Our Changing Climate: A Visual Chronicle
As image makers, we hold a unique power to confront audiences with uncomfortable truths, advance cultural understandings, and promote social justice. But critically, the image is only the beginning of the conversation. The real work of social transformation lies in the removal of barriers – physical, social, economic, and spiritual – that restrain us from forging futures that are more equitable, just, and sustainable. By way of example, the Earthrise photograph of 1968 radically changed our conceptions of ourselves and this incredibly precious world that we call home. But it was the legislation that followed – the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Superfund Act of 1980 – that created the structural change that the new realization of ourselves required.
In the 21st century, we must move beyond merely documenting the consequences of global warming—floods, fires, hurricanes, rising seawater, and other environmental anomalies—since this is all now known as fact. Rather, we must now shift our focus to stories of hope, leadership, and sustainable solutions that communities across the planet are pioneering to reduce global warming and prevent climate change from causing cataclysmic destruction to the global human community. Critically, for a solution to be truly sustainable, it has to tackle not only the climate crisis (which is the fire in our house) but also the systemic conditions that gave rise to the fire in the first place: the broader social-economic paradigm of extraction, colonialism, and unchecked consumption. If we support such systemic solutions, not only will we put out the fire, but we stand to create a world that is more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and beautiful.
Right now, all over the planet, these innovations are quietly coming online, driven by people that I like to call ‘everyday visionaries’: compassionate, hardworking, often ordinary folks who are fighting for their families and their homelands by molding the political will, building the cultural frameworks, and inspiring the imagination that we need to make the transition towards a more sustainable world. It may not be happening fast enough, and it may not be getting the press that it deserves, but a new world is being born. I’ve seen it.
The fact is, we have a choice in the stories we tell, and the choices we make today will give rise to the world we inherit tomorrow. So, let’s choose to tell the stories of those who are laboring to bring forth a world befit of our children. As a parent myself, I can think of no worthier cause.
Michael O. Snyder