October 11 – 14 culminating on Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Exhibit will hang during
Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois (U.S.)
Portraits of Struggle and the Drivers of Climate Chaos
Orin Langelle: Let’s face it. Climate change is here. Extreme weather is happening daily. It’s going to get worse as the next decade or so progresses. If nothing is seriously done, humans may very well become extinct taking most of other species with them. At this point in history life is severely out of balance. The Hopi word is koyaanisqatsi.
So how did we end up at this juncture between life and extinction? There are many reasons why. Science has solid facts. I’ve been a photographer for five decades and for the last twenty-five years I’ve been identifying and photographing the driving forces of climate change.
It has been my mission to identify and document the roots of this devastation. A tiny number of ultra-rich elites and their governing frameworks that include neoliberal economics and multinational corporate control (globalization) are the major drivers of climate change. I have documented peoples’ resistance to the systems enabling their ongoing domination: the institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization (WTO); policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the defeated Free Trade Area of the Americas; the money rich governments and their meetings with the Group of Eight (G8) and Group of Twenty (G20); as well as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
One of the most important things I have learned in my life is that everything is interconnected. As David Brower, one of the most influential environmentalists of the last century, pointed out:
“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.”
This is true not just of the natural world, but also of the systems of oppression and the movements that resist them.
As a concerned photographer, I created Extreme Weather – Portraits of Struggle to show a glimpse of some of the peoples and situations I’ve documented. The photographs presented are united by the intertwined threads of social, economic or ecological injustice and peoples’ resilience or resistance to them. Showing and exposing the intrinsic links between these is crucial to understanding the whole
–to seeing the big picture–instead of compartmentalizing each separately. If we want to successfully challenge injustice, we must understand these connections. We must be able to see that the root causes of these problems are often one and the same. Then we can successfully confront them.
Doom is not inevitable. Change is possible. The photographs in this exhibit document impacts of and resistance to climate change and false solutions, spanning five continents and more than twenty-five years.
While there is no magic bullet, no technological fix that will enable humans and other species to survive this crisis, there are thousands of solutions already in place around the world. These solutions are small in scale and controlled by communities, not corporations.
But standing in the way of these real solutions are dangerous false solutions that we both need to be aware of and to actively oppose. This exhibit, for example, shows how forest carbon offset projects in the Americas have triggered or are threatening violent evictions of forest-dependent communities and Indigenous Peoples, with women and children most at risk.
Further photos document people confronting those in power–those who threaten the web of life on Earth.
Through my work I uncover these hidden, forgotten or unknown stories. My photographs are historical documentation of realities that must not be lost: the victories of movements against overwhelming odds. Those in power cover up this history or twist to their own ends–especially those truths that contradict the sanitized versions of reality that advance their goals.
My photos document not only the present but also the past. History is a great teacher–when presented truthfully.
In what seems to be society’s race to oblivion, I use this documentation of history to disrupt the sense of inevitability and hopelessness so many people feel. My photos can help shed light on alternatives and directly confront the distorted, commodified version of reality that those in power insist is truth.
My photographs are not merely a chronicling of history, but a call out to inspire new generations to participate in the making of a new world. For there has never been a time when this has been more important.