Our Dark Materials – Ashley Crowther

Thursday, 13 April 2023

As if global warming and climate change wasn’t a big enough problem for our fragile planet we’re compounding the problem with Our Dark Materials – Black Carbon & the Himalayas. Ashley Crowther follows the sad story from the creation of black carbon – soot – on the plains of India up to its final deposition on the once-snow-white-glaciers of the Himalaya.

In particular he follows the Zanksar River – on one occasion making the perilous trek in winter – to the remote Zanskar village of Kumik where soot coats the glaciers, the ice melts faster and the village is being inexorably strangled as its water supply disappears. Even before black carbon does its Himalayan damage 480,000 people a year die from air pollution in India.

Ashley’s dramatic photographs track the story – from the plains where the problem starts to the high mountains where the carbon deposits accumulate. It’s not all gloom and disaster, he recounts how the Himalayan Rocket Stove Foundation works to introduce more efficient cooking stoves which can dramatically reduce firewood consumption and carbon creation.

Ashley Crowther, whose father Geoff Crowther was one of the early leading lights of Lonely Planet guidebooks, is not the only person concerned about Himalayan destruction. The story is no better north of the Himalaya where indiscriminate dam building and mining is causing huge damage in Tibet. Michael Buckley, co-author of Lonely Planet’s first Tibet guide, tells the story with films from his Thunder Horse Media which recount the sorry saga of Meltdown in Tibet and Plundering Tibet where it’s clear the Tibetans pay the price and suffer the damage while Xi Jinping grabs the financial rewards. The damage caused by Chinese dam building is equally appalling in Indo-China where Mekong Apocalypse describes the terrible fate facing the Mekong River and the people dependent on its waters.