On Tuesday, we had lunch with Joshua Wolfe, president and founding member of GHG Photos, a new collaborative organization of leading climate change photographers.
He told us a lot about his job as a climate change photographer, which from what we could tell, is one of the more fascinating jobs around. Whether he's climbing mountains with 90 lbs of sensitive equipment and a stash of protein bars; gazing down dizzily through the lens from the window of a prop jet; or performing yet another death-defying feat to get that perfect glacial shot, Wolfe's work has put him face-to-face with more of the changing landscape than most people will ever see. His heartbreakingly beautiful photographs are proof.
But Wolfe and the other GHG photographers have a larger mission. Through their photographs, they hope to help accelerate the conversation about climate change. The photographers routinely look to climate scientists, like those from Columbia University's Earth Institute, and veteran environmental journalists, like Andrew Revkin and Elizabeth Kolbert, to help tell the story of climate change more clearly through science. With images, science and words, they aim to give thousands of new people a better grasp of what is really happening, and why.
One of the biggest obstacles to the debate about climate change, Wolfe says, is the inequity in basic background knowledge of the issue. "If you're a reporter covering climate change, you always have to start at Point A," he says, and it's tough to introduce really intricate concepts when you're always explaining the basic idea. As a result, he worries that stories about climate change seem to many like a series of catastrophic and overwhelming events – like major hurricanes and other natural disasters – but it's harder to explain how they're all related, and to reveal the more insidious creep of planetary symptoms.
By seeking out images of a warming world, and of the science behind understanding and combating climate change, Wolfe and GHG hope to raise the bar of universal understanding, and to make knowledge not only more accessible, but more vivid.
Worldchanging's New Thinkers Series is our way of calling attention to the emerging leaders in a changing world. If you know of an individual or group that we should profile, send an email to Sarahk [at] worldchanging [dot] com.
Image credit: GHG Photos