Monday, August 30, 2010

Great Bear Rainforest Profile: Cristina Mittermeier

Between now and September 14, the iLCP, a group of internationally renowned photographers, are taking part in a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests, and stunning marine biodiversity, it is one of the planet's most priceless treasures, but overseas oil interests wanting access to western Canada's tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have put the region in threat, prompting the action of conservation groups and the iLCP. Throughout the expedition we'll be bringing you profiles, stories, statistics and photos to learn more about the region and why it's so crucial that we all work to protect it. Please follow along on the iLCP blog, on Facebook and Twitter.

Armed with a background in marine biology, Cristina Mittermeier turned her focus to images — realizing they were a better tool to tell the story of humans and nature. At the heart of her work, Cristina amplifies the idea that people and nature are not isolated from each other, but are inexorably connected. In 2005, Cristina founded the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) — a prestigious team of photographers who believe that awe-inspiring photography is a powerful force for the environment.

Focusing on the relationship between nature’s most spectacular and endangered wildlife and Earth’s vanishing traditional human cultures, Cristina and iLCP aim to replace environmental indifference with a new culture of stewardship and passion for our beautiful planet.

Cristina is currently on the ground in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest to tell the story of this threatened ecosystem through images. We caught up with Cristina and asked her a few questions...

Why is it important to save the Great Bear Rainforest? What’s at stake?

Number one the livelihoods of the people, most of them First Nations, and the fragile ecosystems of the northern shore of BC.
How far did you travel to come and shed light on this important issue?
I’m living in DC but originally from Mexico.
Why do you personally care about the Great Bear Rainforest? And have you ever been before?
Because I am deeply offended by the lack of respect for the First Nations who have lived here for thousands of years and whose voices of opposition are not being heard.
Yes, I have been here before, I came here to spend time with the Gitga'at Nation at their spring fishing camp and to scout the area for the RAVE.
What do you think the power behind a RAVE is?
Empowering our conservation partners with the highest quality imagery not only helps to bear witness but it helps build constituencies around these issues. In the case of the RAVE because we have international photographers these constituencies are usually international as well.
How do you tell a story via your photos?
I like to delve into the human aspect of stories like this. I'm interested in using images to connect the dots between cause and consequence.
What is your assignment on the GBR RAVE?
I'm going to be embedded with the Gitga’at First Nations. Documenting their absolute reliance on natural resources for survival and their deep ties and tradition surrounding their relationship with the coastal resources.
What is the ultimate desired outcome?
We would like to see the government of Canada rethink it’s strategies surrounding oil development in particular in the tar sands and perhaps look at the fate of other petrol states such as Venesuela and Iraq.

By bringing international photographers we are trying to help Canada realize the way the rest of the world is looking at this situation.

Cristina Mittermeier, iLCP President and photographer speaks for the Great Bear Rainforest from iLCP on Vimeo.

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