We asked our organizers in Salvador, Brazil, to tell us more about the story behind one of the most iconic images of Climate Impacts Day. Below you can read the whole story: 

The picture above is part of an action carried out by 350.org volunteers from the city of Salvador, Brazil, during Climate Impacts Day (5/5). It may even seem an exaggerated situation, but it highlights what is going to happen – in fact, already happening – in the lives of people living in coastal areas. It is estimated that over 600 million of people live in areas at risk with sea level rise.  Only in Brazil, they are 42 million – a quarter of the entire population!

During a 350.org workshop, the group came out with the idea of organizing an action that could draw people’s attention to the danger we are facing as extreme weather get more frequent and extreme. However, for one person in special, what happened in that scene was not something new. This person was Raphael Gomes, the volunteers’ coordinator of Salvador group.

Raphael and his family lived in a city in the countryside of Bahia where they struggled during the droughts season year after year. When he moved to the capital, Salvador, his family faced floods. Thus, when he stood there watching the little Naira Cerqueira, 7, in the scene in which the sea water floods her residence, Raphael was reliving his own childhood. “Those were tough times, because for a kid to wake up and witness all of his possessions being damaged by the rain is something that takes time to be overcome – although we never forget it.”, he says.

Fortunately, the life’s difficulties would not dishearten him. On the contrary, they served as an incentive for Raphael to move towards a path of solidarity and much engagement and commitment to causes related to environment protection. “I believe that everything that happened in my life brought me closer to environmental issues. Not in a passive way, but it has created in me a truly need to motivate and mobilize people to comprehend the causes and consequences of climate change. In fact, it is more than that: it is also about showing them what the solutions are and who are the responsible for making them true”, he says.

Today, it has been three years since Raphael is leading the group and, despite the young age, 21, he is sure about what he wants: “We want to build a movement in which people can be empowered to make a difference. The picture we took at the beach is a small sample of this – but we want and need to do much more. We are very pleased with the photo’s repercussion, and we want more and more to engage the media and the society”, he states.

Text and Featured Image: Diêgo Lôbo

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