Ocean Rage

Matilde Gattoni

(Spain)


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Introduction

Since the start of my career in 2000, I’ve worked and travelled all over the world. In Europe, the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, I’ve covered important topics such as droughts, refugees emergencies, illegal mining, mass migrations, large scale land grabbing, and climate change. My photo essays have appeared in more than one hundred newspapers and magazines worldwide.

Two months ago, I was diagnosed with multiple cancers. My life plans have been put on hold indefinitely. No more stories to chase to the other side of the world, no more reportages to prepare. Just an endless procession of medical exams, blood tests, and a lot of uncertainty and emotional stress.

I have undergone two surgeries in a matter of a few weeks, and now getting ready to start chemo treatment, which will take around six months to complete. During this time, I won’t be able to travel and produce stories.

Meanwhile, I leave here a story that I shot along the coastline of Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Ocean Rage

“Ocean Rage” documents the devastating natural and social effects climate change is having on the coastal communities of West Africa.

As a direct consequence of global warming and sea level rise, more than 7,000 kms of coastline from Mauritania to Cameroon are eroding at a pace of up to 36 metres per year, disrupting the lives of tens of millions of people in thirteen countries. While local governments scramble to salvage big cities and industrial complexes, thousands of villages are being left out in the cold, pushing a thousands-year-old way of life on the brink of extinction.

Once home to thriving fishing settlements, the coastline of Ghana and Togo is now a sequence of crumbling buildings and ghost towns which have been swallowed by the ocean in little more than 20 years. As climate change wipes away houses, churches and plantations, it also destroys the livelihood, cultural heritage and social fabric of entire communities, with dangerous consequences for the future of the whole continent.

Rising temperatures have prompted fish stocks to move to cooler waters away from the coasts, starving the local fishing industry, while erosion and salinization have affected agriculture by reducing the quantity of arable land and contaminating freshwater reserves. Deprived of their means of survival and with no hope for the future, communities lose their most resourceful people to migration. As rampant unemployment drives drugs and alcohol consumption, the only profitable activities are offered by criminal syndicates involved in fuel smuggling and illegal sand mining.

Far from being an isolated issue, the problems haunting West Africa now are the harbinger of what mankind will experience if we won’t be able to find a viable balance between progress, social inequality and environmental conservation. In a world where progress is synonymous with urbanization and consumerism, the lives of traditional communities are constantly being sacrificed on the altar of modernity, even when the increasing pressure on natural resources should prompt an overhaul of our priorities. This conundrum is becoming the most pressing issue of our times.

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Matilde Gattoni

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Matilde Gattoni (b. 1974) is an award-winning French-Italian photographer specialising in social, environmental and human rights issues. To help Matilde sustain herself whilst she is not actively shooting new work, she has decided to offer 20x30cm prints of her images on her website https://matildegattoni.photoshelter.com/gallery-list for the one-off time-limited sum €100 plus shipping expenses. Prints will be made on Hahnemühle paper by Studio Fahrenheit Fine Art in Milan. You can email Matilde via her website or direct message her on Instagram @matildegattoni to place your order. You will find many extraordinary stories on her website and will be able to choose images from the above article or Matilde’s many other photo essays. Thank you in advance for taking the time to support her.

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