
Meanwhile, George Osborne couldn’t have been clearer when he said that Britain must “get on with” drilling for shale gas.
What ministers won’t admit is that phasing out fossil fuels and making a transition to clean, home-grown, renewable energy will benefit all of us – immediately and for years to come.
The signals given out by the pope and our Government couldn’t have been more different: one talks of hope and the chance to rebuild a better world, the other continues to promote energy policies far better suited to the last century.
The writer is the Green Party MP for Brighton PavilionReuse content