How photography can address the climate crisis as a social justice issue

We need to redefine the climate crisis as a social justice issue. The rapid decline of our environment is a site for multiple intersections of injustice, making the climate crisis a human rights issue of critical and increasing importance. The impacts of climate change are not – and will not – be borne equally or fairly between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations. Consequently, there is a growing need to focus on climate justice, which looks at the climate crisis through a human rights lens.  We need to be motivated by the belief that we can create a better future for present and future generations by working together.

In this series of events, we have been questioning whether the visual representation of the environmental crisis over the last few years has focused too much on faraway places, trying to shock, showing communities that feel distant and unconnected.

The question now is whether we need to change this perspective. This change could be done by altering the types of stories depicted or by adding the gaze of those who narrate important accounts, especially those directly involved in a context of injustice. Could these more unfiltered views help make connections that enable the viewing public to think and shift understanding?

In this event, moderated by Dr Paul Lowe, series curator Maria Teresa Salvati is joined by Abdel Mandili, founder of the People’s Planet Project.

This event is supported by the Photography and the Archive Research Centre, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, and Everything is Connected.



Paul Lowe: Thank you very much. So, I’m gonna hand over now to Maria Teresa to begin our session. Thank you very much. And I’m gonna go dark for a bit ’til we come back to the QA. So, thanks. Thanks very much. Over to you.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Thank you very much, Paul, for the introduction. As Paul was saying, this is the last of the series, which is called Visualizing the Environmental Emergency, done in partnership, organized by Everything is Connected in partnership with the UAL and PARC and hosted by VII. We’ve been addressing, if you’ve been following these sessions, and I wanted to do just a little introduction to the previous topics we addressed, which are like empathy and connection. We tried to discuss about how to create empathy and connection with the story, because we got to the conclusion that in order for people to act upon and activate some kind of a cultural change when we talk about climate change and the problem with the environmental emergency, you need to create some empathy with the story. So, we talked with Mattia Marzorati on how we can do that. We talked about public engagement and so exploring new ways of showing stories that go beyond open-air exhibitions. And we identified in this new form of public space occupation called Tactical Urbanism and we talked with Arianna Ronaldo and Rossella Ferorelli. We also discussed about alternative aesthetics. So, we try to explore what kind of images work when we talk about climate change, or what kind of aesthetics can be a catalyst for attention. And especially with young people, how can we draw their attention and really get them into the story. And for the topic, we invited Elisa Medde and Giorgio Brizio, which is a young guy from Fridays for Future. And the previous one was about transdisciplinarity. With the help of David Cross, we tried to identify new ways of collaboration and how different disciplines can really work together in order to be more effective and expand the message and try to reach more people and be more effective in the message we want to convey. Today, with Abdel Mandili, which is the founder of People’s Planet Project, we thought we will talk about climate change seen through the lens of the climate, through the lens of the human rights problem, human rights issues. And so, as called the climate justice, because there is a problem that goes exactly in the direction of the word as being unjust, and so how can photography really come to help, and visual representation of the issue can come to help in order to try to mitigate this issue? I will share a presentation with you. I will do my first presentation, then I’ll introduce Abdel. So, these are the topics I will introduce to you today. And we will try to kind of give a definition to climate justice. I will try to identify some of the missing points in the past and current narration, which is a little bit of the sum of all the work that has been done until now. And what are, you know, what have we really been showing until now? And how can we really go beyond the facts and so include causes and connections to the facts in order to give a more comprehensive view of the problem. And also, again, as a consequence of the study, the research done in the past year, there are some trends in terms of a narration climate change that could be useful in order to address the issue as the climate justice issue. And I will leave you with some open questions which hopefully will be able to give some kind of shape with the help of Abdel, but I think there are open questions because it’s all very new at the moment. So according to the United Nations, the definition of climate justice really is about,


