A photographer to save vaquita Marina from extintion
Publicado por: The limited Times
Cristina Mittermeier discovered 25 years ago the power of images to preserve the oceans. In addition to publishing in ‘National Geographic’ and ‘Time’ and founding the SeaLegacy platform, she has just been appointed ambassador of the Spanish foundation Ocean Born for her defense of the environment
In the life of Cristina Mittermeier (Cuernavaca, Mexico, 1966) there are several images that marked a before and after in her career as a photographer and environmental activist.
One of them is the one he captured in 2017 and that went around the world as the bitterest face of climate change: that of a starving polar bear that can barely walk, dragging his body, turned into a bag of bones with irregular fur. , on Somerset Island, in the Canadian Arctic, and which appeared in National Geographic magazine.
“After publishing it, I received an avalanche of messages in which people wrote to me and asked me why I didn’t feed him, why I didn’t do something to try to save him… That’s when I realized that the power of people is greater than the people in power.”
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It was after that viral bombshell that Mittermeier and the team at SeaLegacy – an expedition and storytelling platform to save the oceans that Cristina founded with other partners in 2014 – set out to create Only One. This is another app why In addition to receiving information, you can also participate in the defense of the environment with campaigns and donations.
“The idea is to provide the opportunity for citizens to do something on a daily basis over the phone, beyond getting information: a small donation to restore a reef or share a petition to save a specific species… We want to create an army of citizens who imagine a living planet and are willing to take action to achieve it”, says Mittermeier, who has just returned from his last mission in the Gulf of Mexico,
The power of the people is greater than the people in power
Those same blue whales that Mittermeier was chasing a few weeks ago in the North Pacific are the protagonists of his first underwater photo.
For Cristina, the ocean is a space for meditation;
an immensity that impresses her with deep respect and where this graduate in Biochemical Engineering in Exploitation of Marine Resources – the closest thing, she assures, to Marine Biology that there was to graduate from the University of Mexico in her university days – comes up with the better ideas.
“It can take hours for an animal to approach you and be able to photograph it.
These specimens are so powerful, with a body of more than 24 meters, that with a flick of the tail they are by your side and with another you see something white, resplendent as a wall;
you open your eyes again and it’s gone,” says Mittermeier.
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This contagious energy that he transmits in the story of his experiences with marine fauna, in addition to his “passion for defending the environment”, in the words of Carolina Manhusen Schwab, founder of the Ocean Born Foundation, is what has led to this organization to name her its new ambassador.
“It is an honor for me to belong to a foundation that 100% of what it earns from the sale of its beer goes to the conservation of the seas.
I think it is an excellent example of how other corporations should invest more in our planet”, says Mittermeier, who argues that the worst enemy for the oceans is capitalism.
For that girl from Cuernavaca, a town in the interior of Mexico, three hours away from the sea, her love for the oceans was born after spending long periods with her family in Tampico, the coastal city where her father was born;
but also through the adventure and pirate books of Sandokan, the character that Emilio Salgari would popularize, and
The Underwater World
by Jacques Costeau.
These copies were banned at home for her;
gifts expressly addressed to her older brother, Cristina stole them to be able to devour them and dream.
His love for the sea was born after spending long periods in Tampico and through the adventure and pirate books by Sandokan and ‘The Underwater World’ by Jacques Costeau
“I think of the planet as if it were a small spaceship and all of us its crew;
if there is an emergency, each passenger has a responsibility to help and try to survive;
and I think we are at that moment: trying to keep our ship from collapsing, ”reflects Mittermeier, who acknowledges that when she started in activism years ago she felt as if she were shouting alone to the world:
“Our environmental problems are massive and we are not going to win all the battles, but a good general, and there is Volodímir Zelenski to prove it, is the one who is winning them, in order to win the war”, comparing the military strategy with that of the fight against climate change.
“For me, what is hardest is accepting that the species on our planet are irreplaceable, that once we lose them we will never be able to recover them,” explains Mittermeier, who when he finished his scientific career little did he imagine that he would end up developing her work mainly as a photographer.
“My first husband – Russell Mittermeier – always carried a camera;
we traveled to remote places, with indigenous tribes and orangutan reserves.
Sometimes I would carry the Nikon for him and start taking pictures.
The first time I realized that he had something of a knack for photography was when he exhibited at a museum in Houston.
From the same selection of slides that we gave them under his name, they chose some of mine”, explains Cristina, whose last name she retains and with whom she had three children, John, Michael and Juliana.
A photo taken by Cristina Mittermeier in the depths of East Timor. Cristina Mittermeier
Some photographs that she would never sign with her name, but that also marked her destiny, and that took her back to school to train, after having been a mother.
“Many times the media is not focused on educating us about how our planet works.
It is important that we not only report the problems, but also the solutions, and how each species plays a role.
People are not going to worry unless someone provides them with this information,” explains Mittermeier, who has Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide as a reference.
Now, 25 years after the beginning of his career, and having traveled every ocean, one of his dreams is to return to his country, where he left to marry in 1991 and never lived again, and raise awareness to protect the biosphere in Mexico: “I hope my countrymen feel, like me, that natural resources belong to all of us and not to a bunch of rich families,” he says.
To make this possible, Mittermeier is in contact with Beta Diversidad and other associations in the Gulf of California, such as ORGCAS, which work with fishing communities to support them with training and help them protect the area from overfishing and bad practices that leave the sea without lifetime.
The region has more than 35 different species of cetaceans and dolphins.
“We are going to try to save the vaquita marina, which is the smallest dolphin on the planet, and of those that remain only between six and 10 copies,” explains Mittermeier, who assures that work is already being done to adopt new methods so that they do not die. caught in the nets.
“It is very sad that there are so few, but as long as there is one, there is hope.”
A photo that Cristina has not yet shot and that would undoubtedly portray a happy ending.