“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

I’ve been thinking more about the point of my work. What am I really trying to do with Harena Now? From the outset it has been to raise awareness of a lesser known environmental issue, the global sand crisis. But is that enough?

I have been ruminating more and more on what actually makes someone act on an environmental issue. What prompts someone to make a change or spread the word.

Living in St Agnes, Cornwall, there are a number of beach cleans here and across the county, and more and more locations have gone or are going ‘plastic free’. It’s not just here, of course. I often see people sharing posts on their social media about how good they feel if they take part in a clean-up, or simply pick up someone else’s discarded goods to dispose of them considerately. And that’s fabulous. But is that all?

I have many good intentions about how I can live a more sustainable life but sometimes, with the burden of bills to pay to simply keep a roof over our heads, the demands of daily life push back those good intentiions and they become, “I’ll start that tomorrow”.

A year ago Angelo Eliades wrote an article for Permaculture News about whether people even care about their environment and the natural world. It’s an overarching summary of a topic that would require more in-depth research, but it includes some startling facts from the National Geographic’s 2014 Greendex Sustainable Consumption Ranking Index.

What is does point to is that facts and figures indicate that depending on where you live, and how you are influenced by consumerism, relate to how you feel about protecting the earth’s resources, and simply the earth itself.

I took the title of this post from the article – Einstein is right; we need to evolve our thinking and ways of life to make positive change happen. But how do you do that across whole swathes of cultures, countries and continents.

And how will my Harena Now images have any impact?

In my current day job, one of my colleagues mentioned an upsetting news story she had been watching relating to Syria. She explained how awful it was but then said: “I told my husband to turn it off; the images were too sad to look at.”

That is why I have decided with Harena Now not to show work that is documentary in style about the sand crisis.

Sim Chi Yin, in her National Geographic work with journalist Vince Beiser about the effects of sand mining/dredging in Vietnam, shared a number of images that do show the devastation wrought by this issue on people and place.

The caption for the image below reads: In July 2017, Ba Tu, 72, returned to what’s left of her house in Nha Be, a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City. Four days earlier, part of the house had fallen into the river. Ba Tu was home with her daughter-in-law when it happened, but both women escaped injury.

© Sim Chi Yin. 2017.

I want to consider how people react to what they see in more detail, with particular reference to environmental concerns. But I’m hopeful that by using images that require contemplation and consideration, that do not lay the topic bear, they will still make a ripple in the consciousness of those seeing them. And perhaps it will make sand seem that little bit more precious.


BEISER, Vince. 2017. ‘Dramatic Photos Show How Sand Mining Threatens a Way of Life in Southeast Asia’. National Geographic. Available at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/vietnam-mekong-illegal-sand-mining/ [accessed April 12, 2018]

ELIADES, Angelo. 2017. ‘Do people really care about the environment?’ Permaculture News. Available at: https://permaculturenews.org/2017/04/12/people-really-care-environment/ [accessed April 12, 2018]