like, seeing the climate crisis through a human rights lens. Because there is a discrepancy, there’s a there is a big difference before between the north and the south of the world. And probably just by working together, we can create a better future for present and future generations. So, I’ve done a little bit of analysis into the past and current narration about climate change. And as we’ll see, doing also visual research into what the mainstream magazines globally show, we can easily say that the focus is pretty much on the facts and the facts about when we talk about climate change, we also mentioned this, in the past session is about extreme heat, ocean warming and acidification, storms and violent climate, violent climate events, sea level rise and melting ice and the loss of habitat and biodiversity. So, let’s see how the main mainstream magazine show visually this kind of issues. And, you know, often, I want to make a premise, which I’m sure I’ve done it in the past as well. But obviously, mainstream magazines need to find iconic images that in a way represent an issue, because of course, you know, you need one single image and then you can dive into the full story. But you need a kind of iconic image that shows that we are talking about, in this case, extreme heat. So, it’s not where I’m focusing here about a single image, but it’s still about kind of framing the issue. We’re talking about extreme heat here. When we’re talking about ocean warming and acidification, these are the kinds of images we find. As we know, you know, there is a problem with the dying of coral coasts and the dying of a lot of animals and the rising of temperature, which leads into transformation to the pH of the oceans, which gives as a consequence, a lot of problems to the fauna of the water. When we talk about storms and violent weather events, these are the kinds of images you see. This is probably the first one we see in Europe, last summer in Germany, but most of the time, again, and this is something we mentioned before, most of the images we see refer to faraway places, refer to places that feel distant from where we are. And of course, we are talking from the point of view of western world because we are living here. And so we feel detached in a way. When we talk about sea level rise or ice melting, again, these are the kinds of images you see on magazines. Or, I find that actually this is interesting. When we’re talking about biodiversity loss, we start to see illustrations as well, because of course, it’s impossible to find images that can show the variety of habitats and variety of animals that are in danger of extinction. And so, like an illustration can really convey a lot easier the message. But again, as you can see, it’s all about showing facts. This is my analysis, of course, which you know, if you have objections, we can talk about it later. But in my opinion, what is missing in the narration is really addressing the causes and connectedness and implications all these facts we talked about and all of them are interlaced. So, you need to include them to extend a narration and represent the issue also as a climate justice issue. Because as we know, we, I guess we all know if we are interested in the topic, we know that the countries that have contributed least to climate change are often the most exposed to its consequences. And with the global South, disproportionately paying the price of the global North’s excesses. We need to ask ourselves what obligations does the rich word have to its more vulnerable neighbors if we feel we have some all we need to work together towards. So, I’ve done, I’ve gone a little bit far here in terms of research because I, you know, I always want to understand what’s behind. So, what we need to really communicate and so how we can really address the issue. So, I’ve gone into trying to explore causes and connections of all of the facts we discussed before, and I found the following. Of course, there’s a lot of text so I have highlighted some of the most important though I think they’re all important, but in order to continue with my thesis, these are the ones that I have highlighted.


Of course, when we talk about extreme heat, apparently, this is the one number one killer for human health, you know, that leads to a lot of problems with health issues with humans, for pregnant women, for with heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and also to some mental issues as well. Of course, in the world there are a lot of, millions of people that are more exposed to environmental risk like heat, due to poor infrastructure, building design and disadvantaged locations. And so like, we know that it’s been proven, this is not my theory, that the planetary warming is caused by human release of greenhouse gases. And so, this is causing a lot of problems and mostly like the biggest problems are in the cities in the urban places with high population density, where there are more inequalities and where there is less access to health care and so on. And so, this is, you know, why we need to see the problem also as a human rights issue, because we are not suffering the same way also, because in even if we have an increase in temperature in our places, we just raised the air conditioning thing. So, there are places in the world where air conditioning is just luxury. Again, based to the fact on when we talk about ocean warming and acidification, what are the causes and implications. We know here as well that the ocean acidification is mainly caused by carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere dissolving into the ocean. And again, burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for human industry is one of the major causes. And here again, deforestation is another big issue because if you have less trees, there is less chances to absorb gas and so this increases, releases more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Again, here, storms and violent weather events, we back into the carbon dioxide. When there is a massive increase in carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases emissions, they are the reason why the temperature rises. And this is an important point. The violent events are happening more frequently and also more violently in some places, which means that some communities don’t even have time to rebuild their own communities. And so, this will lead into growing international concern for human migration and displacement and in a lot of places it is already happening. So, the again, this is a very, this is a big implication for everyone because people move and move to places where they can live better, they can be safer. When we talk about sea level rise and ice melting, they are they are happening very rapidly as we know. When I say as we know, I don’t know who is in the public, but and probably for some people this will be a very known research, a very known point, but I think it’s important to discuss about them in order to understand how can we really reflect visually what we know and how can we communicate the connection of things. Of course, the problem with this rapid rise of sea level is that it can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt and loss of, again, habitat for fish, birds and plants apart from people. The most affected areas are Asia, China, Bangladesh and India, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan. But in Italy also, this is not so imminent, apparently. But it’s believed that by 2100 places like the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Turkey, France, and Italy could also be affected by the erosion of the coast and the problem with sea level rise.


