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Photo Essay: The 2008 World Expo

by Justine Bayod Espoz

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Global Warming, extreme droughts, desertification and pollution are just a few of the contributing factors to an ever-increasing scarcity of fresh water on our planet that by 2025 could leave billions of people without access to sufficient water.

Although many forward-thinking people, such as those in the Ripple Effect partnership, have begun putting their heads together to create solutions for managing water scarcity, we still have a long way to go to create global awareness and therefore global action.

The 2008 World Expo helped to address this issue of water and sustainable development in visual, creative and attention drawing ways. I attended the even, which took place Saragossa, Spain from June 14 through September 14.

During the 93 days, the Expo pavilions explored timely and increasingly important topics, including:

Water, A Unique Resource - an exploration of how water shortages and privatization of water supplies lead to extreme poverty, increased immigration and civil and political conflict.

Extreme Water – a study of flash flooding, tsunamis and other water related natural disasters, as well as the link between global warming and the increase in sea level and devastating hurricanes.

Shared Water – an exhibition that explains how uncontrolled development can lead to increased flooding, water pollution, unsustainable accumulations of waste, decreases in biodiversity and much more.

Thirst – a pavilion that tackles desertification and how individuals, with the help of simple objects and methods that have been used for centuries, can render contaminated water potable, conserve energy and collect fresh water.

I attended the Expo as a citizen wanting to learn, but also in my professional capacity as a photojournalist. From an artistic standpoint, the grand displays designed to present these issues to an international public were truly impressive. Below you'll find a series of photos taken of the pavilions, grounds, creative art displays and main points of interest.

The Bridge Pavilion and entrance to the fairgrounds.

Interior of the Bridge Pavilion

Bridge Pavilion opening overlooking the fairgrounds

Shared Water Pavilion

Sub-Saharan Africa Pavilions

Temperate Rain forests and Tropical Jungles Pavilion

Spain Pavilion

Aquarium Interior

Iceberg, a multimedia show about global warming performed every night

The Shared Water Pavilion's rooftop garden with the Ebro River and Expo fairgrounds in the background

These pavilions and dozens more were visited by 5.6 million people from around the world, significantly less than the projected 7 million. However, those visitors who took the time to read even a fraction of the overwhelming amount of information and statistics on display are sure to have returned home with a new respect for our planet and its most precious resource.

Focusing the World Expo on the water crisis only makes more clear how vital it is that we spread awareness and act quickly to come up with potential solutions to this serious problem. You can read more about the solutions discussed at the Expo's Water Tribunals, a parallel series of debates that took place around the world, here.

Justine Bayod Espoz is a photojournalist, documentary filmmaker and founder of ToritoMedia, a written, photographic and video content agency based in Madrid, Spain. To contact Justine regarding photographs, writing or any other projects, please email her at

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