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What Climate Change Looks Like, ‘Everyday’

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Peruvians ride a motorbike across land effected by extensive gold mining and deforestation, in Huaypetue, Manu province, Madre de Dios region, Peru. This area was pristine rain forest just twenty years ago.

Good ideas tend to spread like wildfire on the Internet. This has proved to be true for the Everyday family of accounts on Instagram. The original account, @EverydayAfrica, is the brainchild of photographer Peter DiCampo and friends. It was created with the hope of sharing a glimpse of normal, everyday life in Africa, as opposed to flat, caricatured narratives that focus on conflict or poverty. The feed incorporates many different photographers to keep the voice diverse and broad. It has since splintered off into many new Everyday feeds from across the world.

While many of the photographers who participate in the Everyday movement are emerging photographers, the concept has captured the attention of more seasoned photographers, such as David Guttenfelder (@EverydayUSA) and now James Whitlow Delano, who launched @EverydayClimateChange after meeting DiCampo at Festival Photoreporter in France this past October.

Tengger Desert, Inner Mongolia, China. Photograph by James Whitlow Delano
Delano is a Tokyo-based photographer with a history of documenting environmental issues such as Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in 2011. Delano views climate change as a multifaceted and complex issue, one where both mankind and nature must be considered. He even returned to the tsunami disaster areas when the cherry blossom trees were blooming to illustrate nature’s fragility even in rebirth. Delano has also worked on projects in the rain forests of Borneo, the Amazon, Guinea, and Congo, and many of the world’s major deserts and glaciers. It was in these places that he says he witnessed the “serious consequences of human-made climate change.”

A nomad woman on the Tibetan Plateau. Photograph by Sean Gallagher
Delano says that for years he had been seeking ways to “communicate the slow moving disasters I had been documenting.” When he met DiCampo, he was impressed with his ideas and pitched his plan of a climate change-themed Everyday feed. DiCampo responded positively and encouraged Delano to follow through with his plan. The format seemed ideal for sharing such a global issue as climate change.

Artificial grass in Venice Beach, California. Photograph by Sara Terry
Delano liked the idea because in his mind, “Instagram is not a stuffy, wonky platform. Neither is it purely for serious photographers,” he says. “Instagram is more of a public space to share our lives, our ideas, through images. It hopefully gets us out into a place where a new audience can discover this issue and nonfiction photography.”

An aerial view of Mexico City. Photograph by Michael Robinson Chavez
However, visualizing climate change is no easy task. How does one illustrate something widespread and often invisible? One solution for Delano is utilizing detailed captions with facts to educate people about the problem.

Note: We have condensed the captions here for brevity’s sake, but if you click on the likes or comments you can view the photo and full caption on Instagram.

When asked how he hopes to show something that’s widespread but not always apparent, he says:

    “Combining photos with the science can help. For example: Tokyo, which supports palms and citrus, had two blizzards last winter within six days. A blizzard is a once-in-20-years event and we had two in a week. I did something I almost never do. I posted a snapshot of my garden in Tokyo. The science came into play again when the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that, like the planet as a whole, 2014 was Japan’s hottest year on record.

    So, how can you have two blizzards and still have the hottest year on record?

    Climate researchers have told us to expect wild vacillations in weather, like the polar vortex you experienced last winter or the California drought, as emblematic of global warming. That is a good example of using science to describe local phenomena.”

Swimmers leave the ocean during a rainstorm in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China. Photograph by Katharina Hesse
For now, Delano has invited a select group of photographers from five different continents to participate in Everyday Climate Change, but in the future he hopes to engage the general public more with hashtags.

Clear-cutting in Madagascar. Photograph by Ed Kashi
“The main goal is to bring the concept that climate change isn’t just happening ‘over there’ but is something that affects the whole planet. The other goal is to bring this visual evidence through the eyes of some of the best photographers on the planet to a new audience beyond our little, cloistered photo world.”

A flooded area of Aberao village in Tarawa atoll, Kiribati. Photograph by Vlad Sokhin
Delano hopes to have a minimal influence on the voice of the feed in the future. “Already the feed seems to be developing a character of its own. At the end of the day, for me, simple plans are the best ones.”
Follow James Whitlow Delano and EverydayClimateChange on Instagram.

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