In the last few days, Shanghai has been trapped under a blanket of grey-brown murk that is usually just being referred to as ‘pollution’, but not many pay attention to what it really is – a swirl of coal, dust, and auto emission. While the awareness for air quality and global warming increases, it is hard for many to change their habits and take steps in order to prevent it, as we do not see its effects on a daily bases. For this reason, Asia Society decided to try a different approach and present clearly the consequences of coal burning on ice and mountains’ glaciers.

We like to think of beautiful landscapes as timeless, as if vast mountains will always be there. We are wrong. In Coal+Ice exhibition, you can see the work of David Breashears, a mountaineer and photographer, to shoot images of glaciers from precisely the same points where his predecessors stood a century ago. His photographs portrait death foretold- shrunken pieces of ice where mighty glaciers once stood.

The changes can be seen very clearly by a large panoramic video projection that contrasted Breashears photos from 2007 with those of George Mallory, the first pictures of the Himalaya taken in 1921. They show that more than 330 vertical feet of ice has melted from the glacier in nearly nine decades, which is now proven to be due to climate changes caused by burning coal and fossil fuels.

The exhibition is an ambitious attempt to depict both the causes and the impacts of climate change. It starts with intimate portraits of coal miners at work, by photographers including Geng Yunsheng and Yang Junpo of China, American Lewis Hine, and Russian Gleb Kosorukov. Then it emphasizes the devastating effects of coal-burning and greenhouse gas emissions by showing the astonishing amount of ice that Himalayan glaciers have lost in the last century. The final part depict what is becoming of those glaciers: water. Mainly composed of photos taken by Clifford Ross, showing violent waves crashing to shore during hurricane season on Long Island, presenting the effects of global warming on the sea level and people who live near it.

Coal+Ice is a documentary exhibition encompassing work by thirty photographers around the world. It seeks to chart the effects of the current energy sources on nature and humans, from the coal mines beneath our feet to the glaciers on our highest mountains. As more coal (and other fossil fuels) being used, the less ice we will have, and more polluted water will flood our ground. The mountains seem so far away, but what hurts their peaks now will eventually come to hurt us- according to scientific research of global institutes, this will happen in our life time, in the next 40 years. Therefore, we must take action: reduce our personal use of energy, turn off the AC and lights in your rooms when you leave, and demand private firms and our public figures to work for creating a change. “The message you see in the glaciers is: Prepare for the inevitable” –Breashears
*The exhibition will be in Shanghai until February 2016. Green Shanghai will organize another visit, so stay tuned.


This article was written by Nofar Hamrany. Please contact to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Peter Dowley via Flickr

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