|Current location: PHASE 3: SARGASSO SEA, ATLANTIC OCEAN|
A human designed line seen mostly on maps and globes, 70º west longitude represents a single slice of our vast and colorful world. Spanning from pole to pole, 70 Degrees West is a photo-documentary project that will follow this line to illustrate the impact our modern world has on eight unique regions and the people who depend upon the stability of these fragile environments. Photographer Justin Lewis and writer Michelle Stauffer intend to expand global awareness of cultures and environments at risk by capturing the extreme landscape while also giving a voice to the battles each region faces both environmentally and socially. Realizing the vulnerability of habitats and cultures along a line of longitude demonstrates a fraction of a larger truth: the natural world and cultural ways of life are endangered on a global level.
PHASE 1: QAANAAQ, GREENLAND
Containing some of the last intact Inuit hunting cultures still in existence, the Inuit, who rely on hunting and fishing as their primary source of food, risk losing not only their traditional ways of life, but also their health.
PHASE 2: PENOBSCOT WATERSHED, MAINE
With decades of damming, toxic dumping into the rivers and a strain on the freshwater environments, populations of anadromous fish are on the decline as they haven’t been able to make the journey back to freshwater spawning grounds.
PHASE 3: SARGASSO SEA, ATLANTIC OCEAN
Billions of plastic bags and bottles are consumed and discarded per year in the U.S. alone. As trash moves from our watersheds to the sea, it begins to break down into plastic particles that seabird species, turtles and fish species ultimately digest. Scientists are finding a drastic increase in toxic chemical levels in marine life which becomes more concentrated as it’s carried up the food chain.
PHASE 4: BONAIRE, SOUTH CARIBBEAN
Stinapa, Bonaire’s National Marine Park, is the first marine sanctuary established in the Caribbean. With a mission to protect and restore the ecosystems, biological and ecological diversity, it begins with education and instilling a passion for life in the blue oceans and seas. Comparing the health of the marine life inside and outside the sanctuary sheds light onto the importance of conservation efforts.
PHASE 5: MADRE DE DIOS - AMAZON, PERU
Illegal exporting of gold from Peru brings in over $1.8 billion per year, totaling more than the country’s drug trade. The effects are disastrous to both the environment and the health of the workers, and yet it employs ten of thousands of people. The pay is large compared to other options, although they risk their life everyday.
PHASE 6: LAKE TITICACA, PERU
Lake Titicaca is the largest freshwater lake in South America, one of the highest in the world, and is thought to be three million years old. El Alto, the countries second largest city, is having devastating effects on Lake Titicaca and the communities downstream. The city lacks any sort of structured wastewater treatment plan. The absence of environmental laws and an inadequate infrastructure are causing the river, lake, and it’s inhabitants to face a major pollution problem.
PHASE 7: PATAGONIA, CHILE
With much of its wilderness in pristine condition, the Chilean population and international environmental groups have been fighting against the hydroelectric project that would construct five dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers, leaving irreversible impacts on a landscape largely untouched. The dams will flood at least 5,600 hectares of rare forest ecosystems, river valleys and farmland. Moreover, most of Patagonia’s water rights have been privatized and access is controlled by foreign corporations, who support damming the rivers.
PHASE 8: ANTARCTICA
The Antarctic is a crucial part of the Earth’s climate systems. As the Antarctic ice sheet covers 98% of the continent, ice cores revealed the link between levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the Earth’s temperature. Antarctica holds the potential to help us understand climate change and how we can help combat the environmental dangers.
Journeying into the heart of a community will allow us to illustrate intimate stories of struggle, adaptation and survival that the wider world needs to see. In order to invoke change we need to understand, to understand we need to seek, listen and learn from the places that are most impacted by changing climates and forces of global economy. From the subsistence seal hunting of Greenland’s Inuit people to the floating reed islands atop Lake Titicaca of the Uros, traditional ways of life are at risk as our natural world continues to shift and humanity’s demand on natural resources increases. We will conduct photo-excursions to create a visual assessment of current threats and to explore the varieties of beauty that exist in each region.
The terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ are commonly used throughout the developed world. However the truth about climate change - whether it be the natural cyclic progression of our planet or caused by human’s role in greenhouse gas emission - is that climate change exists and is rapidly gaining momentum. Conducted in multiple phases, the project will begin in Qaanaaq in Northern Greenland and head south following the 70º west line into Northern Maine, the Southern Caribbean, the Brazilian Amazon, Lake Titicaca, the Chilean Patagonia and into Antarctica. Each location chosen exemplifies drastically different topography with a history of human culture native to the region. Through photography and written narratives, this project will broadcast essential information in order to preserve the habitats, cultures, diversity and richness of life on Earth.
Project launched: April 3rd 2012