Photographer Ashley Cooper’s book Images from a Warming Planet documents his personal journey to come to terms with humanity’s impact on the planet
The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 was hailed as a historic landmark in the battle against climate change, but, says British environmental photographer Ashley Cooper, is it enough?
“I obviously applaud this momentous agreement,” he said, “but, having witnessed the scale of the destruction currently being wreaked around the world, this is too little too late.”
In his book, Images from a Warming Planet, Cooper hopes his photography will ‘wake people up’ to the reality of climate change as well as showcasing efforts to tackle the huge challenge. Photographs range from shots showing increasing rates of desertification, to images capturing the huge range of renewable energy projects across the globe.
The project began in 2004 with a trip to Alaska, which Cooper took after reading scientific journals and becoming increasingly aware of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.
Be informed. Be inspired.
“I spent a week on Shishmaref, a tiny island in the Chukchi Sea,” he said. “It is home to a community of around 600 Inuit people, whose homes were being washed into the sea. It was here I first witnessed something I have seen many times since: that is, those least responsible for climate change are most impacted by it.
“The evidence that the Arctic was warming rapidly was so strong, coupled with talking to Inuit elders about the changes they had witnessed in their lifetimes, left me in no doubt that documenting this should be my life’s work. The plan soon formulated in my head that I should attempt to document the impacts of climate change and the rise of renewable energy on every continent.”
Cooper went on to witness drought and bushfires in Australia, devastating floods in Malawi, smoke-belching coal-fired power stations in China and rising sea levels in Tuvalu that threaten the very existence of the Pacific island.
Those least responsible for climate change are most impacted by it
But hopes the book is empowering as well as eye-opening. “I wanted to cover what is causing climate change, the impacts this is having and what we can do about it.”
The potential climate change solutions featured include one of the world’s largest solar power station in California, floating houses in the Netherlands that are designed to help residents adapt to rising sea levels, and the use of geothermal heating in Iceland.
“The highs were truly uplifting,” said Cooper.
“I spent three weeks in India documenting renewable energy, firstly in the Sunderbans, in the Ganges Delta, where a solar project was delivering electricity to poor subsistence farmers for the first time. Each house had a battery that they carried to the solar station once a week to recharge. The battery was enough to recharge a mobile phone and provide light in their houses, avoiding the need to use highly polluting kerosene lamps inside. What a joy it was to see children able to do their homework by the clean light of a low energy electric lightbulb.”
Talking to Inuit elders about the changes they had witnessed in their lifetimes left me in no doubt that documenting this should be my life’s work
The book features a foreword by environmentalist and writer Jonathon Porritt who describes it as “an extraordinary collection of images and a powerful call to action”.
Cooper is now fundraising in a bid to send a copy of the book to every world leader and UK MP.
Here are of our seven favourite shots:
All images: Ashley Cooper