Apr 10

This week Arkive is celebrating the US premiere of the environmental documentary Tomorrow, (Demain le Film). We’ll be featuring a guest blog each day this week, with documentary contributors discussing the global issues featured in Tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s US premier is in San Francisco this Friday, 14th April 2017. Visit the website for a full run-down and trailer.

“Without question, this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment.” – Paul Hawken, leading environmentalist

 

Tomorrow trailer

Tomorrow trailer

Who are you?

My name is Rob Hopkins. I am a blogger, writer and public speaker, and the founder of Transition Movement. I started the first Transition initiative here in Totnes, Devon, UK, and also Transition Network, which supports the people in over 50 countries who are now doing Transition. I have won several awards for my work, including 2 honorary PhDs. I am also a father to four sons, a gardener, the director of New Lion Brewery, and was delighted to be one of the people featured in Tomorrow – I’m the guy with the £21 note!

What is your field of work?

I was a teacher of permaculture for years, before starting the Transition Movement in 2005. The area of my work is around communities, and the potential they have to organise and make things happen. I was struck that climate change felt like such a vast, existential crisis and that people were overwhelmed, and had given all their power over to leaders to sort it out. But I also saw that there was so much that communities could do. They could move faster, they were nimbler, they could be more ambitious. And that the projects they were doing were building connection, were bringing people together, and were reviving local economies. So for me, Transition is a movement of communities reimagining and rebuilding our world, and they are doing so at a time that desperately needs that.

Rob Hopkins

Rob Hopkins

Could you describe your connection with Tomorrow?

I had met Cyril Dion once before, but in 2014 he and Melanie came to Totnes to interview me for the film. I hadn’t heard of her before although, as her crew pointed out, in France she is very famous! So they filmed an interview and then went home, and I didn’t hear anything for about a year and a half. Then in December 2015, I was invited to the premiere in Paris, and it blew me away. I thought it was amazing – it made me cry at least six times. It was such an honour to see myself in it alongside other such amazing people. Its rise and impact in France, Belgium and elsewhere has been stunning to see. In France, in particular, it has been a phenomenon. When I go there now, teenagers ask me for selfies on the Metro in Paris!

Being part of it has changed my life, but more importantly, it has changed the lives of so many of those who have seen it. I went to several screenings in Paris in December 2015 and was amazed at how many young people there were. I asked them “why do you like it so much?” They told me that after the terror attacks in Paris the month before, “we don’t know what our story is anymore. Now we have our story”. That’s very powerful.

Mass coral bleaching events are happening around the world due to climate change

Mass coral bleaching events are happening around the world due to climate change

What are the problems facing your field of work, from an environmental perspective?

We are in a race against time, a race that we are losing. We are now seeing a concerted war on climate science, a rolling back of climate action and the deletion of large sections of the evidence base. At the same time we are seeing warming accelerate, Arctic ice in its death throes, all the impacts scientists predicted coming to pass. We also see our communities becoming more isolated from each other, an “epidemic of loneliness”, and communities economically left behind. Tomorrow is a film that says “it doesn’t have to be like that. We can do better than that”. I can’t think of any film that has more to say about what’s happening in the US right now, and more potential to inspire people with a new, more inspiring and appropriate story.

Do you have any suggested solutions to the problems Tomorrow confronts?

This film is full of solutions. One of the things that is radical about this film is that it turns what I call the ‘happy chapter’ convention on its head. That’s the convention where films about green issues are relentlessly miserable until the last 5 minutes when they say “ah, but we could do this”. Tomorrow gets the problems out of the way in the first 2 minutes, then they give you 3 minutes to let that settle, and then they head off to find solutions. No-one really did that before, and I notice that quite a few people are doing so since.

For me, the future needs to be more local. Climate change makes a nonsense of moving goods around the world in order to boost economic growth figures. The UK exports to Germany every year the same amount of potatoes as it imports from Germany. Let’s just email each other the recipes and make our local economies more resilient. Our local economies need to move away from their current move towards monoculture, fewer and fewer more and more powerful businesses, to a complex ecosystem of businesses, rooted in place and in the community. That’s a solution that’s better for public health, community cohesion and for economic resilience, and it is growing now, in many places.

