Helena Christensen’s ‘Meltdown’

Food & climate change article written on the 20 Jun 2012

Photo: Drew Doggett/Oxfam

‘Meltdown’ is a booklet published by Oxfam Ambassador Helena Christensen, featuring photos she took to illustrate the impacts of climate change around the world. It was released to coincide with the Rio+20 conference, starting in Rio today — and you can download it here.

This is Helena’s message to the world leaders taking part.

I would to share with you a project which I am passionate about: ‘Meltdown’.

Over the last three years I have travelled to three continents with Oxfam to witness and photograph the devastating human cost of climate change and its impact on food security. My experience has left me in no doubt that we are facing a global meltdown. As Rio+20 approaches, we have a chance to change the future. I’m sending you my photographs because I believe that you can make a difference, and that the time to make that difference is now.

In my mother’s native Peru, I climbed 15,000 feet into the Andes to see the Ausangate glacier. For thousands of years, it has helped sustain the livelihoods of those living at the foot of the mountain. Today, the glacier is melting at an alarming rate.

In Nepal, I saw how extreme and unpredictable weather patterns – from searing droughts to intense cold waves – are destroying crops and livelihoods.

And in Kenya, I met families struggling to cope with the severe drought which has put over 13 million people at risk across East Africa. People like Elisabeth – a nomadic farmer who depended on her camels and goats to feed her eleven children and grandchildren. When I met Elisabeth, all of her animals had died in the drought. Now, her family survive on what she makes from selling charcoal, and emergency aid.

Pastoralist woman in Lokore, drought-hit Turkana, Kenya. Photo: Helena Christensen/OxfamAUS

Pastoralist woman in Lokore, drought-hit Turkana, Kenya. Photo: Helena Christensen/OxfamAUS

Climate change is already a factor in causing people to go hungry; it threatens the agriculture that millions depend on. Rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall are affecting yields and sowing seasons, and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are set to increase. From Mexico to the Maldives, poor people are living on the front line of climate change. While they have contributed least to the global climate crisis, they are suffering the most from its impacts.

So far, world leaders have failed to make the big decisions needed to create a future safe from the risks of a changing climate and water, land and food shortages.  Rio+20 is a critical moment. It’s an opportunity to make real progress towards poverty eradication and sustainable development while living within the earth’s limited resources. World leaders must deliver strong action. Commitments at Rio must be made for more support for small-scale farmers and producers – particularly women. If we act now, we can increase productivity, improve food security, and help small scale farmers who millions rely on for food to cope with a changing climate.

The human race is living beyond its means, and the people in my photographs are bearing the brunt of the impact. Rio+20 has to deliver real results – please help to make sure it does.

Yours sincerely,

Helena Christensen
Oxfam Global Ambassador

Download Helena’s photo-booklet ‘Meltdown’ (2.57MB)

Find out more

The Rio+20 sustainable development conference runs from the 20-22 June. For more details please go to the United Nations website

Oxfam’s GROW campaign is committed to creating a better future, ensuring food security and prosperity for all in a resource-constrained world. Read more about it here