Tsering Dolma is a grandmother, farmer, and eyewitness to climate change.
Records on glacial retreat in the Indian Himalayas are slim. But satellite data from The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) confirm that 75% of Himalayan glaciers receded by an average of 3.75 kilometers from 1989 to 2004. The memories of Himalayan elders like Tsering Dolma provide another dimension of the story.
Rishar | Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia
Fisherman in Sama Bahari Village, Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. In a fishing village like Rishar's, health and success are intimately intertwined with the state of the sea. Struggling with coral bleaching, fish population decline, and a contentious relationship with national park authorities, Rishar wonders if fishing will be a viable livelihood for his son. To learn more about Rishar's community, check out The Global Workshop's short documentary, Our Land is the Sea.
Francisca Arará | Acre, Brazil
Francisca Arará is the president of the Association of Indigenous Educators of Acre, Brazil. She and other indigenous environmental leaders and their allies in government have begun to work together like never before. My series of portraits and videos for Environmental Defense Fund and Earth Innovation Institute tells stories about people forging new kinds of partnerships in the face of climate change.
Sunil | Bihar, India
Sunil, community organizer and tourist guide. In India, city dwellers are always surprised when I tell them I've spent a few years of my life in rural #Bihar. "Why would you go to such a backwards area?" Sunil is one of my reasons. Over the past 8 years, I've watched Sunil pull his family out of abject poverty by teaching himself English and Japanese, learning to do business, and building bridges amongst rural Biharis, urbanites, and foreigners. Unlike many Biharis, who leave their state behind in search of economic opportunity in big cities, Sunil is committed to improving his lot in life by remaining in his homeland and improving it for all. From organizing youth for the environment to installing solar panels in Dalit communities that previously had no electricity, Sunil represents the new forward facing Bihar.
Asha | Michigan, USA
Asha is a community organizer in Detroit, Michigan, where she works for the Campaign to Take on Hate. Asha has been woke since middle school when, in the wake of 9/11, she saw everyday Muslim Americans blamed for atrocities they had nothing to do with. "I'm black and Muslim, and my parents are immigrants from Somalia, so I've always known that my identity is different from the status quo... I view it as a necessity to organize for disenfranchised communities."
Tashi Tsetan | Ladakh, India
Tashi Tsetan, 80, is one of the Ladakhi elders whose stories I feature in my multimedia exhibit about the impacts of climate change on the Himalayas and South Asia.
Swati | Ladakh, India
An architect and earth builder originally from Madhya Pradesh, India, Swati works with the Ice Stupa Project to engineer artificial glaciers that conserve glacial melt water to irrigate Ladakhi fields. In the summer, Swati and the crew at the SECMOL School build highly-insulating structures from rammed earth. It's a technique that saves energy by passively keeping buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Malti Devi | Bihar, India
In Malti Devi’s village, livestock and bright green fields of rice greet you at every turn. The agricultural economy of Khiri Village, as in villages across India’s Ganges River Plains, relies on monsoon rains to irrigate fields. In recent years, however, the yearly monsoon season has come later than usual and offers very unreliable precipitation. During some months, Malti Devi’s crops receive half the average level of rainfall. Then, it may suddenly rain so heavily that rivers spill over their banks and wash crops out completely. Experiencing constant uncertainty about their ability to grow food and raise livestock, Malti Devi and her family doubt whether their children have a future in their village.
Chotak | Ladakh, India
Chotak, 18, with the solar energy system that powers his school.
Perched on a cliff overlooking the Indus River, the solar panels behind Chotak produce enough energy to run the SECMOL school's entire residential campus. Chotak is the student in charge of tending to the system three times a day. He says it's his favorite job at a school where students are responsible for maintaining every aspect of the campus—from energy production, to growing and cooking food, to orienting visitors and volunteers. "Ladakh can make all of its energy from renewables. We have enough sun to power even other regions of the state. I hope Ladakhi people will see SECMOL and decide solar is the energy of our future."
Ahdan | Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia
Ahdan spends his nights at sea. Holding a flashlight between his teeth and a spring loaded spear in his hands, he dives into dark waters to catch fish, eels, and lobsters. A couple years ago when I last interviewed Ahdan, he said he wasn’t sure if fishing would remain a viable source of income for people in his village. Today, he says he’s sure it won’t. In our interview, he shares his perspective on change in the local marine environment and what it means for his community and Bajau culture.
Tsetan Angmo | Ladakh, India
College student and aspiring climate change activist in the Leh District of Ladakh, India. Here, Tsetan stands behind her family's home with the boulders carried down to their doorstep by the devastating 2010 cloud burst floods. The highly unusual weather phenomena that caused these floods were likely created by climate change.