Lonely Planet Writer

This photographer travels the world capturing the stories of people affected by climate change

With global warming at an all-time high and environmental challenges at the top of the news agenda, it can be all too easy to think of climate change as an abstract concept. But one photographer is looking to change that with a new project showcasing the people most affected by climate change and what they’re doing to stop it.

Children playing with fishing nets.
These children’s community have taken flood prevention into their own hands, constructing several kilometres of erosion barriers along the riverside of the Mekong Delta in Can Tho, Vietnam. Image by Lisa Murray

Lisa Murray has spent the last few years travelling across Africa and Asia working with NGOs and now her mission is to put a face on the effects of climate change, allowing people to understand its impact beyond figures and statistics. She has also documented many on the inventive ways locals are tackling the issue in their area.

She’s spoken to many people around the globe reporting a significant increase in drought and flash floods, each of them different symptoms of the earth’s rapid warming. While the majority of the world’s coral suffered from a global bleaching event last year, people in Western Kenya are struggling to grow food and farmland in Java is slowly going underwater.

Sugeng is a fish and crab farmer from Semarang, Indonesia who has faced hus financial loss due to erosion and flooding. Image by Lisa Murray
Sugeng is a fish and crab farmer from Semarang, Indonesia who has faced hus financial loss due to erosion and flooding. Image by Lisa Murray

South Sudan is one of the areas where Lisa has seen the biggest effects of global warming. “People here are bearing the brunt of both increased flooding and drought”, she told Lonely Planet. “Each year the rains are starting late, delaying the growth of farmer’s crops, then shortly after heavy rain often wash away their harvest. I met many people that were experiencing a prolonged hunger season after consecutive years of poor rainfall. People are really struggling to cope, it’s no surprise that parts of the country have been declared famine.”

Veronica prepares tea outside her home in Tonj South, South Sudan. Heavy flooding destroyed her home last year. Image by Lisa Murray
Veronica prepares tea outside her home in Tonj South, South Sudan. Heavy flooding destroyed her home last year. Image by Lisa Murray

Despite the severity of global climate change, Lisa is pleased with the number of local initiatives empowering communities and says the most impactful are often very simple. “I’ve been very impressed at times with how engaged and active local communities are in the fight against climate change” she said, recalling one project in Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu, India. With flash flooding and deforestation causing landslides, a local organisation decided to raise awareness about how to limit climate change. Now, she says “thousands of tree saplings across the region have been planted in an attempt to restore the local ecosystem.”

A woman at home in a tribal community in the Nilgiri Hills
The community in India’s Nilgiri Mountains have been affected by unpredictable weather caused by global warming. Image by Lisa Murray

Tips for eco-friendly travel

As someone who travels a lot, Lisa is particularly conscious of trying to lessen her carbon footprint while she travels around the world. She shared her top tips for sustainable, environmentally-friendly travel with Lonely Planet.

  • Avoid short haul flights if possible and be sure to offset your carbon emissions when you do fly! Cool Earth are a fantastic organisation to support if you want to do this.
  • Support local business wherever possible and buy local produce.
  • Take water purification tablets to avoid buying endless bottles of water.
  • Adopt a change in attitude in “doing” countries and focus more on the experience within those countries. Where’s the experience in hopping around by jet to several places and not stopping long enough to understand any place in depth? This is why I love cycling and hiking trips, it forces you to really slow down and understand the country and its people.
A woman spends the day watching over her crops, scaring birds away with a slingshot in Tigray, Ethiopia. Image by Lisa Murray
A woman spends the day watching over her crops, scaring birds away with a slingshot in Tigray, Ethiopia. Image by Lisa Murray

Lisa’s new website Faces of Change launches next week and you can follow her on Instagram here.