Carlos Cenepo Pizango

Environmental defenders Meet the people on the frontline

Cooling towers in action at a coal-fired power station

Fighting fossil fuels

All over the world, communities are fighting companies searching for natural resources on their lands. But the large-scale extraction of fossil fuels not only wreaks local environmental havoc – burning them is contributing to the global problem of climate change

Here are the stories of some of the people who are fighting back, documented by photographer Luka Tomac. 

Cooling towers in action at a coal-fired power station

Carlos Cenepo Pizango from Quechua San Martin, Peru

In 2014 the Peruvian government weakened the country's environmental protections. A new law made it easier for mining companies to enter the lands of indigenous people and rural farmers.

Carlos is a member of the Federacion de pueblo indigenas Quechua de San Martin which is fighting to defend the property rights of rural communities from new mining developments.

Peruvian campaigner Carlos Cenepo Pizango faces camera. Head and shoulders shot.

Pa Yusep, Gunung Karasik village, Indonesian Borneo

Despite intimidation from mining companies and the police, Pa Yusep and his community are standing up to coal mining in Indonesian Borneo.

Clearing of forest for the mines destroys sources of food and wood; drinking water is contaminated by mining waste; abandoned mines are left as wastelands. The government continues large-scale investments in coal, despite its pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Friends of the Earth Indonesia is campaigning to get mining permits revoked where companies break the law, pollute or avoid taxes.

Pa Yusep posing for the camera while holding a puppy
A flooded churchyard in Bosnia

The Balkans

When floods hit Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia in 2014 hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes – more, in fact, than during the whole Balkans war in the 1990s. Overall 1.5 million people were affected.

The floods demonstrated the region's vulnerability, and the fact that governments were not prepared. Some people waited 4 years for compensation and for their homes to be repaired.

A flooded churchyard in Bosnia

Jairo Fuentesepiayu from Colombia

Many people were moved from their lands to make way for the huge new El Cerrejon opencast coal mine in the Guajira region of north-east Colombia. Jairo and others from the Wayuu indigenous community of Tamaquito have spent many difficult years negotiating with the government and mining company over their resettlement. Although they achieved a huge success with the mining company agreeing to provide new houses, they still do not have constant running water. They worry that the mine – which uses 17 million litres of water every day from a local river – will deplete the arid region's water resources. 

Jairo Fuentesepiayu, a Tamaquito community representative, stands outside on arable land in Colombia
A contaminated creek in the Niger Delta

The Niger Delta

Oil production has devastated the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta since it began in the 1950s. Oil spills have wrecked the environment and the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen in the region. Water sources and land have become contaminated. The Ogoni people are urging the Nigerian government not to renew the oil company Shell's licence when it expires in 2019. 

A contaminated creek in the Niger Delta

Luka Tomac

Working for Friends of the Earth Croatia, Luka is a photographer and storyteller.

His book - 1°C Rising – Stories from the front lines of climate change – is a collection of images and text which aims to bring to a wider audience the voices of communities fighting the impact of climate change and environmentally-destructive industries.

"Climate change is such a complex and abstract topic for many people – telling the human stories behind it can help audiences relate to the issue on a more personal level," he says.

Luka Tomac