The last fact we considered was habitat and biodiversity loss. We know that, you know, probably the last pandemic was kind of related to this, but cannot have, we know that biodiversity loss can have a significant impact on human health. Because each when you change the ecosystem, and so it’s impossibly, you know, it has an impact on what we eat, the way we are protected in a way. And so, biodiversity is very important to support humans in social needs, including food and nutrition, security, energy. So, it’s a very important point and through deforestation, through all the facts we mentioned before, the result is actually the loss of biodiversity which also is cause of infectious diseases and as a consequence, impact on human health. So, I kind of, the common denominators of all the things we talked about is that fossil fuels is still the most dominating source. And this is a problem because the, the the effect is the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and so causing all the facts we mentioned before, there is obviously a significant discrepancy between rich and poor countries. An increase in pollution also means directly deterioration of human health, and so the increase of human migrations and displacement. So, these are kind of for me, like the main factors that we need to take into consideration when we try to give a kind of a big picture of the situation. I’m not a scientist, but we need to agree on what we need to communicate in order to understand what is the direction that visual presentation needs to have in order to address this very complex issue. So, if someone in the in the public is a scientist or is a very kind of an expert in climate change, I apologize. This is kind of a way to simplify, try to simplify a very complex issue. So, the most obvious take in this analysis for me is that we are all connected, and no one is safe without a deep and joint effort to work together towards building a more just world. And first, probably, as I was saying, the first step is understanding. So, learning, studying, and understanding can be an antidote to violence and misinterpretation. So, we need to hear the voices and see through the eyes of those who are subject to injustices, which are the ones best placed to advocate for meaningful changes, but in order to do this, we need to feel connected to them. So, this is part of something we have already discovered in the past sessions, some narration trends, which we have identified in the very, I don’t say in the past, they are happening now. And probably, in my opinion, they can be considered as some interesting ways of narrating the complex issues that can go in the direction of representing a more fairer world and issue. One is creating participatory narratives. One is the local relevance, and one is the transdisciplinarity. These are examples I’ve already showed you in the past, so sorry if there are people that have been following in the past as well. What does it mean? It means creating story where subjects are actively participating in the creation of the narrative. So, people and communities, not at the service of the photographer’s eye, but working with the photographer and using their tools to tell the stories from their own perspective guided by the storyteller.


This was an example of Save the Children giving the Instagram account to Syrian refugee children in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, allowing them to tell their own stories from their own point of view. And of course, there is also a parallel project made by Mark Power, but these snapshots are really more unfiltered, if we want, you know, and a more honest into what happens if we really want to understand what, if we really want to enter the stories without filters. This is a different project but again involving kids. Misha Villejo, which is a photographer from Ecuador. He has done for a few years a work done with the Kichwa people in the Ecuadorian Amazon and created this very multi-layered story called The Secret Sarayaku.He worked at, apart all the projects he has created, he also has done this additional layer by which he worked with the Kichwa kids and asked them how they see their environment in Sarayaku and how they represent, and to represent their answers as drawing on their own portraits. So, the portraits were also a joint construction—photographer and subject deciding together what to take them and their poses. Another interesting, for me, very important trend and very important that at the same time opens new questions is the local relevance. And I think we are seeing this in many ways. Also, the World Press Photo has opened the call this year on local countries, like more close rather than global stories. Well, as well as global stories, but it’s interesting that you can see that we go towards local relevance because when people feel too disconnected too far, emotionally, physically, or culturally, they don’t feel connected. And so, probably there is a doubt into the efficacy of the story. So, what does it mean local relevance? So, know the story very well. Either you are part of that community, or you research thoroughly over time, you stay within the community for a long time so you understand what you’re talking about. When the images have localized climate impacts, showing individual person or group of people with identifiable emotions, they are likely to be most powerful, as we were saying. But also, it’s important to find a balance between localizing images and the link to the bigger picture. Of course, you show real and daily lives of subjects, create a relationship with subjects and first of all, empathize with them, and so you create trust. I’ve taken one example, which I already showed you in the past, which is Solmaz Daryani’s long term, sorry, ongoing, long term personal and environmental story, where she tries to demonstrate the impact of the drying lake in the place where she lives. And so, the effect on family, ecosystem and people living around and to reflect on the interconnectedness of humans and the environment. The transdisciplinarity is a topic we touched in the last, in the previous session. And what does it mean? It means having an approach that is about integration of disciplines. So, the soul, the boundaries between conventional and this conventional discipline. So, it’s not about probably, it’s not just about an artistic project, but you go beyond the, you involve other skill sets and knowledge in order to expand the message. And of course, you need to, it’s a way that helps to construct new meanings in the context of actually solving, let’s say, solving real world problems. Solving is a very ambitious word to use. But, of course, we’re talking about artistic projects here. So, it’s more about using the knowledge, the network, the weight of all the skill sets in a group in order to create something bigger than the single part. And on this one, I did show you an example by Argentinian artist, Tomas Saraceno, which he created the kind of, this project called the Particular Matter(s).


