In 2021, we find ourselves on the brink of an unprecedented climate crisis. Global temperatures are estimated to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius, more than a million species are at risk of extinction, even as wildfires, floods and other catastrophic events continue to ravage countless communities around the world.
But while it’s important to include these statistics in your global warning, none of these numbers have an impact as effective as a powerful image that actually shows how fucked we are.
In keeping with this, the Environmental Photographer of the Year (EPOTY) Awards highlights the human impact of the climate crisis through its powerful platform: photos.
Now on its 14th edition, EPOTY is an initiative to showcase the most impactful environmental photography, using imagery to tell stories of how humans are fighting for survival amid a grave global crisis. The awards, which were organised this year by environmental and water management charity CIWEM and streaming platform WaterBear, include categories such as sustainability, climate action, water security, and the Resilient Award for those fighting to save the planet.
From more than 7,000 entries across 119 countries, a haunting image captured by Spanish photographer Antonio Aragón Renuncio came up tops as the winner. This heartbreaking photo titled “Rising Tides” shows a child sleeping inside a house about to collapse, destroyed by coastal erosion on Afidegnigba beach in western Ghana.
Indian photographer Amaan Ali’s explosive photo of a boy fighting forest fires on the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi won in the Young Photographer category.
Inferno: A boy fighting surface fires in a forest near his home in Yamuna Ghat, New Delhi, India. According to locals, forest fires caused by human activity in the area are a common occurrence due to adverse living conditions. Photo by Amaan Ali / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Bangladeshi photographer Ashraful Islam’s image showing sheep desperately looking for food and water to highlight the effects of extreme drought emerged as the winner of the Resilient Award.
Survive For Alive: Flocks of sheep search for grass amongst the cracked soil. Extreme droughts in Bangladesh have created hardships for all living beings. Photo by Ashraful Islam / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Other winning photos included Kenya-based Kevin Ochieng Onyango’s image of a child breathing through an oxygen mask as he stands amid a sandstorm, a chilling image by Italian photographer Michele Lapini of a house submerged in water in the Po Valley, and a mesmerising shot by Indian photographer Sandipani Chattopadhyay of algal blooms caused by irregular monsoons. The award-winning images are currently on display at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which runs until November 12.
The Last Breath: A boy takes in air from the plant, with a sand storm brewing in the background. This is an impression of the changes to come. Photo by Kevin Ochieng Onyango / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Flood: A house is submerged by the flooding of the River Panaro in the Po Valley due to heavy rainfall and melting snow. Photo by Michele Lapini / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Green Barrier: Irregular monsoon seasons and droughts cause algal bloom on the Damodar river. Algal blooms prevent light from penetrating the surface and prevent oxygen absorption by the organisms beneath, impacting human health and habitats in the area. Photo by Sandipani Chattopadhyay / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
A busy polluted waterway on Buriganga River is filled with boats and their passengers on the morning work commute to the densely populated city of Dhaka, home to an estimated 21 million people. Photo by Azim Khan Ronnie / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
A California sea lion pup with a hook embedded in his mouth follows the diver and seems to be asking for help. Photo by Celia Kujala / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Nemo’s Garden represents an alternative system of agriculture. This self-sustainable project aims at making underwater farming a viable eco-friendly solution to counteract the increasing climate change pressures. Photo by Giacomo d’Orlando / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Workers sit surrounded by bundles of incense sticks in Quang Phu Cau village in Hanoi, Vietnam. Incense has been made using traditional methods here for hundreds of years and plays an important role in the spiritual lives of Vietnamese people. Photo by Azim Khan Ronnie / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
The Valley of the Mud Volcanoes is at risk due to climate change and human activity. Photo by Elena Pakhalyuk,/ Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Researchers weigh an anaesthetised Polar bear on Franz Joseph Land in the Arctic Ocean. The expedition, organised by the Russian Geographical Society, aims to monitor the local polar bear population and assess the impact of climate change. Photo by Grigorov Gavriil / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Aquaculture from ponds near the beach discharge directly into the sea and cause pollution to the marine environment. Photo by Nguyen Duy Sinh / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards
Wind turbines on the mountaintops are captured moments before sunset on a cloudy day. Photo by Pedro de Oliveira Simões Esteves / Environmental Photographer of The Year Awards