Written by iLCP staff member Betsy Painter with images from iLCP Fellows.
So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters, and poets, and plays… here’s to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem. –La La Land
Films and visual imagery capture imaginations and dare us to envision a better future. La La Land dazzled our hearts last December with whimsical, up-beat tunes strung with a message of foolish hope against great odds. When Emma Stone’s character performs her vulnerable, breathtaking audition song, “The Fools Who Dream,” her passion stemming from the depths of her own story makes us feel what she is feeling and believe in her dream. We root for her completely. We empathize.
In my work with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), I get to share the incredible, encouraging stories of our Fellows who live around the world, brave enough to believe we can make a difference for the planet we call home and work together for a greater future. They dare to dream.
When I learn about their various projects through the compelling images and words they share with me, like working with rangers on the frontline of the war against poaching or telling the stories of hidden natural worlds teaming with biodiverisity necessary for life and worthy of protection, I witness their passion firsthand and I dream their dreams of a sustainable future where nature and people thrive together.
Every year we host an event called WildSpeak, and our Fellows come from their professional photography spots around the globe and present on a myriad of key environmental topics of our time. In just a couple weeks, November 14 and 15, some of the world’s leading nature and wildlife photographers, filmmakers, scientists, and conservation organizations will gather together in our nation’s capital at WildSpeak.
WildSpeak comes at a time of major shifts, in policy and in the environmental landscape, when foundations of historical, hard-fought wins in conservation feel like they are shaking and cracking causing opinions to rage and range. As the emotional stakes are high, it is crucial that we remain level-headed and command our minds by staying informed and discover solutions and ways to push our shared conservation goals forward.
Many of us have experienced discouragement recently. The issues we care so deeply for seem to be pushed aside, and natural disasters are devastating and alarming. It’s time to collaborate with brilliance. We need the dreamers, the scientists, the policy-makers and people from every corner of the stage of this dramatic dance called conservation. We all have a part in this play.
This year, keynote presenter, Daniel Beltrá, will tell the story of human impact on the earth’s changing climate in his talk “Seeing Above Climate Change.” Jüergen Freund, another keynote, will highlight the paramount issue of ocean conservation through underwater stills that capture the essence of our marine ecosystems, their beauty and irreplaceable importance to life.
We will explore the topic of empathy with nature through the lens of photography and film as a means to inspire compassion in conservation. Another timely discussion will revolve around public lands and how we can continue to support the protection of our natural heritage, at a time when the progression and victories in environmental public policy are under review.
Russian photographer Igor Shpilenok will be presenting on his four-year survey of Russia’s national parks, which are celebrating their centennial this year. Igor says, “I wish to convey the beauty and fragility of wild nature in Russia’s protected areas and evoke in people the desire to conserve those areas.”
Along with their informative and fascinating images, the words our speakers share, like Igor’s above, about the conservation actions they behold and take part in are poetic and motivating because they stem from real gut feelings and from hearts that have been touched by the reality of challenging environmental situations. Yet they don’t stop there, but dig deep to share far and wide. That’s why we WildSpeak.
We need our hearts alive and connected to our minds open to new ideas and information. So we are bringing together the experts, the passionate, the teachers and the poets whose voice will speak into the chaos of the moment with hope, informed opinion, and ways forward. The dreamers, the visionaries and bold speakers will cut at cynicism and meet reality without fear of the future, but inspired and ready to do something grand with it. Will you join us? As Emma Stone’s character sings, “A bit of madness is key to give us new colors to see. Who knows where it will lead us? And that’s why they need us.”
Thanks to our lead sponsor Nikon, celebrating their centennial.