He works about the idea—it creates this kind of poetic alchemy of disciplines including art, science, and sociology, all woven together to create proposals for a more sustainable existence, creating real life experience where people can interact with themselves and try to show the extent and the danger of air pollution, for example. So, I want to leave you with some open questions, because these are, I don’t know, I don’t have the answer. But I will be glad if we can start to converse around these topics. So one is, kind of I mentioned before, how can we include the local perspectives in the global narration and still be relevant? So, how can you start from personal local stories and include universal touch points by which people can really feel they’re connected to the story? How can north and south of the world work together to build a more complex and comprehensive narration that shows the connection of things? It’s very important, I think. I don’t think we can only add new perspectives, I think the different perspectives need to work together. I mean, this is something I would love to see. What indigenous perspective brings to the table and how this can expand our understanding of the worlds and so lead to a more just world, which is kind of related to what we said before, but because today I’ve invited the Abdel Mandili, which is the founder of a People’s Planet Project, and they will talk to us about— it’s interesting, it’s very important to add indigenous perspective, or the south of the world perspective into the global stories. But it’s very important to understand how this will happen, how this will create a more comprehensive understanding of the climate change issue, and how can we address also the issue seen through the lens of human rights. So, thank you for listening. I will leave the word now to Abdel and then we will have some time at the end for some questions. Thank you, Abdel, for joining us today.


Abdel Mandili: Thank you so much, Maria Teresa, for having me and for everyone. Thank you. I think I’ll start a little bit about the story of People’s Planet Project and how we came about. I am, myself, a documentary filmmaker, been working in Indonesia covering stories around indigenous rights and climate justice, covering different stories of indigenous communities fighting in Kalimantan in Sumatra against big multinationals around palm oil monoculture and causing deforestation in indigenous ancestral forests where indigenous communities live for centuries and preserve and being actually forced to display and displaced from from their territories. And I’ve been working with a local crew documenting these stories. And when I got back home, I always stayed in touch with the communities and the indigenous leaders that I’ve worked with, to just see how their situation is proving, hopefully to the better. But every time I reach out, there is news that there are new concessions happening in their territories. And actually, nothing changed since I left. And then I started to ask myself the question what is actually the essence of making these stories if the communities there are actually experiencing the same problems every day and nothing is changing. And what we did is, together with all the local filmmakers in my network that I’ve worked with, try to consult those communities to see how we as creatives, as filmmakers, photographers, could help them actually. And what they’ve been telling us is that most of the time when the conflict is at its highest, there is no filmmaker around to capture what is happening. And they told us we need your equipment while you are away, which is actually evidence. And then we started to think about how to empower them and put the tools in their hands to document their stories from their own perspective. And that’s how People’s Planet Project started as a nonprofit. We are a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands. And we offer workshops to indigenous communities who are on the frontline of deforestation and are facing the threat of displacement to use both film and mapping as a tool of evidence creation and use that as proof of evidence in court cases to protect their forests and be able to prove to the world what’s happening in their territories, the human rights infringement that they are facing every day, and in that way be able to halt the unsustainable practices they face every day and make sure they are able to preserve their territories from generation to another. I’ll try to present one of our last initiatives, which are called the Geostory Camps. And the Geostory Camps are a 12-day workshop, you can see my screen. The Geostory Camps are 12- day workshops, where we are combining both film and mapping lessons to young indigenous community members and transfer the fundamentals of storytelling and mapping. And we do that in close collaboration with indigenous communities that we work with, indigenous associations, in order to provide with the technical know-how. And we partner with our local ambassadors, who are themselves filmmakers and GIS analysts who can transfer the curriculum in the local language to the indigenous communities that we serve.