What are your personal feelings on the importance of conveying Tomorrow’s message, and what impact do you hope for it to have upon the audience?

I have seen, time and again, the impact this film has on people. It gives them hope. It gives them workable, tried-and-tested solutions they can draw on. It’s a film about climate change they leave feeling great. It touches people deeply. The music is great. It’s funny. I think everyone should see it. Increasingly in the media, it seems like there is a general consensus that the future is going to be awful. This film confronts that head-on, asking the questions, ‘why?’ and ‘who says?’. The future could still be amazing, but we need ideas, imagination and inspiration – all of which Tomorrow provides in huge doses.

What has been most powerful about Tomorrow in France and Belgium is how it has reached a whole new audience, beyond ‘the usual suspects’ and into mainstream society. No ‘green’ film ever did that before in the same way. I hope people who see it feel fired with possibilities. Anything could happen from here. In creating this film, Cyril and Melanie have created something extraordinary, something really powerful. In the US now, people are being told that addressing climate change means fewer jobs, so we have to not address it. This film powerfully and beautifully reveals that as the nonsense it is, arguing for more holistic approach. It shows that you can’t tackle the food system without also taking on the economic system, and you can’t do that without also looking at energy and transport, and all of that is going to struggle unless we also look afresh at how we educate our kids. It’s common sense. That joined-up, holistic approach is one that people understand even if politicians don’t. There can be no more important movie being release in the US right now.

Final words…

Just that I am so pleased that Under the Milky Way have decided to distribute this film. I hope it continues to have a huge impact around the world. I think people will love it.

We’d like to thank Rob for his words and speaking to us. If you’d like to know more about Rob’s work you can visit his blog, the Transition Network website or find him on Twitter.

Mar 1

The snow leopard is one of the most elusive creatures on the planet, living in one of the most hostile environments on Earth. Here Wildscreen Exchange and Arkive contributor Craig Jones shares with us his experience in tracking and photographing this mysterious and endangered big cat in the Himalayan mountains.

This incredible expedition took us to one of the most wonderful and impressive places on Earth – “The roof of the world” as it’s known, it had been over fifteen months of planning. Precarious climbs, steep falls, bone-chilling cold and heart-warming sights, just some of the words that come to mind from this incredible trip to the Indian Himalayas searching for the elusive snow leopard. Nothing was promised with such a rare big cat but I always believe in what you give to nature, nature will give back to you.

We flew from London to Delhi, delayed 24 hours due to heavy snowfall in the Himalayas. Once landed you really feel the extra altitude almost straight away but your body adjusts just as quick. From there we headed to Leh, largest city in the Ladakh region of North India, situated at an altitude of 3,500m.

We spent the mandatory two days acclimatising in Le, adapting to the height. The massive 17th-century Leh Palace, modeled on the Dalai Lama’s former home; Tibet’s Potala Palace, overlooks the old town’s bazaar and maze like lanes. The people were extremely friendly and it’s an amazing place full of so many different cultures and people.

After two magical days in Leh we left civilisation as we knew, heading to Hemis National Park in our quest to find the snow leopard. The team packed our vehicles with the massive amount of gear and equipment we’d need. The nerves started to bite a little at the thought of seeing one of the world’s rarest big cats as fresh snow started to fall. Hemis National Park was established in 1981 and is the largest National park in the south Asia region and home to one of the highest densities of wild Snow leopards anywhere in the world.

As we headed along narrow roads towards the national park passing mules and other animals along the way, the landscape changes dramatically with steep sided mountains and long drops to the valley below you. The size and remoteness just overwhelm you at first, it really does. We travelled for around an hour by road until we could no more, it was on foot from here on in.

