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  • Writer's pictureCristina Mittermeier

The Role of Art and Creativity in Changing the World

When it comes to the greatest challenges facing humanity today- loss of democracy, the climate emergency, war- I believe art and creativity can play a pivotal role in creating solutions, building consensus, and fostering change. With this in mind, I have chosen to point my lens at the dual crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss; two of the most pressing and interrelated issues of our time. My work as both an artist and conservationist is guided by the emerging science; informing innovation, solutions, and the expert counsel of thousands of other scientists.

"Alone Together"

As he stepped carefully along the seafloor in the warm shallows of French Polynesia, I could hardly tell where the boy ended and the sea began. The pink whiptail ray swooped playfully around him and for a moment I could see clearly the path to coexistence between humanity and all the denizens of the sea.

As an example, in 2015, the United Nations released its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—17 interconnected goals intended to provide a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. SDG #13, which focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, has played a prominent role in the environmental performance goals of corporations across the globe. A lot of interest and investment have rightfully been centered on this sustainable goal.

SDG# 14, however, which focuses on the ocean and life underwater, continues to be the most underfunded of all the sustainable goals. When I learned this, I had to ask myself, why? I suspect that most humans do not feel like they are part of the ocean. Even though it is the largest and most important ecosystem on our planet, we still feel separate and alien from it. That is why I have dedicated so much of my art, and my photography to shining a spotlight on the importance of the ocean.

"The Visitor"

Off the shores of the Galápagos, my partner Paul and I were pursuing a school of Salema fish in the warm shallows when a sea turtle suddenly sprang into view, scattering the shoal in panicked bursts of silver. I quickly snapped this photo and delighted in the explosion of life around me.

“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” Rachel Carson

Creativity is what drives change and allows us to surmount immovable obstacles. The act of creating images is how I inform that change— challenging preconceptions about animals like sharks and leopard seals and inspiring viewers to question, marvel, and take action on behalf of our living world. My dream has always been a healthy and thriving ocean; the kind of underwater paradise that captured my imagination as a child. Through the power of photography, I have found a way to capture the poetry of life beneath the surface so we may finally start to care about the science and solutions that will preserve it.

"The School"

The fish stack themselves high in a chaotic display of flashing scales and flitting tails in perhaps the oldest tactic for evading marine predators in the history of the ocean. Many beings move as one mind, darting forward and rushing back again in one synchronized cloud. Below them a single shark waits for one of them to make one false move so it may feast.

For millions of years, sharks have evolved to keep our ocean ecosystems in balance through a finely-tuned relationship with all marine life. Without them, the very foundation of our seas would crumble. Please follow along with SeaLegacy through the social media links below as we work to support Panama’s Proposal 37, which would finally regulate a large percentage of the shark finning industry by protecting all requiem shark species.


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