And the Geostory Camps are actually built around a geo storytelling curriculum where there is actually two phases. One, the first one is more of a skill based. And the second one is where our human rights toolkit comes into place. So, we use the first 12 days to uplift the community skills and make sure they are able to understand the technical way of operating a camera and a GPS device and be able to document their territory on a base map, be able to fly a drone, be able to record an interview, make sure that sound and lighting is appropriate, etc. So, that’s the first part of the Geostory Camp journey. And the second part is how are we able to use those tools efficiently in a litigation process or advocacy process. So, how, what kind of characteristics should a map or a video or a film look like in order to be powerful in a court case and be able to show that evidence of human rights infringement and deforestation in indigenous territories. So, that’s what we call evidence-based storytelling, to focus on the key rights through which the storyline should be defined for communities to be able to have strong evidence in court cases. And with that, we work with local environmental lawyers who are advising us in the communities in terms of the litigation path and how to sustain this with the ultimate goal to preserve the indigenous community and the forest and the biodiversity that they preserve. Our last Geostory Camp was in the Xingu Amazon Basin, which is one of the most biodiverse areas in the Amazon region. We were able to train 17 indigenous community members from the Kisedje and Yudja communities who live alongside the Xingu River in filmmaking and 11 in participatory mapping. And the aim is to document both the infringement and unsustainable practices the these two communities face, both on film and map to protect around 2 million hectares of forest within the Xingu indigenous territory. So, we offer all equipment, and the equipment stays with the community after the workshop. We create working groups with the students and the facilitators to be able to maintain that momentum that we have created during the Geostory Camps for indigenous members to be able to still collect footage and make stories and we help them actually in editing and posting that on the web, obviously with their consent and them leading the pathway. And for the same we do with our Geostory mapping group, who we offer with a GPS device, a laptop with the necessary mapping software for them to monitor deforestation in real time to be able to understand the spatial layers, to be able to understand how to create a base map and on top of that to use spatial layers to visualize in real time the deforestation hotspots within their territory and basically collect all that evidence, both on video and mapping, to create strong evidence for the litigation that follows. This is, for instance, a drone image made by one of our students from the Xingu region, where you could see that there is a big concession close to their territory and they were able to, during the workshop, actually go through that area and fly a drone to show what is actually happening in their territory. And then at the same time, you could see here as well that the mapping students were able to locate the same places well on a map and in that way you create like a double evidence, where you have the visual component where you can see the drone image, but also the hard data and irrefutable data of satellite imagery that is backing up what is being documented on a drone or on a camera.