My heart was racing, everywhere I looked I could see rocks that were almost the identical colour of Snow leopard fur and when you look so intensely at things your eyes often play tricks with you so I was double checking every little rock I saw and focused on as we walked into this truly inspiring place.

Once inside the park we turned the first corner and there was a small family of blue sheep feeding. Our guides pointed at them and we stopped and got out the cameras and nervously set up hoping these stunning animals would stay. Blue sheep are a main prey item for snow leopards and form the majority of their diet. It’s a good sign when you come across them as there maybe snow leopards in that area watching.

Once they had passed through we packed up and carried on our steady walk to our base camp. We slowly climbed up and were surrounded by steep mountains either side of us as we walked. It was incredibly impressive and something that I find hard to explain in words. Once we got to our little camp the snow was coming down heavy and the sun was slowly disappearing behind the dense snow clouds. That evening was filled with great excitement as we had our first evening meal and planned the next days events. We made our tents as comfortable as we could and went to sleep. I didn’t sleep well that first night, I never do when somewhere new.

Before dawn, I was up and decided to go out with my guides and trackers high up on the ridges overlooking our camp. The place just blew me away with its scale, you were completely dwarfed by the sheer scale of the place as the mountains seem to encase you inside this most beautiful of landscapes.

Over the days our routine didn’t really change as the guides were scouting for snow leopard signs and possible sightings from first light until last light. We visited the junction of Husing Nala and Tarbung Nala including the high ridge lines, hiked up the main Lato Nala vantage point and spent the day scanning the Kharlung and adjoining areas. It became very apparent from the moment we entered this beautiful yet hostile terrain that it would be very difficult to see a snow leopard.

On one such day while we were waiting, a lone lammergeier was soaring above our heads against the bluest of skies you could have ever imagined. Later from nowhere a rare Himalayan griffon vulture also soared above us often crossing the same flight path as the bearded vulture.

After the first few days had passed we were having breakfast and heard shouting outside our dining tent. I got up and went outside and the guides told me there had been a sighting of a Snow Leopard on the mountain overlooking our camp. Everyone then made a scramble to their tents, I can’t describe those few moments as it seemed like a blur now looking back, and we soon got all our gear and were out on the small path adjacent to our camp.

Our guides were looking through the powerful telescopes and each one of us, in turn, looked through to see this amazing big cat. First, he went over the ridge and out of sight, then he returned and just lay down in the morning sun without a care in the world. He didn’t move a great deal and spent the next several hours just sleeping and lazing around, before getting up and walking back over the ridge and that was the last we saw of him. We’d had no further sightings for days then this and words can’t express how we all felt at seeing one of the world’s rarest cats and also one of the most beautiful ones.

Over the next few days we all walked and trekked over frozen rivers and steep valleys and ridges, each day returning to our little camp, seen in the bottom left-hand corner of the image below, nestled in between the mountain ranges of the Indian Himalayas. Where we stayed was hard for me to describe due to its remoteness and beauty, this image I hope goes some way in conveying that.

During one hike to a vantage point, we visited the homestay of one of our guides, Gurmet, high up around 4500m above sea level, the oxygen seemed to be disappearing the higher we got. Gurmets sister lived there with her husband and children, on arrival we were invited inside for a warm drink, amazed at how wonderful the rooms looked and the kitchen etc. I also made a friend there, he was the nephew of Gurmet and loved seeing his face in my camera, I showed him the ones I took of him to which he was fascinated.

It was our last day in Hemis National park and we set off before our gear and mules, and had only been walking for ten minutes when noticed some commotion and shouting, as we got closer our guides told us another snow leopard had been spotted not too far from where we were.

Following our guides, my heart was racing, everyone was sort of dumbstruck that on the day we were leaving our luck shone once more. We were soon off track and almost vertical up a really steep hill. The snow leopard was on the mountain opposite but was near impossible to see, so we quickly got sorted our tripods and cameras, scanning the mountain.

