The author James Carroll once offered a definition of moral maturity and understanding and acting on the relationship between choices and consequences.
Held to Carroll’s standard, the world is appallingly immature in the area of environmental degradation.
Starting tomorrow, close to 20,000 delegates from around the world will gather in Copenhagen for the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Noor is comprised of nine of the world’s finest photographers.
Based in Europe, Asia and North America, they are all committed to long-term documentary projects that deal with some of the world’s most pressing issues like genocide, war and economic exploitation.
About six months ago, the Noor members decided to turn their attention and cameras to the issue of climate change.
Consequences by Noor is the absolutely riveting result.
The photographers have produced a devastating indictment of our undeniable collective destruction of the earth’s environment and posed urgent questions about how to deal with the world’s most urgent crisis.
The site features nine audio slideshows from around the globe.
Jon ventured to the oil sands of Alberta, Canada to document the impact of the world’s second largest oil supply-a product that requires enormous amounts of water to use-on the once lush landscape. Francesco Zizola traveled to the Maldives Islands, a vacation paradise that may in the next 15 years become the first country to literally be swallowed by rising tides. Pep Bonet went underground to show the conditions under which Polish miners labor in the Upper Silesian Coal Basin.
Each of the slide shows has similar ingredients: introductory shots that identify the scale of the problem; slides that provide factual information about the aspect of climate change the photographer is documenting; a photographer narrative, accompanied by strains of haunting music, describing the place and the purpose of some of the images; and summary text below the slide show.
Some of the stories, like Stanley Greene’s coverage of Greenland’s melting ice caps and accompanying impact on the people who live there, are relatively familiar, while other pieces present a twist on what has previously been documented.
Kadir Van Lohuizen, for example, talks during his piece about the role of cattle on the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, for example. In his project about the Sudan, Jan Grarup notes that the violence there became particularly intense when water shortages began in earnest.
Consequences’ power comes from many sources.
At some point, the scenes of environmental wreckage look sadly indistinguishable. But the show is far more than a collection of depleted landscapes, as potent as that can be. The Noor photographers combine these shots with images of the workers, residents and children who contribute to, and suffer from, the destruction.
Yuri Kozyrev’s piece about the Yamal Peninsula shows how the lifestyle of the reindeer-tending Nenet people, which has been unchanged for centuries, is being substantially altered, while Jon’s slide show about the oil sands of Alberta depicts the global migration by workers in search of money.
Consequences is clear both that the choices each of us make has its result, and that people in the developing world bear, at this point, the disproportionate brunt of the climate’s changes.
The work is significant, too, because it demonstrates the possibility of a small, mobile and elite corps of journalists to illustrate planetary problems. At a time when daily print journalism and the industry in general are both going through tremendous turmoil, Noor’s work may be the start of a financially sustainable model of socially conscious journalism. MSNBC has featured the site as its lead story, and the Danish newspaper Information is printing 50,000 copies of a publication that draws heavily on the Noor members’ work.
The show is short on solutions-that may be a subject for future work-and one can feel the different amount of time the photographers had covered their areas. Still, at a moment when the eyes and attention on the world will be on Denmark, Jon and the other Noor members have provided a tremendous service by showing us the consequences of our choices at a time when it still may be possible to chart another path.