And our aim is actually to, to inspire a new way of international litigation where indigenous communities feel empowered to have a space in the legal sphere, where they are able to advocate for their rights, where they are able to collect the evidence of deforestation and human rights infringement firsthand, without anyone from outside of the community, portraying their own stories and in that way, they have the powerful tool to do that firsthand and be supported by local experts in the legal sphere, to take this to a next level where they are able to claim a space in the legal sphere to start court cases and be able to preserve their territory and halt deforestation and the forced displacement. We are actually drawing inspiration from two successful cases, one in Kenya, the Ogiek community, who were able to use songs that they have been able to document, and these songs are referring back to artifacts that are connecting the Ogiek community to their land. And these songs are centuries old. And through a court case, they were able to prove that the Ogiek community had a very essential role in mitigating climate change in that particular area, but also showing the historical connection that they had to their land, and they were able to win this court case and reclaim that territory. And another case is the Suba and Saotome community in Kalimantan in Indonesia, who used drone footage next to mapping data, were able to prove that a mining company wasn’t complying with free prior informed consent. And therefore, we’re able to reclaim their territories and halt the mining operations. And we tend to draw inspiration from these two cases. And hopefully, they set a precedent for coming communities being empowered to use the same tools to their benefit and be able to protect their forests territories. As we know, indigenous communities, they make up 5% of the global population, but they preserve around 80% of the global biodiversity. So, they are also most of the time on the frontline of different stations and climate change. But they are the ones who are actually contributing the least to this problem. So, as People’s Planet Project, we believe in the approach of empowering indigenous communities. The Geostory camp in the Xingu region was one of our first pilot workshops. We have done one the last month as well in Sumatra with the Orang Rimba community. And we intend to do a couple more as well and try to enter that next step where we are standing next to these communities and making sure that we provide them with the right expertise in them leading the pathway in order to use the legal system in their advantage and using the powerful tool of storytelling and mapping combined to preserve their territories that they are actually preserving already for centuries. And it’s their home, it’s their office, it’s their pharmacy, it’s everything altogether. And, yeah, like I said, we are using these successful cases to make sure that other communities can follow. And hopefully we are able, with this approach, to preserve many more hectares of indigenous forest lands in the future. I think I’ll leave it with that note, and if there are any questions from from the audience, feel free to drop them in the box.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Thank you, Abdel. Very inspiring what your project, what you guys are doing. I don’t know. Maybe Paul has some questions. I have one first. I don’t know, Paul, can I go ahead? I was part of the, one of like, the one of the primaries at the beginning of starting our collaboration, but also, with Everything is Connected is that evidence that the scientific community has been showing to us in terms of climate change hasn’t led to any real change in terms of people’s understanding and also doing something about it. And so, on this side of the world that we mostly talk about, how can we involve emotionally connect emotionally to the story so that people can feel I’m directly involved in this story. And so maybe I can think about the way I live, what I do, what I buy, what I do, how I vote, whatever I do with my life, because these kinds of helps, helps the, you know, kind of mitigate the impact on the planet footprint, and you keep talking about the evidence. So, which is wow, like, it’s almost like, I feel like we are in a different stage. And in which ways you think if you ever thought, in which way we can integrate stages, needs, understanding of the problems in order to really work together if there is if there is any way because, of course, you know, the needs of the indigenous people are completely different from ours. So, I wonder if there is a common ground in which you know, Western people and you know, South and North of the world can really find a way to work together into building a more comprehensive global narration that really helps all of us, or is it just a matter of what is relevant for the place that drives the construction of the narration?


Abdel Mandili: Yeah, yeah, I would say, I mean, it all starts with listening. And indigenous communities have been sidelined for for a long time in these discussions. And if we start listening to their stories, doors may open and like you said, if you start to listen, you can see that the choices that we make here do have effects at other places. And if you hear something from from a first hand perspective, and there is this humanizing factor where you can see that they are actually the same people with the same desires as we do, they just want to live in harmony and not being interrupted by any big company that enters their homes and displaces them, and to listen to their stories and the way we behave, has an impact on their daily life. The choices that you make in a supermarket, etc. These are all things that affect someone else at the other side of the globe. And if we start to realize and listen to those stories and make sure that we are actually open to listen, then understanding can follow from there. And if we start to understand the perspective of someone else, then we can start to reflect and that’s where the connection comes.


Maria Theresa Salvati: Yeah, it seems like a very challenging task. But definitely it’s an interesting new window into really how can we integrate the different perspectives and narratives into a more connected and global narration if it helps, you know, in a way. Paul?


Paul Lowe: Yeah. I thought it was really fascinating Abdel, the way that you’re, you know, obviously, have a very coordinated and thought-through triangulation process to gathering all these different types of evidence and then building that into a coherent argument for the, to empower them. I wondered how scalable you think this is and whether the model, you know, you think about how that might be transferred to other environmental issues, or indeed other issues in general. I’m also, kind of following on from that, you know, there have been some crowdsourced projects like identifying, you know, black holes in space, or stars. And I’m wondering if that’s possibly a way that you might be able to get people to engage if there are parts of this evidential analysis process or gathering process that could be crowd sourced in some way? And maybe that’s the way people could could connect more directly to these issues?


Abdel: Yeah, I mean, in terms of scalability, we have seen like two different cases, one in Kenya and one in Indonesia. But I think we definitely have to tailor our approach and look at each different case separately, because each different case obviously has a different niche, a different approach, both in the way we teach, in the in the way we structure our curriculum, but also the litigation path that we follow, because every country obviously has another different legal system, sometimes a federal system. So, the bureaucracy is also not the best in these kinds of regions. So yeah, it’s definitely scalable. But still, you have to tailor your approach. The other question wasn’t, or sorry, the other question wasn’t so clear to me. So if you could clarify that a little bit.


