Cristina Mittermeier is on a mission to save the planet
8:53

Cristina Mittermeier is on a mission to save the planet

Culture
[MUSIC] My photography is an open invitation. It's a way for people to engage with the beauty of our planet and with the possibility to do something about it. [MUSIC] My name is Christina Mittermeier. I am a contributing photographer for National Geographic, a conservation photographer, and founder of Sea Legacy. And I am a pioneer of the use of visceral storytelling to tackle environment issues. [MUSIC] The first time that I picked the camera, it was actually somebody else's camera that was carrying my ex husband asked me to carry his equipment for him. And we were in a village in the Amazon. I saw a man come out of a little hot and he was beautifully framed by the black door. And I just snapped the shot. I really didn't know anything about exposure or whatever. When we came back home, [UNKNOWN] has asked him for pictures of that particular village for an exhibit. And when we attended the opening of the exhibit, I was shocked to find that my photographs were used to highlight the whole thing. Printed as big as side of building. There were posters, and [UNKNOWN], and calendars All credited to my ex husband. So what drives me to do the work that I do is that I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't care about our planet and when I was not concerned about what future generations including my own children, the kind of planet that they would want to live in. So I've always been thinking about the This [MUSIC] I was born in a middle class Mexican family up in the mountains of central Mexico. My dad was an accountant, my mom was a psychologist. Kind of privileged in Mexico you know, middle class. We were doing okay, but my parents didn't have any special affinity to nature. I think the great gift is that my dad gave us lots of books So I read pirate books. The pirate books were for my brother, but he was not as interested, so I would sneak into his bedroom and read them at night. And my mom had the good sense of sending me off to the United States and Canada for summer camp. And I learned to canoe and kayak and swim in freezing lakes. Where you going? [FOREIGN] [FOREIGN] The magic of the Yucatan Peninsula lies in the cenotes. In these holes in the cast that give you a glimpse into the underground river that runs through the Yucatan Peninsula where there's no rivers above ground. So the Cenotes each have a unique personalities. Some of them are more like a cave or there's are a cavern. This is a place called Punta Laguna, which is in the interior of the state of Quintana Roo and it's a Mayan Village. Traditional Mayan people. When I started my career as a marine biologist, I thought that my Contribution to environmental work was gonna be through science, and I actually participated in the writing of scientific papers. It takes years of collaborating with other scientists, and back and forth on data, and tables, and arguments, and theories, to actually publish one paper in a scientific journal. And guess how many people read that paper. So few. It became very clear to me early on that that type of narrative doesn't connect with our general audiences. And if we really want to build a constituency of people who care and are informed, we need a different vehicle so I became a photographer because I found out that I was good at it. [MUSIC] The most interesting part about it is that through storytelling, I can bring my audiences on a journey to say I asked you to sign this petition and look at what we achieved. Together. [MUSIC] In the past, when we wanted to put out environmental story of any kind, we have to go to a magazine like National Geographic and talk to editors. But because of social media today we own our own distribution channel and we're having a conversation with millions of people every day. The way that we measure success is just by the engagement. It's not just the number of likes and shares. It's not just the number of comments. It's the number of activations, how people are willing to take an additional step to actually create change. [MUSIC] [SOUND] I wanna remind my audiences that we live in a beautiful planet that it is very much worth fighting for. And every once in a while I punctuated with a reminder of just how awful it is, especially in some places might seem far away but it is already happening. [MUSIC] My partner, Paul Nicklen, and I posted a photograph on a video of a starving polar bear a year ago, we had no idea that it was going to elicit the emotion study did at the end of seven days of viral sharing on the internet, the photograph and the video Had reached two and a half billion people, that's one quarter of the population of our planet, and the reactions the emotions that people had ranged from gratitude that we were telling us a different story of climate change to fear, and anger people were angry because we hadn't saved this polar bear. [MUSIC] The way that people projected their own fear and anxiety of climate change on to that photograph through the comments was an open window into the type of narrative that we need to engage with. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] Casa notice completely exposed and surrounded by mangroves, for half a lot of wildlife. [MUSIC] I have memories of riding a friend's motorcycle cuz I didn't have a car. I'm being the only person swimming [UNKNOWN] I spend all morning. The The Disney-fication of the Yucatan Peninsula is very apparent when you drive down the highway. And part of it is good. It's for good people to have access to nature experiences, even if they're a little Disney-fied. The sad part about it is that a lot of the beauty and the remoteness and the spirituality of this place Has been eroded. It's not completely lost because you can still find it. [MUSIC] When I was here 30 years ago the beaches of the Yucatan were famous for being these expansive, white sandy beaches. Perhaps the most shocking thing that's happened in the last five years is that there's an invasion of a seaweed that naturally occurs in the Caribbean and in the Atlantic. [BLANK_AUDIO] When this seaweed that is called Sargassum is imbalanced, it's actually habitat for a lot of species. As they migrate to the middle of the ocean, they find shelter, they find food. But because of climate change, the water's warmer. The polar melting, there's a huge influx of fresh water into the system. And then there's this massive input of fertilizer and nutrients from rivers like the Amazon and the Mississippi. So all of these things combined are the perfect storm for Sargassum. To bloom. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] What we're seeing here is all the plastic debris that washes up from the ocean. This is they typical stuff you find. Shoes, and bottles, and caps, and lighters. There's a hair roller. Plastic never really finishes disintegrating. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that animals eventually eat. And guess what, it ends up in the food chain from which we ourselves have to eat. So One thing that we all can do today, is just be mindful about the single-use plastic we use everyday. [MUSIC] We have to be thinking about the future of our planet, and you need to pick an environmental issue, a nature related issue, a wildlife issue that you can support. We have nowhere else to go. This is the only planet we have and it needs the fabric of life to operate. So just pick one any and start doing something today. [MUSIC]

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