Sustainability Stories 2021

A joint initiative by UNU-FLORES and
Technische Sammlungen Dresden

Sustainability Stories 2021

The degradation of natural resources represents one of the most critical environmental megatrends worldwide and is of great concern to the United Nations and its Member States. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflects this concern in a wide range of indicators across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Dresden-based institute of the United Nations University, UNU-FLORES, studies the interconnections between different resources – such as water, soil, waste, energy, and other geo-resources – to promote their sustainable use. Through research, education, and capacity development activities, UNU-FLORES advances the Resource Nexus for sustainable development.

UNU-FLORES and Technische Sammlungen Dresden invited photographers and videographers worldwide to tell the Resource Nexus and/or Sustainability Stories in images. More than 150 artists, actors, and activists from 37 countries contributed their photos and videos on the waste problem, climate change, pollution, deforestation, and their visions for a sustainable future. The exhibition shows the shortlisted 22 out of over 400 submissions.

The Sustainability Stories initiative is supported by the Saxon State Ministry for Energy, Climate Protection, Environment and Agriculture (SMEKUL).

The Jury

Lucas Foglia

Lucas Foglia is a photographer, living in San Francisco. His third book and travelling exhibition, Human Nature, focuses on people who care for nature in the context of climate change. Foglia exhibits his work internationally in galleries, festivals, and museums. His prints are in public and private collections, including the International Center of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Victoria and Albert Museum. His photographs have been published and reviewed in National Geographic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and many others. Foglia also collaborates with non-profit organisations including Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy.

Atiqah Fairuz Salleh

As Advocacy & Political Affairs Officer at UNU-FLORES, Atiqah Fairuz Salleh seeks to bridge the gap between science and policy, particularly in advancing the Resource Nexus. She leads the communications and advocacy efforts at UNU-FLORES, working on the frontline of science communication and constantly exploring new ways of public engagement and empowerment. She is curious about the diffusion of norms and ideas and gets excited about innovation, particularly in promoting the Resource Nexus in organisational practice. Her team's flexible workspace concept that promotes a conducive and healthy work environment while ensuring efficient resource use has won the eku Future Prize for Energy, Climate, Environment in Saxony awarded by the Saxon State environment ministry.

Roland Schwarz

Roland Schwarz is a historian and the director of the science and technology museum Technische Sammlungen Dresden. His interests include: transdisciplinary formats of science communication including sciences, technology and society, artistic research, cognition and educational sciences; participative approaches, new strategies of collecting artefacts from science and technology of today and tomorrow, and sustainability in museum practice.

Alexej Sachov

1st Prize Photo Category

“True Maldives – Human Cares

Paradise hotels put sewage tubes in the oceans, so nice corals can grow there, and small fish can feed on human excrements. Sharks do not need to hunt anymore – humans provide the fish. We help the underwater species to navigate, as our plastic bags of different colours show the direction and strength of the currents for a long period of time.

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Ziaul Huque (Bangladesh)

2nd Prize Photo Category

Ziaul Huque (Bangladesh)

“Sins of Human”

Landfills are a very common final solid waste disposal and treatment option in developing countries. The Matuail landfill is the largest waste disposal site in Bangladesh. Located about eight kilometres away from Dhaka’s Gulistan, the Matuail landfill is a 100-acre area that serves as the disposal site for solid waste from areas under Dhaka South City Corporation, where 1,500 tons of garbage are dumped by the city corporation everyday.

This landfill site is a controlled dumping site grade 1 as per a JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) study, meaning the place for daily dumping is controlled without soil cover. So, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) that are emitted from the landfill site due to decomposition of solid wastes contribute to local environmental pollution as well as to global warming. The condition in which the workers work here is horrible. Most of their family members also tend to work on the landfill.

Iqro Rinaldi (Indonesia)

3rd Prize Photo Category

Iqro Rinaldi (Indonesia)

Impact of Climate Change”

Flooding is seen at a cemetery after heavy showers happened in Jakarta, Indonesia, 7 February 2021.

