Floods, forest fire, coastal erosion and lakes drying up:- these are some of the modern environmental events and changes, both natural and man-made, while debris is left on beautiful coastlines in Greece and in the shadow of one of the most romantic buildings in the world and there are conflicts between developers and existing residents in fast-changing cities in China, with people in developing countries still work in unhealthy environments while the rest of the world turns a blind eye.
These and other challenges have been captured in the Environmental Photographer of the Year competition on show at the Royal Geographical Society in London, counterbalanced by positive photographs of beauty showing optimism for a sustainable future.
The competition, launched in 2007 by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and sponsored by Atkins, provides a showcase for high quality environmental photography and film by both amateurs and professionals with the aim of inspiring viewers to think about social and environmental issues in the 21st century.
Floods happen all across the world and Antonio Busiello provides a touch of amusement and reality of living in the city of Venice which is slowly sinking as sea levels rise while Lake Urmia in Iran has the opposite problem, recorded by Pedram Yazdani, with the largest salt lake in the Middle East having shrunk to only a tenth of its size due to climate change, and Sl Shanth Kumar shows the coastline of Chennai in South India which is disappearing due to a combination of man-made and natural forces.
Man-made debris litters the world: Sandra Hoyn records the bright orange life jackets, inner tubes and rubber rafts left by refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece while, hidden behind the romance of the Taj Mahal, Mustafa Abdulhadi illustrates the reality of a world which the tourists do not see.
Yuyang Liu has two men fishing in the pond of Xian Villiage in the centre of Guangzhou city surrounded by empty and derelict buildings, a result of conflict between local people and real estate developers. with new multi-rise buildings further back in the background, and Faisel Azim reminds us of the awful conditions in which many people still work across the world as gravel workmen peer through the glass window of a crushing yard in Chittagong, a unhealthy environment full of dust and sand.
There is optimism too: Stuart Gleave’s solar panels in Tenerife cover the landscape to provide sustainable energy while Joseph Sim Ming Kwang catches the reflections of modern architecture and, in Mill Sink Florida, the natural beauty of the sinkholes creates connections to the aquifer that supplies drinking water to the residents of Florida.
Lastly, Brecht De Vleeschauwer reminds us of the negative legacy of the Olympics in many countries with his illustration of the Olympic ruins in Athens illustrating the economic and environmental cost which the dream of the Olympics has caused in Greece.
The photographers in this competition have captured a few of the many complex environmental issues of the 21st century, to which innovative and sustainable solutions are required.