Paul Lowe: I’m just thinking about, you know, the ways that you could use sort of crowdsourcing or crowd laboring of people, perhaps in western communities to help with this process. Is there a way you could get them involved in a more direct way in terms of supporting them through labor or time or something? Because often what we’re always trying to do and make these connections between us and them, as it were, stronger and more concrete, and the money, whether there are ways that you might be able to use some of these digital processes to do that, or maybe it’s just crowdfunding even. But you know, just to kind of I mean, obviously, we’ve seen a lot of people investing in projects they believe in through various forms of either financial or labor. Maybe that’s one way to bridge the gap that Maria Teresa so well-articulated in terms of, you know, when things are far away, we don’t necessarily care about them so much.


Abdel Mandili: Yeah, yeah, I think there are two ways. I mean, what we try to do is we have partnerships with ambassadors who are the experts in the field that they teach in. So, we connect them long term with the communities that we work with, both in filmmaking and GIS, and they are their mentors for long term. So that’s something that we try to facilitate. On the other side, we have a tribal stories platform, which is an evidence-based platform where we put all the content of the community created both in film and mapping on this global platform, and it’s still in development. But what we try to do as well is make it a community where like you said, Paul, someone from faraway place can connect with a particular story but can also see a pathway that community needs to take in order to preserve their territory. So, what is the legal pathway for a community? Where are they at this moment? And where are they heading towards? And what kind of support do they need? And if we are able to sustain a community, an online community where someone could join and see that there is a particular question or a need from a particular community in a particular stage of their litigation process, and someone else could help with his or her expertise. That’s something that we try to provide as well with this platform. So, I think in coming years, we’re able to provide this kind of knowledge sharing and also like creating this international community, where probably also could address this lack of connection, as well.


Paul Lowe: Please feel free— just the audience, please feel free to type any questions in the q&a box. We haven’t had any yet but feel free to do that. Obviously, we’d encourage you to, or even just comments really, or discussions.


Maria Teresa Salvati: It will be interesting to see if we really can build really a network—photographers over here that want to discuss certain topics of things that happen here, and the connection is created by actually the physical connection with the people in the affected area to see that there is a link. This is a key, I think is the missing point in the global narration. I mean, I don’t want to think that, well, evidence, talking about evidence, probably, we have to come to the conclusion that people are only interested if they are directly affected by what’s happening, but I don’t want to believe that. And even if it’s the case, like really trying to make an effort to see that even if you don’t think it concerns you, it does. Even if it happens on the other side, because actually what happens there, actually is evolved into your life, for example, the simplest is the migration. You know, it’s like the simplest thing in many places of the world, you know, by, they say, 2050 to two thousand-and-something-more, especially in Africa, some places won’t be livable anymore. And so, people have to move, they have to go somewhere else. And so like, it’s a direct consequence of climate change and it will affect the directly our lives over here in the Mediterranean area. So, the things are connected, but the story is never told in a complete and comprehensive way. So, maybe this could be the missing link into the very thoroughly narration.


Paul Lowe: I think, we’ve got a question here from Jeff, Jeff Black, who’s asking, in some ways, the kind of $64,000 question, which is, very often, I’ll paraphrase it, you know, work produced by professional photographers perhaps is very visually striking but doesn’t have the content or the research or the depth of participation, or it’s not from the community. And often participatory-based work has all of those things but doesn’t necessarily have the visual sort of energy that a, that might be brought in by a professional image maker. So, where do we, how do we try to combine this grassroots participatory approach with the striking visual style that will get traction in mainstream media for climate issues? So, there’s a really, that’s the kind of question we spent the whole of the last several months I think discussing, but I just wondered maybe if you have any specific strategies that you’ve come across in that sense?


