Just as front-line workers have been pleading with people to wear masks and practice social distancing, environmental activists have been trying to get us to wise up to the consequences of our actions. If we are visual learners, perhaps the 12 photographers featured in “Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time” can finally get through.
“These photographers all share one important similarity: They remind us that each and every one of us holds the power to create change through the everyday choices that we make: what we choose to eat, what we purchase, how we get to work, who we vote for, which businesses we support,” write editors Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday in the book’s introduction. “We all have a role to play. But, we all must begin to act and act now.”
The book includes first-person narratives from each photographer, documenting their careers, their inclinations toward conservation and the specialties that have taken them to deserts and ice floes, above the clouds and under the waves. They discuss the troubling developments they’ve witnessed, from the proliferation of plastic waste in our oceans to the retreat of polar ice, but they also convey a sense of hope that we can still turn things around.
Following is a glimpse of the sometimes troubling, always stunning work featured in “Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time.”
“I’ve often said the ocean is dying a death of a thousand cuts and that unlike in the past, we have to understand that the ocean is not too big to fail,” Skerry says. “I think we are living at this very special and pivotal moment in history where, maybe, for the very first time, we actually understand both the problems and the solutions. And the question is, will we do the right thing and work on those solutions, or will we simply bear witness to the destruction?”
But for Lanting, it’s not all doom and gloom. In Monterey, Calif., where he has lived for decades, he has witnessed scientists, politicians and private citizens work together to revive a damaged ecosystem.
“I want my photographs to work on multiple layers,” he says. “They must be beautiful and the irony of making something beautiful out of something terrible comments on the irony of life in the modern world, where each of us, no matter how conscientious, must realize that we’re stealing from our grandchildren by not living a sustainable life.”
Stephanie Merry is editor of Book World.
Planet Earth in Our Time
Edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday
Chronicle. 160 pp. $45