On Earth Day, Inspiring The Next Generation Of Eco-Friendly Scientists — CleanTechnica Interview

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One thing keeping clean tech fans up at night these days is whether or not a new generation of scientists, engineers and innovators will study hard and grow up to help solve the world’s environmental crises. Well, Nat Geo TV for one is not leaving it up to chance. To mark Earth Day #50, it is simulcasting a one-hour special on the fight to survive played out by baby animals around the world. After all, what could be more motivating than a baby animal?

Earth Day 50 Born Wild habitat conservation
A mother lion and her cubs walk through the plains of Masai Mara, Kenya (Image credit: National Geographic).

The Wide Appeal Of Baby Animals

Born Wild unspools on Wednesday, April 22, at 8/7c on National Geographic and Nat Geo WILD. Check out the official trailer on YouTube and you can see the appeal to wide audiences.

Plus, it’s hosted by none other than Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, with an assist from Chris Hemsworth. That’s plenty wide, all right.

As Nat Geo TV explains, the show is a “a worldwide celebration of our vibrant planet and the animals that inhabit it,” which aims to “take viewers on a journey to fascinating, breathtaking environments to witness and celebrate the diversity and splendor of charismatic baby animals, their families and habitats.”

If that sounds like eye candy for nature lovers, it is. But, that’s not all it is.

“The one-hour television event presents stories of hope and gives viewers a revealing look at our planet’s next generation of baby animals and their ecosystems, which face daunting environmental changes,” Nat Geo emphasizes.

Did you catch that thing about environmental challenges? Under the current of absolute cuteness flows a message about baby animal survival, and humanity’s role in that survival.

That means doing something about the climate crisis, pollution, and other factors leading to habitat loss — a message that is all the more urgent as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds around the world.

Telling Stories, Solving Problems

Speaking of currents, crises and habitat issues, let’s zero in on the ocean for a minute. Last week CleanTechnica had the opportunity to speak with photojournalist Brian J. Skerry, who contributed his award-winning experience in oceanic exploration to Born Wild.

From the vantage point of someone who has been diving under water since 1977, Skerry has seen the before-and-after impact of ocean pollution first hand, and he had some insights that bear on the transition from nature appreciation to environmental action.

“When I first started making pictures in the ocean I wanted to photograph things that interested me…then I began to see problems that people are not necessarily aware of — less fish, habitat destruction, plastic trash, and evidence of climate change. My stories evolved to focus on conservation,” he explained.

Searching for solutions is a key part of Skerry’s storytelling, and he deployed his perspectives on whale conservation to contribute to Born Wild.

“My focus the Earth Day show was  to look at mother and calf relationships with humpback whales in Hawaii. It’s been a success story. These whales were heavily hunted, and then they stopped killing whales in those waters,” he said. “The message is that conservation works, it’s not too late. We can save so many ecosystems, but we have to take bold action.”

Yes, What About Plastic Pollution…And The Climate Crisis…

Skerry had something to say about ocean plastic pollution, too.

“The plastic problem is enormous and substantial. I didn’t see it in the 1970s, 80s, or even 90s, but now I can’t go anywhere in the world without seeing it. Even in remote islands, six days out by boat, I’m up to my calves in plastic,” he said.

Skerry sees the solution in innovation as much as regulation. One hopeful trend he’s cites is the growing interest of CEOs in cradle-to-grave product design.

Acting on climate change has been a heavy lift, but Skerry draws on his observations of whale culture to detect signs of a major shift in attitude from one generation to the next.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that everything is connected, when you look at any ecosystem, everything is interdependent on something else,” he said. “Everywhere you go in nature, you see that connectivity, and that understanding helps humans frame their place on the planet. We used to see ourselves as apart or above…but we inhabit this planet with other animals that have identity. The message on a broader scale is that many of these animals are more like us than we ever believed, and that’s a bit of a game changer.”

…And The COVID-19 Crisis

That connectivity Skerry speaks of has hit with full force as the world grapples with the COVID-19 crisis. It’s the latest in a string of deadly outbreaks in which a virus has underscored the intimate connection between human health and wildlife, beginning with beginning with  HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.

“[The COVID-19 outbreak] will change the way we see many things, and our relationship to nature is one of them,” said Skerry. “We’re going to see things that none of us have experienced and that very few people alive have ever seen. We don’t know when we’ll emerge and what things will look like on the other side.”

What it comes down to is a matter of making choices about the future, and that circles back around to the basic theme of Born Wild.

“What does the next 50 years look like? it’s totally up to us,” said Skerry. “The decisions we make now will determine our future for the next 50 years.”

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Image Credit: Nat Geo TV.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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