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This article is the latest in our series #Art4Climate, a joint initiative by the UNFCCC secretariat and Julie’s Bicycle on the work of artists who make the issue of climate change more accessible and understandable by featuring it in their work. It was inspired by a session at the Salzburg Global Seminar in early 2017.

The German photographer and artist Barbara Dombrowski is helping to build awareness about climate change by connecting indigenous peoples in the Amazon and the Arctic impacted by rapidly changing weather patterns through art, thereby creating a sense of solidarity and understanding between cultures.

As part of her project ‘Tropic Ice’, Barbara Dombrowski photographed Inuit people living among the receding glaciers of Greenland and the Achuar people in the forests of the Amazon in Ecuador whose way of life is threatened by oil exploration. She then displayed the pictures of one culture to the other in their respective regions. She has also photographed people in other parts of the world, including Africa.

Barbara’s beautiful portraits demonstrate that even at opposite sides of the planet, people everywhere are struggling because of the impacts of climate change and the threats to their ways of life.

The indigenous peoples in both locations are already feeling the impacts of climate change. An Achuar man whom Barbara interviewed in Ecuador said:

“The wind is stronger and the rain falls with more intensity. In the past in one case we saw a hail storm which is very rare, very rare. When the wind comes from the North, and hail falls on air strips in the villages, we can assume this is the effects of climate change.”

Likewise, the climate is changing in Greenland, with less sea ice and increased snow-fall due to increased humidity in the atmosphere, affecting the ability of the Inuit to hunt.

The artist, from Hamburg, Germany, wants to encourage people from all over the world to become ambassadors of their respective climatic zones.

“All people, the people in the jungle, the people in the Western world, the people in Africa and Asia, have only one planet. World leaders are responsible for the health of this planet and they can’t just throw it away for profits or industry, they have to take care of it. We have a chance now in this generation. If leaders don’t act, it will be gone. We don’t have a lot of time left,” she said.

‘Tropic Ice’ displayed between two Ceibo trees in the Amazon

During several years Barbara spent many weeks living with the indigenous communities in the Amazon and Greenland and participating in their daily lives, with the aim of building a bridge between the two cultures living in opposite climate extremes with the help of her artwork.

“In the Amazon it was the first time they had seen icebergs, so they were really curious about it and they loved the pictures. All of them, the people in Greenland and also people in the Amazon, were really curious about the other side,” Barbara said.

Despite language barriers, the Achuar people went to great lengths to help Barbara put up her photos.

After traveling the world to see the impacts of climate change on these communities first hand, Barbara has urged world leaders in the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP 23, 6-17 November) to work together to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

“This is a milestone that countries agreed to in Paris, but now leaders have to not only do the talking, now they have to act. The willingness of all these countries for action is there. Paris sent a signal to the world that is spreading. Let’s hope that countries will stand together and work on changes,” she said.

Side by side photos of the Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Inuit from East Greenland

Barbara is working to expand her photography project to include locations from all over the world. She has recently photographed the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia, Massai Tribe people in Tanzania, and she will soon visit the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu. She plans to organize an installation exhibition covering all her photos from all continents at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in summer 2018.

Learn more about Barbara Dombrowski’s photography installation ‘Tropic Ice’ here.

#Art4Climate is a joint initiative by the UNFCCC and Julie’s Bicycle to spot and propose super recent and new works in this broad field, but we also want to hear from you! Please send any proposals for showcasing to newsroom@unfccc.int or Chiara@juliesbicycle.com.
Please amplify our web posts with Twitter hashtag #Art4Climate and #COP23!

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