First Day at the International Conference on Desertification Control

Posted by on Aug 13, 2009 in Events | 2 Comments

My 'Representative' pass for the 2nd International Conference on Science and Technology for Desertification Control (ICSTDC)

After a 19 hour train journey from Beijing, I have finally arrived in the north-eastern city of Wulanhaote in Inner Mongolia. I’m here for the next 4 days to attend the 2nd International Conference on Science & Technology for Desertification Control – a gathering of some 200 people all linked by one thing – their interest in the fight against desertification.

I have been invited here by Dr. Hu of Beijing’s Agricultural University. About two months ago, I was trawling the web looking for any Chinese academics to contribute quotes to my written articles which would accompany my photo-essay on desertification. I fired-off lots of emails, but only one academic actually got back to me, Dr.Hu. It turned out that Dr. Hu is/was one of China’s leading scientists on the subject of desertification and he kindly asked me to contribute an exhibition at his conference, which was in its second year.

So, I find myself on the fringes of the Inner Mongolian grasslands, with 50+ prints under my arm ready to tell some of China’s leading academics about my experiences photographing desertification over the past 2 years. It’s quite an exciting and daunting opportunity! I have already met some fascinating people. On my train journey alone, I shared by cabin with a Chinese scientist studying soil in Israel, A Canadian statistician who flew all the way from Canada to attend this conference and a Pakistani PhD student studying ways to water plants only using chemicals! There are some interesting people in this world!


I'm in designated seat No. 23 for the conference!

I'm in designated seat No. 23 for the conference!

So, the top picture is my pass to the conference which begins tomorrow morning with the opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. I have found my alloted seat (see second photo) and I have just hung my exhibition this afternoon (photos to some), so it seems I am all set.

I can already feel that it is great to be around so many people who have the common interest and goal in the fight against desertification. To be honest, most people seem to be surprised that I am here at all i.e. as a photographer amongst many academics. But as the founder of the conference, Dr.Hu, rightly promotes, it is only through bringing together all the people linked by desertification in its myriad of ways, can we begin to think about tackling it together. Not one group can tackle the issue alone.

Lets hope my images open up a new way of looking at this issue at this conference and show the attendees the importance and power of photography in conveying these issues.


  1. Jere
    August 14, 2009

    “most people seem to be surprised that I am here at all i.e. as a photographer amongst many academics”

    I think the inter-disciplinary approach is key to change. Who else is going to win the masses to affect change. Not the academics alone. It will take photo journalists and academics and a cast of yet unnamed disciplines to bring about the changes needed.

    I applaud those that invited you. And I applaud you for having done your due diligence so your art has a voice in this cnversation.

    • sgallagher
      August 16, 2009

      Hi Jere,

      Many thanks for your thoughts on this. Yes, it is to the organisers credit that they have not only invited me, but also a range of businessman, village heads and engineers to communicate together on this issue. I think people are realising that issues like this cannot be combated by scientists alone. Multi-disciplinary approaches are the only way in which this issue can be tackled. We each have our own role to play!