How they spot these elusive big cats I have no idea, they are almost invisible to the naked eye due to their fur pattern and colour which is identical to the rocks and cliffs in which they live. Upon looking for a few minutes I saw him and said “wow” out loud. Sitting there all majestically, fur in tip-top condition he was just stunning.

We lost light that afternoon, behind the mountains and had to drag ourselves off that mountain and say goodbye not only to him but to this incredible place that had been our home over the last several days. I was really sad to leave and I said goodnight to him as we carefully made our way down to the path and walked out of Hemis National park to our awaiting transport. It was cold and tough going at times but these big cats are special and live in one of the most testing environments anywhere in the world. Perfectly adapted to that life they are true masters of this place and they demand your total respect.

See more of Craig Jones’s photography on the Wildscreen Exchange

Jan 11

I’m Roberto Isotti, a conservation photographer, Arkive and Wildscreen Exchange contributor and PhD in zoology.

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I’m based in Rome (where I was born). I began my professional activity in the Eternal City and even though I have travelled to six continents, I still maintain a deep connection with the city of Rome, that is forever full of charm and inspiration.

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I am currently working on a project entitled ‘Wild Rome’ which is a way for me to mix the love for my city and the great passion for nature that drove me to conservation photography and still leads my everyday work.

Wild Rome is a long-term project that tells the story, often hidden, of wild animals living in the city. The idea is to highlight the species that live next to us, often nearly ignored by people. The link between a big metropolitan area, such Rome, and its wildlife is not so easy to catch, but Rome is a surprisingly green city with lots of wildlife.

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In Rome there are:

  • 4 million citizens
  • 19 mammal species
  • 121 bird species, 78 of them nesting
  • 16 amphibian species
  • 10 reptilian species
  • 5,000 insect species

With this project, we aim to tell the stories of the wild citizens of our city who are often seen, but people are not fully aware of. Through photography and storytelling, we will show animals for what they really are, without judgment or hierarchy: non-human individuals with unique characteristics, neighbours with whom we share the city.

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Wild Rome focuses on the biodiversity hosted in our city in a new light, with the hope of creating empathy for unpopular species, showing their hidden beauty and their function within their ecosystems. This will create a tangible connection between people and the animals that have decided to call an overpopulated city like Rome home.

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Please share this blog and help Roberto to inspire people to care for the future of the wildlife of Rome.

Visit Roberto’s website to see more of his amazing photographs and find out more about his Wild Rome project.

 

Aug 1

Clare James is a wildlife photographer and conservation photojournalist. Here Clare discusses her time at the Sibuya Game Reserve, home to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation.

A lone Rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight. The dawn brings new light and hope into the world.

A lone rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight

Whilst teaching wildlife photography out in South Africa, I became aware of the enormity of the poaching issue, affecting numerous species of flora and fauna. South Africa is still teeming with wildlife compared to many other regions on this planet. This will soon change if poaching continues at the current rate.

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Clare photographing rhinos in Sibuya Game Reserve

Last year, I spent six months out in the bush filming and photographing wildlife away from the clutches of civilization, spending a few months at Sibuya Game Reserve. Spending time out in the bush filming, getting to know the men on the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) who work long hours in order to protect these beautiful prehistoric creatures was extremely special. White rhino are now the main target of criminal organisations, who stop at nothing to get their hands on the horn, rhino horn is currently one of the most lucrative commodities in the world, it is used as a status symbol in Vietnam and an aphrodisiac in China, alongside providing funding for certain terrorist groups.

Whilst filming I was delighted to meet a young rhino affectionately known as Binky, who had been born a week earlier and over the months watched her grow into a fine young rhino, under the protective eye of her beautiful parents. I got to know some of their unique personality traits and habits. Inevitably I became extremely close and attached to this beautiful family. Seeing Bingo, Binky’s father, protect his family was very touching.

