Alec Jacobson

Photographer, Writer
The Mountains Are Melting
Location: Vancouver
Nationality: American
Biography: Alec Jacobson is a photographer and writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, who likes to dive deep into slow-moving stories.  Drawing on his studies in Anthropology, French and Arabic at Amherst College, he prefers to be the only... read on
Public Story
The Mountains Are Melting
Credits: alec jacobson
Date of Work: 10/23/18 - 10/26/18
Updated: 10/31/19
Location: Kilembe, Uganda
Archived as:  , ,
“It used to be cold and it rained a little every day and the mosquitos could not sustain,” William Bahia, leader of Kilembe, Uganda’s Local Council, told me as we climbed an eroding track to survey his territory at the edge of Rwenzori Mountain National Park, “now it is hot and we have malaria and other diseases. And when it rains heavily, it destroys.” Clouds poured off the Rwenzoris’ high, glacial peaks and churned around us. “The government is telling us it is climate change,” Bahia said.

Uganda contributes less than .07% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and the people who live in the remote villages in the Rwenzori Mountains are a marginal fraction of that, and climate change has become an everyday fact of life. Data is thin in western Uganda, but studies suggest that temperatures are an average of .2 to .3 degrees Celsius warmer, that the Rwenzori glaciers have receded 90% since 1906, and that the rainy season is a couple weeks shorter as a whole but that most storms are more intense than ever. In Kilembe, this has led to frequent flooding that wash out houses and landslides that slough off crops and precious topsoil. When the storms clear, the new rainfall patterns mean that crops won’t grow and the pools of water that are left behind help mosquitos carry malaria to new heights. Additionally, the Bakonzo people, traditional residents of Kilembe and the mountains, have deep spiritual ties to the glaciers and so there are spiritual ramifications as they recede.

Others have trekked into the high mountains to photograph the glaciers. I traveled to the Rwenzoris to give the people a chance to share their stories.
When it poured over night and the Mubuku River washed away homes in the foothills, I followed chief tktkt on a tour of flooded fields and crops that would never be harvested. When I arrived in Kilembe, a group with dozens of survivors of a 2013 flood met me to tell the stories of their family members who had not escaped the torrent of rocks and mud that destroyed the town. And, high on a ridge, in a hut that William Bahia led me to, I met an elder, Mbusa Birina Wanzabalere, who told me how it used to snow in the jungle around his house and how he was worried for his grandchildren’s future.


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