Abdel Mandili: Yeah, I think it’s a good question to address. And I think the way we go about it and from the experience of offering those workshops, you always have students, film students, mapping students that excel and do have this desire to learn more and actually are learning on a fast, on a fast pace. So, that’s where we identify mentoring opportunities. And what we also do at People’s Planet Project is produce participatory films, where we have a combination of international filmmakers and indigenous filmmakers that we have trained in a film crew. And in that way, being able to work together on equal footing and make sure that we produce a story that is in line with the community’s vision, etc. And be able to provide them with a global, to share their work with a global audience. And in that way, gradually grow their skills from not only being able to tell their stories, but in a visual, compelling way, and being able to take that next step in their film career in their mapping career, etc. So, it’s definitely a long process, but you have to start somewhere, and a participatory component is the way to go. And at some point, they are able to produce their own films without us being actually involved in it.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Yeah, it’s a very important question also, because it comes from again, our side. I’d be interested to see the, you know, what indigenous communities can create in terms of a stylistic vision that is their own. And in terms of getting traction in mainstream media here, as Abdel was saying, probably it requires time. And probably, yeah, it’s important, but I don’t know how much is important that, you know, in terms of you can create noise and buzz also, above and beyond mainstream media. And I think all these exercises and these kind of networks in collaboration can help to create traction and attention and create their own style. We can’t wait for mainstream media to, you know, to find something interesting to communicate something, also because they move a little bit slower compared to what’s happening outside. And for now, we’ve been saying, as Paul was saying in the last month, we’ve been seeing the analysis, analyzing all the mainstream media in terms of all the key issues related to climate change and the images are all the same. And it will be, this has been a consequence of the last 36 years of communicating, trying to communicate climate change. And we’ve seen that it has been failing in a sense, because it hasn’t led to real changes in the community and also in understanding from the public. So, the world needs to be reinvented. And it will be very interesting to really bring onboard different visions and create completely new paradigms for communicating climate change. So, I wouldn’t wait for mainstream to pick up on something that they think is interesting.


Paul Lowe: Yeah, I think that’s probably the key point, isn’t it, that obviously a lot of professional image makers might have the default, they want to see their work published in, you know, National Geographic, or The Guardian, or wherever it might be. But in fact, maybe those arenas, we’ve discovered, aren’t particularly effective at actually generating change. Perhaps they have higher visibility, but the link between that visibility and actual action that’s credible and actually makes a difference is probably very weak. And so, perhaps the point of the question is not to be worrying about getting traction in mainstream media. It’s about finding new platforms, new spaces, building communities, building connections more directly between, you know, communities, both in the west and in the majority world, and the mediation being taken place through people like yourself and your projects and other media professionals and so on. So, I think that in many ways is probably a much richer, and more valuable space to work with. To another question here from Sabrina Merola. Saying covering deforestation in London for two years, and also covering grassroots communities of ordinary Londoners that have been protecting their street trees and the right to weed and help their children, but very— she’s essentially saying that the editors might only publish one or two pictures here and there about the topic. I think that’s a very interesting story really is the sense that how urban spaces in cities are under a lot of pressure and need to be defended, sorry, green spaces in cities and the value of green spaces within our major cities. But to me that seems like exactly that kind of project that would work very well over a grassroots level, working directly with local communities to preserve their trees, plant trees, you know. There was an interesting, very simple idea in England just recently, which is very simply No Mow May, where people were encouraged not to mow their lawns during May to provide extra habitats for wildlife and so on just during that period. But yeah, I think was a great question, Sabrina. But I think it’s a good point that this can work both ways. I think that you know, this knowledge sharing can work across the globe really. Very good. Well, we’re on the hour, I think it’s been a fascinating discussion, amazing work you’re doing, Abdel, and thank you very much Maria Teresa for hosting this whole series of talks. As Maria Teresa said, this is a co-production between Everything is Connected and University Arts London, Photography Archive Research Center. We’ll be returning in the autumn with some more talks on this. Thank you, all of you who have attended, especially those people who have been attending several of these sessions, we really value your support. And hopefully we’ll see you back later in the year. And thanks, of course, to VII Insider, and PhotoWings for really helping us facilitate these talks on the platform. It’s been great, really fascinating discussions. And I think, you know, some really interesting questions that we are raising and exploring. And let’s please keep the conversation going. So thank you all very much. Thank you for your attention.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Thank you, Paul.


Paul Lowe: Thank you, Maria Teresa.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Thank you, all the guests, and Abdel today and everyone for supporting this research. It has been so enriching and it feels like it’s such a completely unexplored area that it’s all about to study. It’s about studying and really defining new ways. So, I’m very glad and you will find all the previous talks and the one today on our website, And we’ll see you in after summer. Thank you so much, Paul, for your support and VII and UAL and PARC.


Paul Lowe: Thank you all very much.


Abdel Mandili: Thank you.


Paul Lowe:  Have a great summer, everybody.


Maria Teresa Salvati: You too.


Paul Lowe: Hopefully not too hot.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Well.


Paul Lowe: Exactly. Yeah. Thank you very much, everybody. Thanks.


Maria Teresa Salvati: Bye. Bye-bye.


Abdel Mandili: Bye.

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