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Binky’s family

 

Bingo’s protection turned out to not be enough, as less than a year later, poaching had claimed their lives. Poachers had infiltrated the reserve and using chainsaws cut away the base plate of three rhinos including Bingo and the two female mothers. Bingo survived the initial attack, fighting for the first few days then also went on to a more peaceful place, leaving little Binky orphaned. Having both mother and father ripped away, Binky and another newborn rhino, Courage, whose mother’s life was also taken that day are left alone in this world.

Through human brutality they have been torn apart. We have to continue fighting this war for the rhino’s sake. The rate of poaching can be slowed and stopped if more people stand together. My heart bleeds with the memories of the happy family which I spent so much time with a year ago.

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Please share this story to support Sibuya Rhino Foundation in their mission to protect their remaining rhinos so that the little ones have their chance to reproduce and keep this special species alive for future generations.

Save our rhinos!

Save our rhinos!

Visit the Sibuya Rhino Foundation website to find out more about the amazing work that they do

Find out more about rhinos on Arkive

See more of Clare’s beautiful images on her Clare James website

May 9

We recently caught up with with our friends at Voices for Nature who were keen to tell us about the unique and innovative work that they are doing to save Brazil’s rainforests and what the future holds for their organisation.

What is Voices for Nature?

We are a not-for-profit organisation based in Oxford, UK. Our aim is to inspire and engage people to protect and conserve Brazil’s rainforests through conservation story-telling. We believe that stories are powerful tools for learning and catalysts for change. We use literature, theatre and film to engage people in conservation and give a voice to nature.

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Aerial view of a tree in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest

Voices for Nature was formed in 2014 by Sigrid Shreeve, an environmentalist and campaigner who has worked in Brazil over many years. Voices for Nature employs students and young graduates offering them the opportunity to be creative and engage with conservation.

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Sigrid Shreeve

Sigrid is the author of the novel ‘Jabujicaba’ which was written as an engagement tool under the penname ‘Rosa da Silva’. In the novel, Brazil is bankrupt due to the effects of climate change and the Amazon is up for auction. The royalties from ‘Jabujicaba’ support rainforest conservation through Voices for Nature’s partners the World Land Trust, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Isle of Wight Zoo.

What does Voices for Nature do?

Voices for Nature is an arts organisation which connects people with conservation. Our work is based on the eco-thriller ‘Jabujicaba’, which forms the basis of various initiatives. These include:

The Jabuji debates – a national debating competition for sixth formers in the UK. The competition is run by Voices for Nature and the debates are hosted by Eton College. The First Jabuji Debates final was in March 2016 with participating schools from London, Berkshire and Kent. The event consists of workshops, mini-debates and a public final debates.

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Debaters with Sigrid Shreeve

Forum theatre – we are producing a play entitled ‘The Amazon Auction’ with pupils from Wheatley Park School near Oxford, which will will be performed in Oxford Botanic Gardens in June 2016. As part of the performance two teams will ‘pitch’ to the audience to convince them to support their bid in a mock auction of the Amazon Rainforest. Performers will play roles of characters from the novel ‘Jabujicaba’.

Documentary film – Voices for Nature supports original conservation documentary filmmaking. We were executive producers of the documentary Uncharted Amazon, which was shot in an endangered part of Peru’s Amazon. We will be screening Uncharted Amazon as part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts in June 2016 and also running campaign film workshops for young people together with the charity Film Oxford.

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Voices for Nature workshop

Rainforest Movie – we have a big screen movie under development based on the novel ‘Jabujicaba’. The movie is a cross over between Apocalypse Now and a rainforest Erin Brockovich. The lead role with be played by the actress Yrsa Daley-Ward and the movie is part of our outreach and educational work, linking to the Jabuji Debates. The movie has been entered into Richard Branson’s #VOOM2016 to raise profile and help fund development.

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View over REGUA site in Brazil

Find out more about Voices for Nature

Visit the Voices for Nature website

Watch the Jabujicaba trailer

Vote for Jabujicaba to win #VOOM2016

Follow Voices for Nature on Twitter or Facebook

Visit the Arts Festival Oxford website to attend a free film workshop or attend a screening of ‘Uncharted Amazon’

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