Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Inspiration: Nat Geo

   Last night was the final presentation in the 2016 series of National Geographic live, with photographer Michael "Nick" Nichols. Initially his talk was planned to be about Yellowstone National Park, but somewhere along the way a change into a 40+ year retrospective of his work, as he retired recently. Which was even better, because he had completed so many projects in Africa.
   Like many of the other speakers I've heard from Nat Geo over this five-year series, Nick's work has had a palpable impact on conservation of species and habitat. His gift for capturing fleeting moments with his camera, the personality and emotion of individual animals, and sharing these incredible stories is changing the world. And it desperately needs changing, or at least the minds of its humans do. By the time my niece and nephews are my age, elephants and rhinos and coral reefs will likely be gone. Within my lifetime! 
   He showed a picture of a herd of nearly 1000 elephants taken in Chad. These herds grouped together and were fearful of humans because so many have been killed by poachers. Within two years, there were 300 elephants left--slaughtered for their ivory. Now that natives are beginning to understand that these animals are more valuable alive than dead, the numbers are beginning to rise once again. But until we convince consumers, many in China, that there is no medicinal value in ivory, or tiger bone, this won't stop. 
   If there's money to be had out in the open or on the black market, it will continue. It is the great shame of our species to believe that we are more valuable than the animals with whom we share this planet.
   One of my favorite questions during the Q&A was, "What projects do you wish you had been able to do during your career?" His answer was priceless (I'm paraphrasing here): "Nothing. I really did everything that I set out to achieve. It's a rough life traveling so much of the year, and now I can stay home and enjoy time with my family, and my dog, and I can grow tomatoes for the first time in my life." 
   We should all be so fortunate to achieve greatness in our careers, to have them intertwine with our personal passions and missions—and to retire and relax, knowing we made a TRUE impact. Bravo, Nick, for all your great work on conservation--and thank you for the inspiration!
   I always leave these presentations feeling a little melancholy, like I could and should be doing so much more with my life. At least I won't slip into complacency. I know I am destined for something big, just need to determine what, and how.