Ahead of the opening of the Earth Photo exhibition to the public next week, we caught up with one of the shortlisted photographers, TJ Watt, whose images appear in the Changing Forests category.
Your photos were taken in British Columbia, would you like to share any thoughts regarding the current heatwave and fires there?
The current heatwave and fires in British Columbia (BC) are devastating examples of what runaway climate change looks like on our planet. Temperatures in one town hit 49C. It burned to the ground later that day. Despite this, our provincial government has its proverbial head in the sand, saying on one hand how they take climate change seriously, while at the same time approving clearcut logging in some of the best remaining stands of endangered old-growth forest. Old-growth temperate rainforests are the greatest carbon storehouses of any ecosystem on Earth and are BC's best natural defence against global warming. The answer then is simple: leave them standing.
Are you aware of the picture below, which is part of the Society’s Collections? Did you draw inspiration from it for your shortlisted photos? If not, any thoughts on this historic image?
Wow! What an amazing image and an incredible tree! No, I had not seen that photo before, though I am a big fan of another photographer from that era named Darius Kinsey who captured amazing large format images of big trees and old-growth logging in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s. If it wasn’t for those historical photos, we would have virtually no visual record of what were truly Earth’s grandest forests, now replaced with cities, farmland, or tiny tree plantations. If I had a time machine, I would certainly go back just to marvel at the magnificence of those towering trees.
How does it feel to be shortlisted?
I’m very grateful to have been shortlisted in the Earth Photo exhibition! The loss of old-growth forests in BC due to logging is an issue of global significance but since it takes place in such remote regions, it’s very hard for the public to see what’s going on. Shining an international spotlight on this issue will only help to add to the political pressure necessary to achieve science-based legislation that finally protects these endangered ecosystems.
Is there anything else you want us to know about your image and the story it tells?
BC's ancient forests are home to some of the largest living organisms on Earth. Trees here can grow to be over 300ft (90m) tall, reach more than 20ft (6m) in diameter, and live to be upwards of 2,000 years old. Despite this, they're still being cutdown at an alarming rate - roughly 10,000 football fields on Vancouver Island alone each year. Now, after 150 years of logging, more than 97% of BC's 'big tree' old-growth forests have been logged with companies still targeting the best of what little remains. Time is running out and we need everyone to speak up! You can Send-a-Message to the BC government using our take-action tool.
Book a curated tour to see the Earth Photo 2021 exhibition at the Society on 26 and 27 July. Further dates for tours throughout August will be announced soon.
See the Earth Photo 2021 exhibition online.
You can see more of TJ’s work on his website, Facebook, or Instagram.