Even with the frequently depressing and disturbing visual documentation of climate change's effects on our environment, it's often too easy to turn a blind eye to a crisis occurring when it doesn't affect you. Julia Cumes took some time between assignments in her former hometown of South Africa, and her striking images ring mental alarms. Perhaps we're safe up here in Portland, Maine, but this is a "prescient look at things to come for other urban areas as climate change and its effects take hold."
As someone who grew up in South Africa during a time when Cape Town was considered one of our wetter cities, it was painful to see the cracked, dry mud bed of Theewaterskloof dam, the lines of people waiting to fill up on drinking water at public springs, the dying vegetation and the strikingly empty public swimming pool in Mitchell's Plain where hundreds of local children usually cool off in the summer.
Last year, when Cape Town's water sources dropped to critically low levels, the city declared the possibility of a “Day Zero”, when the public water supply would largely be shut off. This would place Cape Town in the unusual position of being the first major city in the world to run out of water. While “Day Zero” has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it. Below are some of my images capturing life in Cape Town and its outskirts during this unprecedented time period.