category: CLIMATE CATASTROPHES
file under: #desert #China #ecological #overgrazing #dunes #environmental #wind
Desert now covers 18 percent of China, and a quarter of them were caused by ecological damaging human activities. Overexploitation of arable land, overgrazing and increazingly deep drilling for water are at the root of what has become the Chinese “Dust Bowl”, a phenomenom the likeness of which hasn’t been seen since the 1930s, when the American Midwest and Canadian Prairies suffered from a devastating drought. China’s situation is quickly becoming the world’s most massive and rapid conversion of arable land into barren sand dunes. The resulting is picked up by the wind and transported in the form of giant sandstorms, all over China and into Korea, Japan- even all the way to North America. In an effort to reverse the situation, the Chinese government has initiated the largest environmental restoration initiative the world has ever seen, and has begun a mass exodus of “environmental refugees”, displaced by the advancing sand.
For twenty-five years, Montreal photographer Benoit Aquin has travelled the world to bring home to us the environmental issues and the human stories linked to them. His is a socially engaged approach in tune with the mindset of his time. He works project by project, studying his subjects in depth before capturing them with his camera.
He is concerned with climatic catastrophes, as evidenced by his series “Tsunami” (2004) executed in Indonesia, and “Haiti” (2010-2011). Environmental disasters are also among his concerns: global warming in “Quebec’s Far North” (2005) and the food crisis in Egypt in 2007. In 2008 he won the prestigious Prix Pictet for the images in his series “The Chinese ‘Dust Bowl’” (2006-2007). To illustrate the competition’s subject – water – he chose to depict drought resulting from human activity. In this regard, it is not surprising that he was drawn to the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. The exhibition Mégantic in Pictures features forty photographs that reveal the photographer’s empathy with his subject. Thirteen photographs from this series – which are being exhibited in Canada for the first time – were presented last summer at the Rencontres d’Arles as part of a retrospective of the four winners of the Prix Pictet. The photograph Exclusion Zone from the series “Mégantic” was selected by The Guardian as one of the fifteen best images in this annual festival of photography.