Honorable Mention / 2018 / Press / Nature/Environmental

Mongolian Steppe: Leave or Stay

  • Photographer
    Yan Li

The Mongolian steppe has one of the world’s last surviving nomadic
cultures, but now the fate of its nomadic culture is facing uncertainty.
The dzud climate phenomenon, which creates unusual harsh winters
following summer droughts, has made life difficult on the steppe.
Since communism ended in 1990, herders have to deal with each dzud
without government support. Many herders suffering massive loss of
livestock are forced to migrate to the capital, Ulaanbaatar to find jobs.
Urbanization also attracts people to seek better schooling, higher
wage and modern conveniences in cities. Such an extraordinary scale
of migration poses infrastructure challenges for municipality. Due to
excessive coal burning, Ulaanbaatar becomes one of the most polluted
cities in the world. Meanwhile, nomads remaining on the steppe are
facing a choice that will shape the future of their country: withstand
new threats on the steppe, or give up herding in search of new

Originally being educated as an engineer, Yan Li received his Ph.D. degree in 2012. His solid knowledge of technologies, engineering and industry makes him understand what is transforming people’s lifestyles in the Information Age. He has the passion of traveling worldwide to admire the diversities on earth which are unfortunately facing challenges during the rapid urbanization and globalization. His photographic work focuses on capturing the fleeting moments of human experience, revealing personal stories of peoples, and documenting the fascinating yet vanishing cultures. He is the winner and finalist of various prestigious awards, including the International Photography Awards (IPA), the Prix de la Photographie Paris (Px3), the Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) and the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year.