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Global Change has many faces

Some of them are shown by the photo project „My m² Earth” at the IRI THESys. Three pictures will now be awarded a prize.

How does global change look like? Mankind leaves its traces on the 510 trillion square metres of the earth's surface: From environmental destruction and climate change, population growth and urban sprawl to an increasing consciousness for the environment or emerging sustainability initiatives. The participative photo project “My m2 Earth” sought to make those global phenomena visible in everyday life.  Between October 2015 and March 2016 we asked citizens, scientists and students to upload their motifs of global change on an online portal. During this time, 78 pictures made by 53 photographers were submitted. They show the diversity of global change on all five continents, each picture symbolically representing one square meter earth.

At the Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys) located at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU) a three-member jury has now chosen three winning pictures. “We did not decide upon technical professionalism, but more upon the message of the pictures and the photographers’ personal view on global change” says Anne Dombrowski, who is in charge of science communication at the institute. “Of course we were also curious who is behind those pictures. Not to know the identity of the participants is a feature of open online projects.”

"Climate change affects us all"

One of the winners is the 31-year-old  Margoth González Woge from Mexico who is living in Donostia-San Sebastián in Spain since three years. Her picture “Our extended summer“ looks like a holiday catalogue: Playing soccer at the beach, the sea in azure blue and a green island in the background. Margoth González Woge initially took this picture for facebook to show her friends abroad how hot it can be in the North of the country even just before Christmas. “Climate change affects us all, but in very different ways”, says the PhD student who is currently writing her thesis in Philosophy of Technology. “While some are suffering from aridity and drought, others can enjoy an extended summer.” That brings up questions of environmental justice. This ethical dilemma was the reason for jury member Dr. Iago Otero to choose this picture.

The fact that in other areas water is becoming scarce is shown by the picture “The Waterway” by Rafael Rodrigues Camargo. The 28-year-old Brazilian discovered the self-made construction of tied pipes, tubes and valves during his holidays in Greece. “Water is an element of life” says the caver and environmental evaluator who currently studies environmental planning in Berlin. “Not everybody has an access to water and some people have to come up with their own ideas.” Anett Kuntosch, also member of the jury, found this picture extraordinary original. In a humorous way it demonstrates how people have to improvise because of global change.

Bringing science and society closer together

The picture ”Don't look just at us!“ asks us how the increasing world population can be fed while at the same time the limited resource land is used in a sustainable way. It shows a cattle fattening farm in Brazil and forces the observer to look the animals directly into the eye. The resulting intense imagery which may even lead to a feeling of unease has convinced the jury. The picture was also taken by Rafael Rodrigues Camargo whose uploads were chosen twice in this anonymized voting process. 

The project „My m² Earth“ was initiated by IRI THESys at the HU in cooperation with the German Committee for Sustainability Research in Future Earth. It aimed to bring science and society closer together – a prerequisite to jointly shape global change in a sustainable way. The fact that visual communication can make people sensitize to sustainability issues is also agreed upon by the two winners of „My m² Earth. Margoth González Woges: „Photos for environmental education!“

Further information

Website of IRI THESys
The online exhibition with all motifs


Anne Dombrowski
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Phone: 030 2093-66334