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  • Writer's pictureCristina Mittermeier

Hopeful Horizons: Reflections on 2023 and the Power of Art, Culture, and Conservation

As we near the end of a challenging year, it can be easy to focus on the negative news happening around the world. However, I invite you to remember during this holiday season, when you gather with your loved ones, that there are reasons to remain optimistic for a better future. I strongly believe that art and culture have the power to bring about positive change in the world. I would like to share some of the reasons why I feel hopeful as we conclude 2023 and prepare to welcome a new year.  Hopefully, these will spark some joy and hope in you too.



The Whale Guardians

Led by my dear friend Michael Fishbach, is focused on saving the great whales, in particular the largest of them all: the mighty blue whale.

Even though whales are the largest creature that has ever lived on Earth, today, they are in true danger of disappearing forever.

As we continue to globalize our economies, more and more cargo ships travel at high speed around the ocean, striking whales as they pass. Whale Guardians has found a solution by working with large shipping ports and companies around the globe to reduce the number of ship strikes. I am very proud that through our “100 for the Ocean” print sale, we were able to raise funds to support Whale Guardians. I find great hope in this type of collaboration, and if you purchased a print, you should too!


The Coral Gardeners


During the early fall, I was overjoyed to travel back to French Polynesia to spend time with my dear friend, my ocean child (or my fiston du mer) Titouan Bernicot.  Titouan founded the Coral Gardeners, and after just 6 years, his small organization is having a huge impact. Using the enthusiasm of youth, he has attracted incredible talent to his team and together they are pioneering new ways of restoring the reef, and using AI, they are working to better understand how wildlife is coming back to the reef. SeaLegacy has been a partner of the Coral Gardeners for a long time, and it gives me hope that the people who follow my work and SeaLegacy’s are also supporting the mission of this dynamic group of young eco-entrepreneurs.



Global Support Against Deep Sea Mining


One of the most significant threats to emerge as of late is the proposal to mine the deep sea to extract materials that will help transition from fossil fuels. As much as we need batteries to move away from non-renewables, this “solution” is a more significant threat than the threat of fossil fuels themselves. We do not know what the role of the deep sea is in maintaining the viability of the planetary ecosystem.

The world has reacted strongly against the pressure of companies that want to exploit a global asset protected by the law of the sea to benefit themselves.

The good news is that over 20 countries, including Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Chile, Finland, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland and Mexico, are among the nations that support a ban, moratorium or precautionary pause on deep-sea mining. To better understand this issue, I highly recommend you watch “Deep Rising,” a film narrated by Jason Momoa and produced by Pew Bertarelli and Ocean Legacy. Check out the trailer here:

 

Treaty of the High Seas


For the first time, in 2023, the United Nations members agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas. This matters because the high seas are an area that does not belong to any country. For many decades, it has been treated as a “free-for-all” where industrial enterprises, including fishing and whaling, have been happening without any oversight. The High Seas cover nearly half the planet’s surface, making this a major win for the protection of our oceans.


Ripple Effect


The challenge of communicating the urgency to protect the ocean to larger audiences is something that keeps me up at night. That is why I am so grateful that Katie Couric and her amazing media team have decided to help us share ocean news in their newsletter “Wake-Up Call” in a column called “Ripple Effect”, which goes out to  millions of people.  If you have not subscribed yet, head over to “Wake-Up Call” and sign up to this great source of news.






COP28 Agreement


Great news and significant reason for hope is that the final draft of the main agreement at COP28 called for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems… to achieve net zero by 2050,” and an acceleration of zero- and low-emission technologies, including “renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage… and low-carbon hydrogen production.” This promising development at COP28 underscores a global commitment to a sustainable and greener future.



TIME Magazine Feature


If you’ll indulge me a personal point of pride and joy this past year, my photo was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. But more than that my dear friend, Enric Sala and his organization Pristine Seas were able to get the issue of ocean conservation into a major, mainstream magazine. The article highlights the vital link between healthy oceans and human well-being. Pristine Seas project has established 26 marine protected areas, urging global protection of 30% of ocean territories by 2030. People like Enric offer hope amid so many climate challenges. Read the full article here:


 

Kitasoo Bay


Indigenous-led protection of nature also took center stage in 2023. Among the highlights, the Kitasoo Xai Xais First Nation of British Columbia celebrated the creation of the Kitasoo Bay, Canada’s first indigenous-led marine reserve. We can support this effort through the 100 for the Ocean print sale. My hope is that a more prominent spotlight on this visionary effort might inspire other communities around the globe to do the same. To learn more about this incredible development click here.





Direct Contribution to Conservation thanks to YOU!


This year our fine art sales have enabled us to donate over $30,000 US to diverse ocean conservation projects. This contribution supports crucial initiatives, including marine research, the establishment of protected areas, and educational programs. By channeling proceeds from art sales into these projects, we actively participate in global efforts to preserve marine biodiversity and promote sustainable practices. This intersection of art and activism showcases the transformative power of creativity, turning it into a force for positive environmental change.



 

In the coming year, let's continue to build on the foundation we've laid, fostering a sense of community and responsibility that transcends borders and generations. May the closing days of 2023 be a prelude to a future filled with even more joy, boundless hope, and a steadfast commitment to conservation and to one another. There are lots of new and exciting things happening in 2024 and I can’t wait to share them all with you!



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