Photo by Geng Yunsheng, From series, Zhenxiong, YiLeung and Zhaotong, Yunnan Province, 1995, 2001 – 2005. Image courtesy of Geng Yunsheng.
Showing at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing, "Coal + Ice" is a moving multimedia exhibit that visually links coal mining to melting glaciers, as a result of global climate change. Spread over multiple rooms, the photos present bold yet intimate portraits of miners and their families - taken from different eras and countries. These are juxtaposed with breathtakingly large images of the silent Himalayas - mountains whose eternality are being betrayed by man-induced environmental changes.
30 photographers from across the globe, including several from China, participated in this far-reaching project, which was recently covered by the New York Times:
The show, titled "Coal + Ice" and produced by the Asia Society in New York, is an ambitious attempt to call attention to the long-range impact of humanity's unrelenting thirst for energy. The melting of glaciers on the Tibetan plateau, at the headwaters of Asia's great rivers, threatens the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people downstream. Scientists say climate change is also responsible for the increasing unpredictability and strength of storms around the globe, and that impact is shown here in photographs by the American artist Clifford Ross of towering waves off the coast of Long Island during hurricane season.
"I like this idea of putting ice and fire together," said one of the photographers, Yu Haibo, 49, of Shenzhen Economic Daily, whose recent work documents the lives of coal miners. "We all know that coal-burning causes global warming," he said, adding that the approach of showing both cause and effect "makes the works so much more convincing and delivers the message so much more effectively."
The piece also makes mention of mountaineer and photographer David Breashears, whose work documents the painfully rapid icemelt of the Himalayan landscape. In fact 330 vertical feet of the Rongbuk Glacier had melted in the 90 years since another mountaineer and photographer had since visited - George Mallory - nearly 90 years ago. (Not dissimilar to these Greenpeace pictures of Halong Glacier marking stark differences between 1981 and 2005.)
In the same room as Breashears work stare the faces of miners, whose lives are inextricably linked.
Photo by David Breashears, Kyetrak Glacier, northern slope of Cho Oyu, Tibetan Autonomous Region, China, 2009. Image courtesy of GlacierWorks.
Photo by Niu Guozheng, Pingdingshan, Henan Province, 2006. Image courtesy of Niu Guozheng.
Photo by Yu Haibo, Pingdingshan, Henan Province, 2007. Image courtesy of Yu Haibo.
Photo by Clifford Ross, Hurricane LIV, 2009. Image courtesy of Clifford Ross.
Coal is responsible for 80% of China's carbon emissions, and the country, along with the United States, being the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Coal supplies more than 70% of the nation's energy needs and 80% of the electricity. And if we are to stop climate change, then China must move away from coal to renewable energy.
Learn more about the problem of coal in China as well as it's relationship to climate change: