Lauren McClanahan, an associate professor of secondary education in Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education, is showing a series of photos she took this past summer in Bellingham’s sister city of Tsetserleg, Mongolia, in the Wilson Library Skybridge on campus through Nov. 27.
The photos are part of a project McClanahan has been working on that asks youth from throughout the world to document the pace of climate change in their own photos and words. So far, McClanahan has traveled to remote Alaska, Sri Lanka and Mongolia for the project.
She began the research project three years ago by giving a trio of high schoolers in the tiny fishing village of Kwigillingok, Alaska, a voice to share their concerns about the future of their village. Growing up on the coast of the Bering Sea, the kids have been staring into the warm, frightening face of climate change for years. The permafrost is melting and an uneven mist is present much of the year. Invasive species have begun to appear, and once-migratory birds have refused to leave.
McClanahan, a strong believer in the power of the first-person narrative, asked the kids to take photos of their surroundings and then to speak in a video about the importance of the images they produced.
The result was astounding, McClanahan says.
“They really got into this, and they thought we should be showing it to anyone who would listen,” she says. “They have so much to say, but they really don’t have an outlet for their voices to be heard.”
The project got McClanahan, a former middle-school teacher, excited.
“I began to think, where can I go next?”
All proceeds from the current exhibit of Mongolia photos will go to the Blue Sky Education Project, which provides scholarships to nomadic Mongolian children so they may attend public school.
(*Info from WWU’s newsletter.)