The relationship we hold as human beings with the earth and the issues that are raised with regard to how we go about conducting this vital relationship are core environmental themes.
With a growing inequality in living standards that sees the wealthy unconscious in their excess, the voices of those without are growing in number. They are clamoring to be heard as the precious resources upon which their existence depends are depleted beyond repair at an alarming rate that cannot, and will not, be sustained. Nowhere are the effects of this dysfunctional relationship more evident than in Madagascar. A quiet struggle for survival – a lack of noise – has allowed the world to forget this beautiful and incredibly fragile island.
For the Malagasy, their isolated piece of earth provides food, shelter, and more often than not, their only source of income.
These essential elements needed to sustain human life are held in precarious balance by an astoundingly depleted forest system. Systematically plundered over the years by both external forces and the attempts of the island’s inhabitants to preserve their way of life, Madagascar’s forests now total less than 10% of their original status.
The situation becomes even more critical in years when insufficient rain means Malagasy farmers engage in the illegal practice of tavy (slash and burn agriculture), in which entire forest sections are razed in return for one year’s good soil fertility. When these same farmers no longer have any farmable land, they are compelled to seek alternatives. Farmers-turned-fishermen are growing in numbers too great to operate in balance with the ocean’s limited supply. First the earth and then the sea – the people of Madagascar are running out of options.
Images of the dignified and vibrant people of Southeast Madagascar offer a cross-examination of the intricate ties that bind all humans to the earth and raise questions about our planet’s ability to sustain itself.