SHARJAH, 12th February, 2023 (WAM) — H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, (SMC), witnessed the opening of the second edition of the Conservation Summit today at the 7th edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival in Expo Centre Sharjah.
Themed Climate Change, the one-day summit convenes a host of the world’s leading photographers, renowned for their work and exhibitions addressing environmental issues and for dedicating their photography journeys to documenting the effects of ecological imbalances that pose a threat to the planet’s future.
Their expertise as environmental activists and professionals, combined with their skills as photographers, will be on full display in the summit’s array of panels and sessions.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Alya Al Suwaidi, Director of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), said: “We are reaffirming our belief in the capability of photographers to bring about real change in the quest to protect the environment. Images not only depict reality but highlight the magnitude of the disaster that faces our oceans, forests, and living creatures.
“When we speak about the environment and its impact on our present and future, we are discussing economic, social, health, and even humanitarian implications. It is known that protecting the environment and combating pollution costs the global economy billions of dollars every year. At the same time, numerous societies are facing demographic changes caused by river pollution, desertification, and implications of climate change, along with the severe impact of pollution on the health of millions of people globally,” she added.
“This summit is an expression of our collective responsibility, as individuals and institutions, and a call to do our best to put an end to the harmful practices against nature, and safeguard the essential place that we inhabit for future generations. We are grateful for the efforts of the photographers who have dedicated their lives to amplifying the calls and pleas for the environment,” Al Suwaidi stressed.
UAE’s Year of Sustainability
Khaled Al Huraimel, CEO of Bee’ah Group, said: “We are pleased to see the impact that the Conservation Summit has had on the MENA region and beyond. Based on this year’s theme ‘Climate Change’, the powerful photography presented here will inspire thought and action, as this event provides a new and insightful perspective on urgent global issues. Earlier this year, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan declared 2023 as the Year of Sustainability. Sustainability will be in the spotlight as the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year.”
Al Huraimel emphasised that Bee’ah Group is dedicated to building a sustainable future through sustainability and digitalisation, and that the work showcased at the Conservation Summit closely aligns the values and vision of Bee’ah which believes that art and culture will be crucial pillars for the smart cities of the future, working together to enable community development and quality of life.
He thanked all photographers and event organisers for their insightful and important contributions.
Experts address climate change impact on polar regions
Taking part in the opening panel session of the second Conservation Summit, focusing on the effects of climate change on polar regions, Kathy Moran, former Deputy Director of Photography at the National Geographic magazine, said: “Nearly half of the world’s population resides in areas that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the reality is that we have already altered the earth’s ecosystem. It is imperative that we educate ourselves on climate issues and hold ourselves accountable to bring about positive change.”
Renowned American photographer James Balog, whose work focuses on the impact of climate change on glaciers, added: “The climate change crisis is unfolding before our very eyes, affecting the earth’s natural rhythms in a profound manner. Utilising visual imagery that resonates with a wider audience is crucial, and that’s where the power of photography lies. By capturing time-lapses or still images, photographers can bring the issue to the forefront and make it ‘seen’ by the masses.”
Arctic biologist, award-winning photographer, and visual communicator Carsten Egevang emphasised that the message about climate change has been over-discussed to the point of becoming numbing to the public.
He warned: “Sea ice and glaciers are melting, and the consequences are already being felt in places like Greenland. Effective communication is key, and it is vital that we engage with various communities to help them understand that both humans and animals must take active steps to preserve the earth’s natural systems.”
Documentary photographer Esther Horvath, who specialises in capturing scientific stories of the polar regions through photography, noted that travellers to these areas are witnessing changes that shouldn’t be happening.
He said: “Sea ice thickness, which is crucial to the survival of flora and fauna in the polar regions, is decreasing at an alarming rate. We’ve already lost 25 percent of the Arctic sea ice, affecting the seals that give birth on sea ice and polar bear populations. Thinner ice sheets have become the new normal in the polar regions, leading to faster sea currents and the appearance of species that were previously not seen in these areas.”
Accomplished cave explorer and visual storyteller Robbie Shone pointed out that geological systems are reflecting the changes in the earth’s atmosphere.
He said: “Scientists are doing an outstanding job of collecting data and providing real-time reports, but it is photography that captures the public’s attention and hooks them to the issue. On my travels, I often meet mountain guides, tour operators, and others who reside in areas already affected by climate change. The emotional toll of losing the landscapes they have known and loved is devastating.”
The opening ceremony of the much anticipated Conservation Summit saw a host of the world’s leading photographers taking part in the prestigious International Photography Festival Xposure 2023.
During the summit’s panels and discussions, they will share their inspiring and thought-provoking ideas and insights about the impact of climate change on a range of ecosystems, including the Arctic, Antarctic, caves and European Alps’ glaciers. They will also raise community awareness and present practical solutions to tackle the growing threats of climate change.
The second edition of Xposure’s Conservation Summit was attended by several high-ranking officials, including Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Head of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah, Mohammed Hassan Khalaf, Director-General of Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, Tariq Saeed Allay, Director General of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau and Hassan Yacoub Al Mansouri, Secretary General of the Sharjah Media Council.