Writing this on a ridiculously wet Monday morning in June, I can think of nothing more uplifting than to wander through the newly-opened online gallery of Carbon Copy’s Picture This: photographic exhibition. The scale and variety of actions which communities the length and breadth of the UK are taking together to bring down local carbon emissions, protect biodiversity and support each other is immensely cheering. 

The exhibition is the brainchild of Isabelle Sparrow, who runs Carbon Copy’s communication programme. “Carbon Copy is all about sharing stories of local collective climate action for others to copy and adapt to their own communities,” explains Izzy. “We’ve published over 100 initiatives in the last year, based around written descriptions.  We were looking for a way to encourage even more people to share their stories, who maybe don’t have the time to write them down.  A photo exhibition seemed the perfect answer – and it worked!”

First step was to get the word out on social media to anyone with a project to talk about and a photographer’s eye.  Each entrant was invited to submit up to three pictures under the headings of 

  1. Snapshot of Now
  2. Connection on Camera
  3. Focus on the Future

Once all the entries were in, Carbon Copy invited popular environment broadcaster and author Atul Kumar to curate the exhibition, choosing one favourite from each of five sustainability categories: Renewable Energy, Circular Economy, Carbon Zero Transport, Biodiversity & Nature, and Land Use, Food & Agriculture.

At the private viewing to launch the Picture This: exhibition, which you can watch on YouTube here, Carbon Copy’s Ric Casale asks Atul what has guided the choice of his favourite photos.  Atul stresses the power of communities working together: “Although there are great individual commitments going on all over the country, Picture This: is all about collective action. So the photos that I’ve selected are not necessarily about the best or most important projects, but the ones I found powerfully communicate a clear story of the people working together to make change happen. And I was looking for projects that I thought could be easily copied and scaled up across our four nations to bring carbon emissions down.”

Atul’s choices in each of the five photo themes are:

Ric points to the different reasons why people have got involved in the activity they have pictured: “You realise that for some it’s all about addressing the environment and climate crises directly but for others it’s about doing so indirectly, by tackling other issues such as reducing food poverty or improving community health – and addressing the climate crisis as a consequence.”

Atul agrees, describing it as the three overlapping circles of sustainability: environmental benefits, social benefits and economic benefits, with true sustainability sitting at the centre where they overlap. “A project might be initially motivated by a social benefit, whilst also delivering an environmental benefit,” he observes. “Everything we do has an impact because we are part of the ecosystems around us.”

Click on Picture This: gallery to view the whole exhibition, which will remain open for four weeks from 18 June – 16 July.  When you’re in the gallery, look out for the stories that you think you could copy where you live.

Image: The top five photographs. Credit: BHESCo, East Belfast Mission, Car-Free Norwich, The Mersey Forest and Grow Batheaston.

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