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Vietnamese Artists, 350.org Partner on Apocalyptic Anti-Coal Campaign

In a dystopian portrayal of the future, the landscape is rife with fires, rising seas, and thick clouds billowing from power plant smokestacks; humans must wear gas masks for their own survival. This apocalyptic vision is captured in a series of photos featuring 8 popular Vietnamese singers, actors and dancers as part of a new anti-coal campaign.

According to research from Harvard University, pollution from coal-fired power plants already causes 4,300 premature deaths in Vietnam every year. This number could increase to 25,000 by 2030 if all the planned coal plants are built.

Vietnam has the third-largest pipeline of new coal plants in the world – behind only China and India. According to Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), the Vietnamese government released official figures last week that include plans to build a massive 55 Gigawatts of new coal by 2030, despite its January 2016 announcement that it would review development plans for coal plants and halt new coal power development.

Through the photo campaign, called “I Can’t,” CHANGE and 350.org East Asia hope to raise awareness in major cities affected by air pollution and inspire people to become more concerned about environmental issues and the country’s energy plans.

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“I devote myself to inspiring my students and pointing them in the right direction in life. I want them to have a clean, safe environment so that they can grow and shine while pursuing their dreams. However, their dreams, life and future are seriously threatened by the worsened air pollution caused by coal,” said Thanh Bui, principal of SOUL Music and Performing Arts Academy, on why he chose to participate in the campaign. “As a teacher and an artist, I feel the responsibility to speak up. Now or never.”

  • Singer and songwriter Tien Tien holding a broken guitar;
  • Singer and Vietnam Idol 2015 winner Trong Hieu “longing to free his voice from the gas mask and escape from the destroyed world;”
  • Singer and Vietnam Idol 2015 runner-up Bich Ngoc holding a nightingale;
  • Singer and Vietnam Idol 2012 runner-up Hoang Quyen as a mermaid;
  • Actress Diem My holding a broken mask and “unable to continue acting in a world in ruins;”
  • International choreographer and Director of Performance Department at SOUL Alexander Tu restrained in a chair; and
  • So You Think You Can Dance 2015 winner Do Hai Anh in a ballet pose alongside a swan with broken wings.

All of the images are available on CHANGE’s website.

The “I Can’t” campaign launched on March 31 with the release of the photo series, and will continue over the next several months. Besides the featured artists, CHANGE and 350.org are receiving campaign support from the Global Greengrants Fund and creative agency Rabbat. The campaign will feature two more photo series, focused on family and daily life and featuring “youths who are environmental enthusiasts from various parts of the country,” as well as several community engagement activities such as a “Gas Mask Challenge,” a “Create ‘I Can’t…’ Slogan” competition, and various communications through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

WildAid took a more humorous approach to its recent air pollution-focused public awareness campaign in China by releasing a "public service announcement" that people may need to grow out their nose hair to breathe if emissions are not reduced.

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