UN photo contest zooms in on drylands

6 May 2009

As part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness about the urgent need for action against desertification and land degradation, the UN is calling on all aspiring photographers to participate in its second international photo contest.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is looking for images that artistically highlight either the efforts of people trying to conserve soil, land or water in drylands or the relationship between people and dryland ecosystems.

Drylands cover more than a third of Earth’s land surface and are the habitat and source of livelihood for nearly two billion people. These areas are increasingly threatened by desertification, which puts the health and well-being of over 1 billion people in more than 100 countries at risk.

The good news is that dryland desertification can be remedied, or even reversed, provided information is available on what areas are most at risk. Satellite images can highlight land use change and reveal increased surface reflectivity, temperature, dryness and dustiness.

Desert dust seen from space
Desert dust seen from space

The view from space can also support authorities in getting an overall picture of key pressures on land, such as burned land due to forest fires and erosion processes and their trends over time. This information, together with climatic data and socio-economic information, provides an overview of the main causes and effects of land degradation.

ESA has worked closely with the UNCCD secretariat for more than six years to develop standardised information services based on satellite observations to assess and monitor desertification and its trends over time.

Photo contest winners will be selected by an international jury led by world-renowned photographer Michael Martin, National Geographic editor Jürgen Nakoff, Mali’s Minister for the Promotion of Women, Youth and Family, Maïga Sina Damba, and French environmentalist Nicolas Hulot, among others.

The first-prize winner will receive 1500 euros and be invited to participate in an award ceremony during the UNCCD’s Convention of the Parties in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The second- and third-prize winners will receive 1000 and 500 euros, respectively.

Photos should be submitted via email by 17 June, which is the UN’s celebration of World Environment Day. This year’s theme, ‘Conserving land and water - securing our common future’, was chosen to raise awareness of the global interdependence of worldwide natural resources like land, soil, water and the climate as a whole.

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