Iqro Rinaldi (Indonesia)

After the Heavy Rain”

View of the situation when floods happen, indirectly caused by climate change in Jakarta, Indonesia, 19 February 2021.

Iqro Rinaldi (Indonesia)

The Rising of Climate Change”

A man is seen walking in front of an abandoned mosque, sinking due to rising sea levels as impact of climate change in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 August 2020.

Angie (Germany)

1st Prize Video Category

Resistance by Means of Documentation”

While working on a dissertation on the political struggle near Europe's largest open lignite pit in the Rhineland area, heaps of imagery was produced, in particular during the forest eviction of Hambach forest in autumn 2018 - which was one of Germany’s largest police mass actions to date. This led to the production of a photo exhibition and the short movie "untitled" [„Widerstand durch Dokument­ation“].

Destruction may be considered a predominant theme here: destruction of ancient natural habitats and groundwater reserves, destruction and devastation of whole landscapes, destruction of nearby villages and communities, destruction of the world's climate and our common future.

The work initially evolved around a central question: does the artistic act interfere with activism (and vice versa)? During the process, this potential conflict of interests became clearer. It's a thin line between art impacting activism and activism influencing art, with each bearing possible adverse but also positive effects on the other. One may think that producing imagery is a photographer's priority. But artistic ideals and integrity cannot be seen in total isolation of their surrounding circumstances. Hence, a more accurate description of the artist's work would be "Resistance by means of documentation".

Shriya Shruti Misra (India)

2nd Prize Video Category

Healing Earth”

The air was impure, we were running out of air filters. Smoke would be seen in the air as though it were flies. My mum called me as I was thinking about all this. The fire on my table hadn’t been put off. I was shocked on how I had gotten used to all this. I was recollecting how there were animals when I was younger. Now, everywhere I would see fire and I had gotten used to it! I saw someone who was constantly wasting resources. That person should not have been forgiven. I was so angry that the next time I broke the mirror when I saw her in it.

Human population has increased tremendously. All are dependent on these resources. No one can live without them. As the population increased, so did the demand for resources. No one took it seriously. Trees were cut to use them for industrial land. Water won't be retained. When it would rain, neither did the water get collected nor did it percolate beneath the soil. Instead, it caused erosion due to a lack of trees. Then there was no stopping. Excess use of fuels was causing pollution. There was no rainfall. Matters only got worse since.

I don't have the option to change the past, but you have the option to change your present. You are not alone. People who are in sync with nature have been doing so since thousands of years. Tribes from all over the world live a green lifestyle. I had no one to learn from, but you do. I wasn’t aware about anything, but you are now. I speak from your future – do not break Earth's promise.

Jean-Michel Rolland (France)

3rd Prize Video Category


“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” Francis Bacon

Around a low tree with twisted branches, a man seeks to rest. He doubles up. One lifts his paw, clings to a branch, the other sits on an uncomfortable curve, like a monkey trying to make its nest. There are three now, then four to explore the possibilities for action offered by the plant. This tree was waiting for him. The character stretches, hangs, lengthens. He becomes one with the tree and settles there, promising to visit it without hurting it.

Of course, the tree is instrumentalised by becoming a chair or a bed, but no one cuts off its branches or assembles them to make them useful. The tree remains a tree, it becomes a temporary shelter, the act is reversible and, once the visitor has left, it will resume the course of its peaceful life, a living being among the living.

Uttam Kamati (India)

3rd Prize Video Category


This is a short film about what we can teach our next generation, because this is the only way Earth can be saved.

Leyla Emektar (Turkey)

“Working Women - Olive Oil Soap - Strawberry Greenhousees

Women showcase what they can do for their family and the world they live in. They were born in the village; they cannot read, but they make a great contribution to production. In all of their production work, they pay attention to environmental factors with zero waste. Both the mother and the work on the fields complete their cycle. The women of this village are examples of women’s solidarity and power. The women are collecting the olives. First, they prepare edible olives, evaluate their quality; the rest produce soap.

