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One Last Look, Before You Go

Words and images by Annette Ruzicka

By March 22, 2021June 30th, 2021The Collective

It started with the fires.

In the summer of 2019-2020 every other morning I would jolt awake at 5am. The reminder that fires are burning all over the country would flood back into my consciousness. Bushfires had been ravaging Australia since winter and I found myself in a heightened state of anxiety by the loss of the Australian landscape as I once knew it. 

I felt helpless and would pace the house like a caged tiger.

Faced with this I began experiencing what’s now known as eco-anxiety; a chronic fear of environmental doom.

I realised humans and the natural world are inextricably connected, I didn’t just love our land and its creatures – I was connected to it. What makes us human today is a result of thousands of years of evolution done so in symbiosis with the natural world, not despite it.

Then a global pandemic hit. We couldn’t go outside; experience nature, and for me, everything went dark. My depression started to rear its ugly head and panic attacks ensued.

During lockdown people were bursting to go outside, feel the sun, breathe the air. We need nature not just for survival but for a deeper connection; physically, emotionally and mentally.

What these crises tells us is that we are fragile. But we also need nature – to feel dirt under our feet, a breeze on face and vistas of desert, forest and ocean.

With the 2021 fires in California the worst in history, a death toll continuing to rise with COVID-19 and an uncertain future ahead – I believe what we have been shown is our own capacity to change. Because bushfires, drought and pandemics will happen again, but human beings are the only species that has the ability to see into, and plan for the future.

This series explores my own eco-anxiety at Australia’s climate crisis, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and yet another example of being locked out of nature. 

It’s a timely and final call for change and an expression of the hope that remains.

Annette Ruzicka

Annette Ruzicka is an award-winning visual storyteller based in Melbourne, Australia.

Following a career in conservation Annette developed a deep affinity with the natural world and dedicated herself to telling stories where the environment and related issues were at the core – be that about people trying to save their land, endangered species, First Australians or more recently, mental health in the context of the global climate crisis.

Annette’s work has been published broadly including the BBC, New York Times, Australian Geographic and the Guardian Australia. She has been a finalist for the Australia’s National Photographic Portrait Prize (2016), the Olive Cotton Portrait Prize (2019), the CLIP award (2020) Australian Photography Awards (2020) and won silver for the 2020 BIFAs (landscape category) and was the 2017 Sunstudios Emerging Photographer of the Year.

Annette is also a member of the Many Australian Photographers Group, a national collective of documentary photographers dedicated to exploring issues facing regional and suburban Australia.

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