Karabash’s toxic landscape is our future. We styled a dystopian fashion shoot to see it with our own eyes

Cycling shorts and acid rain aren’t a fashion combo you might have heard of. For one sustainable design collective from Russia, it’s the only way to dress for a climate apocalypse.

12 September 2019
Photographer: Alexey Ponomarchuk
Creative Producer: Masha Borodacheva
Model: Anna
Outfits: 2.0

Karabash is a small town in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, set against the rugged Ural Mountains and the magnificent taiga forest. If that sounds picturesque, don’t be fooled: Karabash is one of the most polluted places in the world. The town was built as a mining settlement around the large deposits of copper ore found there. Several decades of mining and smelting copper ore have devastated the natural surroundings with persistent acid rain.

Most of the vegetation in the area stopped growing at the end of the 1980s. Today, the Sak-Elga river is so contaminated with industrial waste, it’s turned a putrid orange colour. Yet people continue to live here. In fact, the population of Karabash is estimated at over 11,000 people.

Photographer Alexey Ponomarchuk and design collective 2.0 travelled to Karabash to expose the terrifying consequences of ecological collapse

The forest fires raging in the Amazon and Siberia are a reminder that none of us can avoid the impact of climate change. Russia is abundant in natural resources. The heavy resources industry there drives not only Russia’s economy but other parts of the world: the European Union, for example, relies on Russia’s natural gas. Yet, more and more people in Russia are concerned about the environment and its deterioration. In this collaborative project, Baby Apocalypse 2.0, produced especially for The Calvert Journal, photographer Alexey Ponomarchuk and design collective 2.0 travelled to Karabash to expose the terrifying consequences of ecological collapse — and prompt us to rethink the way we live.

All the garments for the shoot were made by 2.0 from second-hand and faulty clothing sourced from a humanitarian centre in Ekaterinburg. The brand hails from the polluted Urals area, and for this reason are drawn to recycling and sustainable methods of production.

Baby Apocalypse 2.0 is a dystopian vision of the future, where the inhabitants of the Earth have had to rebuild their lives from wreckage. Disturbingly, the devastated landscape looks almost beautiful, similar to the toxic lake nicknamed the “Siberian Maldives”, which went viral earlier this year. If anything, the photo shoot is not just a forewarning, but a wake-up call that in certain places of the world, this desolate future has already arrived.

This project was supported by LoveYourHealth.

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