VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Stay on Earth and eventually be doomed by some extinction event [such as a massive meteor impact like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs], or become a space-bearing civilization and multi-planetary species, starting perhaps with a self-sustaining city on Mars within this century? That’s the proposition by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a commentary published today in the journal New Space.
Should we be going to Mars, the moon and other places beyond Earth when we are not able to properly explore and take care of our home planet? Is the huge money being spent on extraterrestrial exploration the best investment we can make when we still haven’t seen, let alone, mapped most of the ocean floor?
These fundamental questions were at the heart of an hour-long debate at today’s National Geographic Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C.
What do two Critically Endangered enigmatic animals — a majestic wading bird in Africa and an adorable monkey with a shock of white hair in South America — have in common at the National Geographic Explorers Festival? They each have a remarkable champion advocating and working for their survival who have been recognized with the 2017 National Geographic Buffet Award.
Want to get the secret sauce for effective communication of science? Three of National Geographic’s most famous explorers shared their advice and experience at the National Geographic Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C. today.
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala is concerned that the recently announced U.S. Department of the Interior review of Papahanaumokuakea and four other marine monuments may be the first major setback for Pristine Seas, a National Geographic project launched in 2008 to explore and help save the last wild places in the ocean.
“This is a true land grab, a few companies trying to exploit something that belongs to all Americans and humanity,” said at the National Geographic Society Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C. today.
Six months into his new position as National Geographic chief scientist, Jonathan Baillie, the former conservation programmes director of the Zoological Society of London, outlined his “scientific vision” for how the National Geographic Society would work to help create a a planet that’s going to provide for 9 billion people — and all forms of other life. “How do we do this with 9 billion people on the planet? This is the great challenge we all face. National Geographic now needs to think about its unique role helping us face this challenge,” Baillie told hundreds of National Geographic explorers and staff gathered at the Society’s headquarters for this week’s Explorers Festival.
“This is truly National Geographic’s moment, because as Neil deGrasse Tyson says, the great thing about science is that it’s true, whether you believe it or not,” National Geographic Society President and CEO Gary E. Knell said at the opening of the Explorers Festival (#NatGeoFest) at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. today.
Knell told hundreds of National Geographic explorers and staff that the Society had been through a major transition that transformed the organization, “a transformation that better positioned National Geographic to address the multiple challenges facings its future, but more importantly, facing our planet. We figured out a way to support your critical work in a more direct way and tackle those issues by connecting and integrating our multimedia platforms. And today the content that we are generating, the stories we’re telling, the grants we’re making, the actions we’re taking are more needed and important than ever before.”
New analysis of previous studies shows that biomass of whole fish assemblages in marine reserves is, on average, 670 percent greater than in adjacent unprotected areas, and 343 percent greater than in 15 partially-protected marine protected areas (MPAs), according to an essay published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science. Marine reserves also help restore the complexity of ecosystems through a chain of ecological effects (trophic cascades) once the abundance of large animals recovers sufficiently, say the authors, Enric Sala, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, and Sylvaine Giakoumi, Universite Cote d’Azur, in their opinion essay Food for Thought: No-take marine reserves are the most effective protected areas in the ocean.
There are significant additional benefits from a rigorous protection of portions of the ocean. “Marine reserves may not be immune to the effects of climate change, but to date, reserves with complex ecosystems are more resilient than unprotected areas. Although marine reserves were conceived to protect ecosystems within their boundaries, they have also been shown to enhance local fisheries and create jobs and new incomes through ecotourism,” Sala and Giakoumi say in their essay.
Science photographer Anand Varma works to tell the story behind the science of everything from primate behavior and hummingbird biomechanics to amphibian disease and forest ecology. For his groundbreaking photography to communicate complex science in compelling ways, he has been named one of 14 Class of 2017 National Geographic Emerging Explorers, a uniquely gifted group of inspiring scientists, conservationists, storytellers and innovators who are changing the world.
Dentist and conservationist Hotlin Ompusunggu combines conservation and healthcare through community-based projects, with a mission to break the cycle between poverty and illegal logging in Indonesia. Her innovative approach is having an impact, for the better, on both people and the natural world, which is why she has been recognized as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.
Hotlin is the Co-Founder of Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), a nongovernmental organization in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. ASRI improves conservation and health outcomes through healthcare and community-based projects.
Her passion lies at the intersection of human and environmental health. She believes that “not only can we have healthy people and a healthy environment, but the two are fundamentally interlinked. We cannot separate one from the other.” Hotlin is hopeful that the success of ASRI can serve as a model to other endangered communities and environments worldwide.
Mateus Mutemba, the Warden of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, has been selected as one of National Geographic’s Class of 2017 Emerging Explorers. A spectacular 4,000-square-kilometer (1,500-square-miles, slightly larger than Rhode Island) national park in southeast Africa, Gorongosa is located in central Mozambique’s Sofala Province. Historically, its unique bio-geographical features supported some of the densest wildlife populations in Africa. Leading conservationists, including Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson, scientific advisor to the park, consider Gorongosa to be the greatest restoration success in Africa — and now one of the most biodiversity-rich protected areas in the world.
Joe Grabowski, from Canada, is an educator and scuba diver working to bring science, exploration, adventure and conservation into classrooms across North America through virtual speakers and field trips. Grabowski is using technology to open the most remote corners of the planet to classrooms.
Native to rivers and lakes in the Amazon and Orinoco river systems in South America, the yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, and is therefore assessed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lists the species as Endangered wherever found, in terms of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
National Geographic Photo Ark animals “takeover” of New York’s Times Square and other major U.S. cities today, Endangered Species Day, marks the launch of the #SaveTogether campaign aimed at saving species.
For many species, time is running out. “That’s why on Endangered Species Day, the National Geographic Society and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the national trade association for the out of home (OOH) advertising industry, launched a groundbreaking OOH campaign aimed at saving species at risk in the wild, NGS and OAAA say in a news release about the campaign. The key message is: “See what we can #SaveTogether before it’s too late.”
To support that campaign on Endangered Species Day, National Geographic Voices is featuring a selection of photographs from National Geographic Photo Ark, complementing the images that will “take over” Times Square and other venues.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, a few enchanting moments captured by National Geographic Photo Ark photographer Joel Sartore of mothers and their babies.