I was lucky enough to take part in a participatory photography project in Manchester Yesterday. It was a chance to influence policymaking by documenting how climate change affects our own communities.

Climate Change In Our Communities

I was lucky enough to take part in a participatory photography project in Manchester Yesterday. It was a chance to influence policymaking by documenting how climate change affects our own communities. It came about as a partnership between the Berggruen institute (A think-tank that reshapes political and social institutions) and Youth environmental service (an opportunity for young people from across the UK to spend a year working in nature-based projects). It was formed on the basis that young people will be disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, inherited from previous generations. It’s important for young people and policymakers to be the foundation for building climate-resilient communities.

We were asked to:

  1. Share photographs documenting how climate change impacts our community;
  2. Attend a one day session to present our photographs and co-design recommendations for a Youth Environment Service while working together to develop outputs of the project.

The first activity was to choose a picture that represents us. This picture represents me because I associate myself a lot with mountains. I feel like one of my main qualities is being very positive and finding the good in everything. This photo represents that. It was taken on a really miserable day, it was raining and there was no view because of the clouds. But we put the effort in and ended up surfacing the clouds to get this amazing view! It’s not always easy but I guess it shows that if you put the effort in and strive high enough, you can turn a bad thing into a good thing. It reminds me of the quote –

“You can either be overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem or fall in love with the creativity of the solutions.” – Mary Heglar. 

My favourite picture was this Butterfly picture.

The Butterly effect – Small community actions can be a catalyst for big global changes.

This image is largely positive at first glance with the contrasting bright colours and. such a beautiful creature however if you look more closely, the butterfly has a broken wing. Obviously the broken wing is likely not a direct impact of climate change but as a species, butterflies are greatly affected by changing levels of CO2. I think the broken wing also alludes to the idea that lie is fragile, we are an adaptable species but there’s only so much adaption and mitigation before the tipping point is reached. I guess the fact that it looks like a positive image until you look deeper could probably be linked to greenwashing and how these days, there are certain buzzwords used by companies that no longer have much meaning. Companies are changing for the changing consumer needs which is good, but it would be better f it was for the right reasons.

I think this image also links to the the “butterfly effect.” A phenomenon in which a small change in one place, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, creates large, unexpected changes somewhere else. Its the he idea of small actions catalyzing unpredictable outcomes. Just like a small change in temperature has devistating impacts to our climate. You could say the effect works in reverse, too – small community actions can be a catalyst for bug global changes.

Build connections with nature and grow emotional toolkits instead of building unnecessary new houses.

This image contrasts the tarmac and concrete with the woods. It shows the layers of the woods as it was, to being a slice of a log with clear rings to demonstrate the rings that never got to grow, to the unnatural materials that now cover what was once the forest floor. Woodland is being destroyed in communities all over the uk for building houses. It is so sad to see. I had another picture which showed a tree that has fallen and it looks like a person. I think a lot of people see trees as objects that can just be cut down without a second thought but the fact is – trees are living, they have been here long before us and we depend on them. They are essential to life on earth. 

Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. They act like great carbon sinks. Woods and forests absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries through photosynthesis. They also prevent flooding, reduce city temperatures, reduce pollution and keep soil nutrient rich.

I think with woodland, it’s also about our culture and peoples health. People need nature. It’s proven to improve mental health and in an overprescribed society social prescribing is a new and emerging way of treating certain conditions. Nature can become part of peoples emotional toolkits. We need it in our lives. If people don’t have access to woodland, how will they know why it is so important to save?

Bridging the public transport gap in small rural areas.

Many people don’t have the option to make changes to being greener. Growing up in a rural area, it just wasn’t convenient to take the bus. They weren’t regular enough and seemed to cost an awful lot of money. When it’s a twenty minute drive to the nearest shop, to school or to work, there’s no option but to drive on a daily basis. Yes, some people could cycle, including me, but due to there being no cycle paths, it’s just not an option for many people. If public transport was cheaper and services more regular, emissions would be lessened as less people would use single occupancy vehicles.

I guess the image also represents the nature of the problem – the issue is much bigger than us individuals. It is not all our responsibility. To a large extent, it is upto the government to revolutionise our transport systems and make going greener easier.

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