Pic­tur­ing Ti­betan plateau’s lit­ter prob­lem

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By PALDEN NYIMA and DAQIONG in Lhasa

Un­like most pho­tog­ra­phers who visit the Qing­hai-Ti­bet Plateau to cap­ture the spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes, Xue Bin uses his cam­era to doc­u­ment the area’s prob­lem with waste.

In Oc­to­ber, Xue sub­mit­ted a photo es­say chron­i­cling his ex­pe­ri­ences to a com­pe­ti­tion or­ga­nized by Bon Cloud, an on­line mar­ket­place that aims to con­nect Chi­nese con­tent pro­duc­ers with an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

His sub­mis­sion, Mea­sur­ing Waste on the Sa­cred Snow Moun­tain, topped the ta­ble of more than 151 en­tries in the first round of vot­ing.

Born in China’s He­bei prov­ince, Xue be­came a back­packer in 2009 and fell in love with photography while trav­el­ing.

With prac­tice and per­sis­tence, he was able to make his hobby a ca­reer — be­com­ing a con­tract pho­tog­ra­pher for the Vis­ual China Group, a mem­ber of the China Folk­lore Pho­to­graphic As­so­ci­a­tion and a land­scape re­viewer for Chi­nese Na­tional Ge­og­ra­phy.

In Au­gust, he be­gan his lat­est project, trekking and hitch­hik­ing his way through more than 2,000 kilo­me­ters of the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion and eth­nic Ti­betan ar­eas in Sichuan prov­ince.

Each time he found a pile of waste by the high­way, Xue used a one-me­ter­long piece of string tied to a stick of wood to mea­sure out a cir­cle. He then cat­e­go­rized the garbage within that cir­cle by type be­fore pho­tograph­ing it.

The in­spi­ra­tion for this mea­sur­ing method came from his friend Xu Ru, a sea­farer and an­thro­pol­o­gist, who rec­om­mended it while the pair were vis­it­ing Mount Khawa Karpo in Yun­nan prov­ince.

By cat­e­go­riz­ing the waste, Xue said he is able to in­tu­itively rep­re­sent the scale of the prob­lem in his pic­tures.

“As a pho­tog­ra­pher, I am obliged to show beau­ti­ful scenes to peo­ple, but I have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of show­ing them the re­al­ity as well,” he said.

“I hope this mea­sur­ing method can pro­vide data for ecol­o­gists and en­ter­prises to bet­ter deal with en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.”

At one pass with an el­e­va­tion of 4,800 me­ters on Mount Yarla in Sichuan prov­ince, Xue found 86 pieces of garbage in just one of his two-me­ter-di­am­e­ter cir­cles. Among the refuse were 49 plas­tic bot­tles, 32 metal cans and five card­board boxes.

Dur­ing his jour­ney, he used his method of sur­vey at 40 sites. His pho­to­graphs show that it not just road sides, but also the re­gion’s vil­lages and tourism hotspots that are trou­bled most by the prob­lem of waste.

“I think waste not only harms the en­vi­ron­ment vis­ually, it also brings po­ten­tial harm to the health of peo­ple and an­i­mals, such as if cows die or be­come sick from eat­ing waste, or if peo­ple are af­fected by eat­ing their meat or drink­ing their milk,” he said.

“It is not just that I want to show the public that there is a waste prob­lem, I want to try to find so­lu­tions to deal with it, too.”

Con­tact the writ­ers at palden_ nyima@chi­nadaily.com.cn


Xue Bin mea­sures garbage near the Yardrok Yutso Lake in the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

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