Photographer Samuel Peck recently visited Yunnan, China to capture images of its paddy fields. The region's vast swaths of flooded, arable land are among the largest and most scenic on Earth. When he arrived, however, Peck learned of their rapid disappearance – a vanishing act spurred by aggressive urbanization and a burgeoning tourism industry.
"To be perfectly honest," Peck tells io9, "I first viewed [Yunnan] as merely as a photographer's playground - akin to Iceland - and did not travel there with any noble cause of documenting the steady decline of the paddy fields."
During his stay, however, Peck met a local photographer who had been photographing the region's paddy fields for nearly two decades. It was this photographer, Peck tells io9, "who highlighted to me the many dried-up fields in the area, the number of which has been steadily increasing over the years, and especially so in recent years." He continues:
Aside from the urbanisation of China as an underlying cause, another reason driving the drying-up of the fields is actually mainstream tourism. The remaining locals (net those who have gone to the cities) are increasingly geared towards tourist-oriented activities, such as selling souvenirs and posing in costumes for photos and asking for money thereafter. They are no longer as compelled to maintain the paddy fields when they can earn multiples pandering to mainstream tourists.
Peck's photographer friend tells him these paddies could be gone within the decade. See more of Peck's photos on his website and Flickr page.
All photos featured by kind permission of Samuel Peck.