Inside China's Environment Crisis - Wall Street Journal Video - Sean Gallagher - Photographer & Filmmaker | Beijing, China

Inside China’s Environment Crisis – Wall Street Journal Video

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in News, published work | No Comments

My new eBook, Meltdown: China’s Environment Crisis, continues to spread through news outlets and was picked up by the Wall Street Journal last week.

I was excited to see this publication as the WSJ decided to cover the project with a slideshow and video interview which you can watch above.

Below is the introductory text on the WSJ about the project:

Summer snowstorms, foul air pollution, litter-choked waterways, grasslands turning to desert – these are just some of the challenges China faces as it continues its breakneck economic growth.

British photographer Sean Gallagher, who has shot video footage for a Wall Street Journal story on Bo Xilai, throws the spotlight on these issues in a new e-book, “Meltdown: China’s Environment Crisis,” published by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Mr. Gallagher’s photographs of China, which started with an overland trek across the country in 2006, focus on the places where environmental issues and human life intersect: a Tibetan nomad lies prostrate on the ground as a dusty earth-laden truck rumbles past; a child gazes out at a lake in Sichuan’s increasingly touristed Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve.

Trained as a zoologist, Mr. Gallagher, 34, landed a coveted internship in London with the international photography cooperative Magnum Photos in 2004. While there, he came across a copy of Elizabeth C. Economy’s “The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future,” a book that inspired him to venture to China.


His journey began with an overland trek in 2006 to explore the country’s shifting, ever-expanding sands of desertification. The trip took him from the streets of Beijing, where he has been based since 2006, to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang provinces.

So began a series of investigative trips searching for “the underreported stories” of China’s environmental woes. Each trip explored different themes, which now take the form of chapters in the e-book: Wetlands, Forests, Desertification and Tibetan Plateau.


Mr. Gallagher has earned numerous accolades for his work, including first prize at the U.K.’s Press Photographer’s Year 2011 for his multimedia piece “Dongting—A Lake in Flux,” in which he documents the shrinking of the country’s second largest freshwater lake in Hunan Province.

Of the topics he has explored, from desertification to the plight of the panda and the Yangtze River alligator, Mr. Gallagher said the effects of climate change on the Tibetan Plateau left the deepest impression on him, thanks to his encounters with the nomads who live there.

“Sitting in their tents in the middle of the grasslands and really hearing how some of these changes are really affecting their lives … really struck me,” he said.

Mr. Gallagher’s photographs are an illuminating complement to the body of research on China’s environment, which might otherwise be considered dry.

“A lot of the time we’re bombarded with graphs and tables and figures that don’t really mean much to the lay person,” Mr. Gallagher said. “I can take these pictures and show people how these changes are affecting real people in the real world.”

Though “Meltdown” presents some difficult truths—for example, half of China’s coastal wetlands have been destroyed since the 1950s—the first step towards change is awareness, according to Mr. Gallagher.

“I’m just one voice, but I try to make it as big as possible,” he said.

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