In the entire history of human life on Earth, we have never faced two more broad-based and existential environmental threats than those posed by climate change and biodiversity loss. Right now—every day—the world is adding more atmospheric pollution, more destruction of habitat, and more threats to species, creating a metaphorical (and sometimes literal) enveloping shroud that may eventually doom our own species. On a geologic time scale, we are accelerating these processes at warp speed. A 2014 study in Science magazine reported that species were dying off at a rate 1,000 times faster than normal because of human activities. So, what’s the solution? I have some ideas but first it’s necessary to acknowledge and understand the problems, their urgency, and why nature photographers should care.
R/V Nathaniel Palmer, the largest research icebreaker of the US National Science Foundation, cruises through small ice in pre-dawn light near the Palmer Station, Antarctic Peninsula, April 1999. Braasch’s first trip to Antarctica yielded this image, which became the opening spread in Discover magazine.
It’s been sixteen years since I was sitting in a tent on the foggy Alaska tundra with fellow photographer Gerry Ellis and had the idea to photograph climate change science. It might have been just an idle idea borne of boredom. But, using my connections from previous assignments documenting nature science and after a review of what scientists were learning about global warming but which was not being well photographed, I broached the idea with some editors. Continue reading →