Getting started in the creative arts such as photography and writing with a niche in conservation can be daunting. Whether in person or through the internet, I've benefited by surrounding myself with those who know more than me and are further down the career path.
Morgan Heim, an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, shares her thoughts on how to break into the creative arts for those driven by passion to engage with conservation.
Read an interview with Morgan here.
Conservation photographer, Cristina Mittermeier, founded the International League of Conservation Photographers with the notion that images can change the world.
In a Creative Live workshop Mittermeier explains, "One of the wonderful things about photography and this kind of photography is that it can really change the course of history. If you make pictures that are compelling enough, that tell good stories, then those pictures can really influence the way that the law is written and legislation is written."
Her passion project for the past 20 years has been documenting indigenous people of the Amazon, with dignity and compassion. She believes indigenous peoples who live close to the earth are the stewards of biodiversity.
When asked why she loves to photograph biodiversity she says, "It's because its loss is irreversible, what we lose is irreplaceable. Everything else - pollution, urbanization, oil drilling - all of that we can remedy. But once we lose a species it is gone forever. So, we need to pay attention. We are on the verge of losing the big ones, the charismatic ones - lions, polar bears, elephants. We've already lost thousands of the little ones. We need to keep reminding people that it's this fabric of life that holds the whole ecosystem together. I think people forget that clean air, clean water, pollination - all of this comes from a healthy fabric. The minute you start pulling the threads it all comes unraveled. So for me, photographing biodiversity and biodiversity loss is super important."
"If you are looking for a career in something that matters...[photography] won't feed you, but it will make you feel good everyday," says Mittermeier.
Watch Mittermeier's TEDx talk on enoughness for more inspiration.
Citizen Science, or, how to have fun and feel like you are making a difference while the world falls apart
A couple weeks ago, I drove up to the Pajarito Environmental Education Center in Los Alamos to see the author Sharman Apt Russell speak. I first learned of Russell while camping in the Gila National Forest volunteering with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. A group of "citizen scientists," myself included, had gathered to conduct environmental inventories of land that would be proposed for future Wilderness protection designation. A number of them had met Russell as she scoured for stories on citizen science.
She read from her book Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing tiger beetles and other new ways of engaging the world. Having fallen in love with citizen science on a trip to India with Earthwatch Institute earlier this year, her words resonated with me as if I could have written them.
"As the world falls apart, as we lose hundreds of species a day in the most current mass extinction, as I lift my head to the bright blue New Mexican sky and lament and wait and ululate...the idea that there is still so much to discover strikes me as a kind of miracle. We think we've beaten the Earth flat, hammered out the creases, starched the collar, hung her up to dry. We've turned the planet into our private estate, a garden here, a junkyard there, maybe an apocalypse at the end. But no longer wild, no longer mysterious. And yet. [As entomologist Dick Van-Wright said] You could spend a week studying some obscure insect and you would then know more than anyone else on the planet. It's such a cheerful thought."
Through Citizen science we can fall in love with nature again. Maybe that love will save it.