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Soheila Esmaeili (Iran)


One of humankind’s ancient dreams is to become eternal, or to live long enough to come close to it. Creating a work of art may be a response to this defeat, an effort to heal its wound and fulfill an alternative wish: to create a thing that, unlike our mortal bodies, is eternal or contains a sense of eternity.

It is both ironic and grotesque that humans have succeeded to fulfill this wish as a garbage-producer instead of an artist and you are right if it looks like a nightmare to you. There are types of garbage, like some plastics, that remain in the natural environment a thousand years or more. You use it once and it is out there for a millennium; an unbalanced and horrifying form of production and use that not only seems unlikely to stop, but is actually expanding. This collection tries to present this dream/nightmare to its audience in a visual form.

Emran Hossain (Bangladesh)

Recycling of Plastic: A Potential Pathway to a Sustainable Bangladesh”

After a decade of progressive economic growth, Bangladesh is now moving towards developing country status by 2024. Daily life at Anandabazar dump yard, in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Hundreds of labourers and their families work here day and night. Used bottle/plastic materials are sorted by the workers and thousands of tons of plastic are recycled every day from that place to the nearest factory.

Emran Hossain (Bangladesh)

Survival with New Hope”

Every year in Bangladesh, thousands of hectares of land crumble into the rivers that wind through this South Asian nation due to climate change, swallowing homes and pushing families away from their rural villages. In spite of that, they fight for their survival with new hope.

Alkistis Voulgari

The Paradox”

A personal journal on sustainability while living in a totally unsustainable society, addressing the hypocrisy of famous institutions that create and use such “fashions” while their actions focus on the opposite direction.

The medium that I use is video podcast with photography graphics and the speech is inspired by “Le Théâtre de l'Absurde” ( The Theatre of the Absurd ).

Anthony Into (Philippines)

Hydroponics: The Future of Farming”

The photos show a woman checking on her rows of lettuce planted in styrofoam cups. She practises hydroponic systems in her mini lettuce farm. It involves growing plants not in soil but in water that is enriched with nutrients.

The process is water-efficient and can be done easily in narrow spaces. It often uses controlled environment agriculture (CEA) in which temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and light are controlled, so plants can be grown year-round. Continued propagation of farm crops means nonstop food supply.

Kazi Md. Jahirul Islam (Bangladesh)

Water-logging Cripples Port City Dwellers’ Lives”

Incessant heavy showers throughout every year coupled with high tides flooded most parts of Chittagong city in Bangladesh and caused havoc in the city dwellers' life. Life became paralysed in the port city; the roads and lanes were submerged deep in water. The office-going people and the students faced untold sufferings to get to their destinations, as there were few vehicles in the inundated streets.

In that time, people used local boats in the waist-deep water on the city roads to reach offices, while many were forced to stay indoors. During the monsoon in Bangladesh, water levels rise in rivers and cause floods. Bangladesh faces this problem almost every year. There are various causes of floods. Heavy rainfall and melting of snow in the mountains mainly cause floods; another important cause is the silting of rivers.

Michele Lapini (Italy)

A Blanket for the Presena Glacier”

Since 2008, a part of the snowpack on the top of the mountain is covered at the beginning of summer with geotextile sheets to prevent ice melting. At the beginning of autumn, the geotextile sheets are removed while waiting for the first snowfall.

The project has a dual function: on the one hand, it provides a barrier to sunlight in order to keep the glacier alive thus reducing ice melting; on the other hand, it ensures the economic continuity of the ski station during the winter season.

It is estimated that since 1990 the glacier has been retreating at a rate of about 10 metres per year. From 1993 to 2003, the Province of Trento has estimated that the surface area of Presena has reduced by about 40%, from 68 hectares to 41. The covering operation is estimated to reduce the melting of the ice by about two-thirds, thus saving a total of 400,000 cubic metres of snow. Nevertheless, the glacier is slowly losing ground and the change is extremely visible by looking at the photographs of a few years ago.

This initiative was launched thanks to the collaboration between the University of Milan and Trento on the one side and the company holding the sky station named Carosello. The cost of the operation is around 500,000 euros per year.