By GAB MEJIA
October 25, 2019
Imagine yourself standing on the summit of a mountain. A sea of clouds rolls out from the heavens above a pristine rainforest. The cold crisp air numbing your fingers as you layer up and wait at dawn for sunrise. The first rays of the sun then warm your skin and touch your eyes. The light changing the once dark sky in hues of orange and gold — a dream in which to be, a dream many kids have never imagined to see.
The same kid who was born and raised in the megacity of Metro Manila — living among concrete towers, gray trodden roads, smoke, pollution, endless billboard screens, and a sea of lights and machines; living nowhere near nature at all.
I was only about eight years old when I went on my first major mountain trek that made me dream. Dream about this same sunrise. Only to get rained on, with muddy shoes but a heart fully immersed in the rainforest of the tallest mountain in Malaysia, surrounded by the tallest tropical trees to be found in the world, and the sounds of the jungle that I could never have imagined I would hear. A beautiful world now often forgotten.
These are the last frontiers of nature, the untouched rainforests, glacial mountains, raging rivers, pristine lakes, alluring wetlands, and our endless ocean. But today, we are facing an unprecedented change and loss of such places in our planet. We have lost more than 64 percent of our wetlands since the 1900s. Mangroves, marshlands, estuaries and coral reefs almost gone from this time. We are facing a severe decline in biological species, where creatures are facing the brink of extinction. We are mining our mountains where forests once grew, and now cannot bear fruit at all. Polluting our oceans to a point so difficult to manage. An irony, considering our country is one of the centers of marine biodiversity.
We have science, technology and millions of data right on our fingertips, living comfortably in the rise of immense socioeconomic development within our malls, cities and homes, but no real stories left to tell to our children. No real stories left to tell of sunrises to kids dreaming of the same rightful future for our planet.
Now, let me ask you, when was the last time you actually went out to go to a park, climb a mountain, watch birds, plant a tree or even appreciate the sunrise?
We are becoming so disconnected with the natural world, so consumed by technology that kids are being raised with nothing but iPad screens and computers. Hours at end trapped inside air-conditioned vehicles in traffic, while relentlessly swiping down to refresh your social media feed. There is so much work to be done, but there is still hope to reconnect with nature.
A lot of people say that art, stories and science do not go well together, but as you realize, we are already living today in a world filled with much more complex problems to solve that we need to make use of everything that we have. Photography, stories, and science-storytelling or sciencetelling, whatever you name it. We have tools to connect with people and raise awareness to conserve these last frontiers of nature and wildlife.
I have traveled to some remote parts of our planet through photography, something I have never imagined, even in my wildest dreams. Just last year I traveled to 22 different countries across five continents doing different projects and work; From Northern Africa, South America, Europe, Australia, to different parts of Asia. Stories were the ones that connected me to the planet I knew so little of. There were good stories like sunrises, but there are also ones that move you to act. I was face-to-face with daunting blue glaciers receding faster than in the past 10 years due to climate change. I witnessed degrading wetlands and ecosystems due to the negligence of man, bringing an invasive species to a foreign land. And even tracked one of our national animals on the brink of extinction, a critically endangered species called the “tamaraw.” Of which sadly not a lot of people are still aware of.
Stories, platforms and information are already laid out in front of us, sources we can use our own passions to dig deeper into issues of nature and even the world at large. And through these ready tools and real stories, we could raise awareness and educate others on pressing environmental issues in order to empower local communities and indigenous peoples to share their side of the story to world. We have the power to connect and reconnect. Exploring beyond and bringing these stories to the forefront of policymakers and leaders to serve as fuel in implementing change.
Showing beauty to inspire and showing fragility to care.
We have the power and, with one simple sunrise, we can help save mankind and the planet we all share. What more together?
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