Nichole Sobecki’s recent assignment for National Geographic takes a look at Dar es Salaam, the second-fastest growing city worldwide. A city of six million on the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam is expected to have 10 million within a decade and—according to one speculative scenario—could have more than 70 million by 2100. Its planners are struggling to keep up.
On assignment for the National Audubon Society, Nichole Sobecki’s latest work takes a look at the illegal owl egg trade in Kenya. The raptors are already some of most persecuted birds in Africa. Now their eggs are being stolen for witchcraft — but few seem to know or care. From ancient Greece’s Owl of Athena to Harry Potter’s devoted pet Hedwig, owls have long charmed, mystified, and intrigued humans. In the contemporary West, they are often seen as symbols of wisdom. But in Africa they’re generally viewed very differently, as harbingers of evil and misfortune, or as forms taken by nefarious sorcerers. These deeply held, widespread beliefs fuel an untold number of persecution killings. The birds are also highly sought after for use in witchcraft and traditional medicine, accounting for the deaths of possibly tens of thousands of owls annually.
“There’s a unique challenge, when it comes to documenting the environment and our climate. It’s such an overwhelming truth that it’s a very human reaction to want to turn away or disengage.” — Nichole Sobecki
The “Victims and Perpetrators” roundtable discussion, between Nichole Sobecki, Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Carol Devine, Gregg Segal, and Benjamin Petit, raises some fascinating and challenging questions on how we cover the health of our global environment.