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RIO+20 The Future We Want

RIO+20 the future we want

Yann Arthus-Bertrand: The Future We Want

The Photographer

Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Photo © Erwan Sourget

The planet Earth is far more beautiful than I had ever imagined. Since I started looking at it from above, its splendor has never ceased to amaze me. This beauty, discovered through years of taking photographs, has transformed me. It is what has driven me to become an environmental activist.

It was around the first Rio Summit on sustainable development, 20 years ago, that I started work on my photographic series Earth from Above. This second Rio Summit is an opportunity for me to assess 20 years of work, just as the experts will be assessing 20 years of sustainable development.

During the years that I have spent photographing the Earth, I have seen the Earth change. People’s impact can be seen from the sky. In the course of my travels and research, I have come to share the same conclusion as many experts and scientists, who are concerned about our common future. What my photos reflect, the experts and scientists show with their figures, and these figures are terrifying.

In order to move forward, one can draw illumination by examining the past two decades. 
Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased by 75 per cent, reaching USD 63,000 billion, but there are still one billion people living under the poverty threshold.

C02 emissions have risen by 36 per cent, amounting to 30 billion tons per year and the Arctic ice-bank has decreased by 35 per cent. However, renewable energy sector is growing at an astronomical rate: for example, solar ener gy sector is growing by 30,000 per cent.

The world's forests have been reduced by nearly 741 million acres, meaning that we have lost almost 32 million acres per year in the past two decades. But almost 6 per cent of forests are now certified as being sustainably managed, and 13 per cent of the world’s land surface is now protected.

The number of people who have access to clean sources of drinking water obtained from water pipes or protected wells has increased by more than two billion. However, 37 per cent of the world's population still do not have access to acceptable sanitation and waste water treatment.

One billion men and women have suffered from malnutrition, while about the same number of people have struggled with obesity.

In 20 years, the warning signals will have multiplied, even if the picture is not entirely negative. Every one of us must now act.

I take photographs and have created a foundation to raise awareness of sustainable development among young and old people alike. I hope that by looking at my photography you will be as moved as I have been by the beauty of our Earth, and that you will be inspired to make your own contribution to the preservation of our planet.

I don't want to tell you what to do. I won’t lecture you. Each and every one of you can do something – it’s up to you to discover what that is.

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Join the GoodPlanet Foundation mailing list to learn about Yann Arthus-Bertrand's film screenings, special events and the GoodPlanet Film Festival at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Send an email to rio20@goodplanet.org .

Earth from Above will be on display in Rio de Janeiro on the Place Cinelandia from April 27th to June 24th. The exhibit features 20 years of aerial portraits of our planet, taken between the ECO92 conference and the Rio+20 conference, as well as never before seen photographs of Rio de Janeiro, film screenings, guided visits, educational activities, round table discussions about the environment, and other activities open to the public.

Find out more about Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s new film "A Thirsty World"

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a renowned photographer and the Chairman of the GoodPlanet Foundation.