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Tomac’s “1°C Rising” brings the front line of climate change to your coffee table

Posted by Guest Blogger on June 21, 2018 at 10:50 AM

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By Dr. Cara Augustenborg, Chairperson of Friends of the Earth Europe

Back in 2010, when environmental photographer and activist Luka Tomac began the journey of documenting stories from the front lines of climate change, the realities of the crisis were not yet mainstream.  Though the harmful impacts of climate change had been known for decades, the understanding of just how fast these challenges will confront people still seemed far into the distant future. Over the past eight years, Tomac, a Croatian native, has visited more than 20 countries to document stories of resistance and solutions to climate change through photographs and interviews of impacted people and communities.

Tomac2Tomac’s latest project “1°C Rising – Stories from the front lines of climate change” is a visual diary of a world resisting and rising in the wake of life on a warming planet. Through a collection of over 250 photographs accompanied by interviews, essays and quotes, Tomac elevates voices from across the Global South to the North, uncovering the culprits of climate impacts and environmental degradation while honouring those defending, resisting and protecting. Through a crowd-funding iniative on Indiegogo, he is 80% towards his $15,000 fundraising goal to complete the book with just 36 hours left in his campaign.

Titled after both rising temperatures and rising resistance, “1°C Rising” covers stories from the world’s largest coal mines in Colombia and Germany, the toxic rivers of Nigeria to fjord mining resistance in Norway. From community energy revolution led by people in Scotland to the snow-capped mountains of Kilimanjaro all the way to the rapidly melting Arctic.  The title is a reflection of this problem but also suggests a solution: that people must rise too.  By rising, resisting and strengthening the global climate movement, Tomac’s premise is that the story of our common future can be rewritten to one that enables a just and liveable planet for all.

Tomac is aware that this is easier said than done but believes in the power of storytelling to shape our understanding, truths and communities by sharing and learning from those stories.  There is no shortage of stories on the front lines of climate change, but it does appear we have become poor listeners. However, when we take a moment to connect to a person’s words and struggle, someone whom we perhaps have never met, we recognize their existence and make them visible.  This is solidarity with fellow people, but it is not only people who “speak” about the impacts of climate change.  Temperature and sea levels are rising, storms are becoming more intense and frequent, and life on this planet is fighting to survive. Even the Earth itself is trying to share its story with us. 

Tomac1In 2014, at the People’s Summit outside of the UNFCCC negotiations in Lima, Peru, Agripina, an indigenous woman from the Andes told Tomac: “There is no rain this season. My community is waiting for rain and we are very worried that without it, there will be problems for the entire upcoming year. We are experiencing a drought that will impact our health, economic situation, our planting season and affect our animals."

Two years later, in 2016, Tomac was in Indonesia where Pa Yusep shared with him how the mining companies are affecting his community. They came here without consulting the community. We did not get any job opportunities. It seems as if the community has no rights … We used to be safe here. It was peaceful. There was no conflict. Today, we get in trouble for demanding that the [mining] company respects our rights. We are even chased by the police.”  

Agripina and Pa Yusep have never met, yet they share much in common. In connecting these voices, Tomac demonstrates how the climate crisis is fuelled by greed, profit and exploitation of local communities and the Earth’s resources, which begs for reflection on our responsibility to hold accountable those exacerbating the damage.

In many ways, “1°C Rising – Stories from the front lines of climate change” is a visual diary that blends worries with urgency and hope with necessary action.  Tomac, who has already published three books related to environmental impacts and climate change, explains that “1°C Rising” is different in the way it uses stories to create a communal space for the voices of those directly affected to come together.

Asked about how his “1°C Rising” can make a difference in this world, Tomac’s response was that the book will empower people and communities to know their concerns are heard.  He explained that history has been filtered to the extent that what shapes our upbringing and understanding stems from stories which leave out the voices of indigenous peoples and marginalized communities. Thus, false solutions and mainstream stories separate us from one another, steer us further towards a competitive mode of survival that is not sustainable.  “1°C Rising” is Tomac’s act of resistance against the suppression of the rights and voices of the most vulnerable people in our world.  

We are confronting a planetary emergency. “1°C Rising” is a dedication to the lives that honour that planet -People around the world who are rising together, turning ripples of whispers into waves of possibilities.  While the stories in “1°C Rising” harness many concerns, they are also filled with knowledge, wisdom and truth that has the potential to inspire collective action.

To help fund the publication of “1°C Rising – Stories from the front lines of climate change” by Luka Tomac, donate online at Indiegogo before midnight on June 22, 2018: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stories-from-the-front-lines-of-climate-change-books-community#/ 

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