Individuals aware of the climate and ecological breakdown

Some months ago, OceanCare encouraged me to experiment freely with alternative ways of communicating some of the lessons I learned during my career as a marine conservation biologist. I came up with a set of illustrations featuring “individuals aware of the climate and ecological breakdown”. Through black and white drawings, I aimed to capture the “concerns, emotions and dreams” of imaginary individuals dealing with the looming catastrophe. Each image is supplemented by information and links that may help recognise the challenge facing humanity, and identify some of the possible solutions. The project, called Green New Human, can be viewed here.

As field researcher, I often experience first-hand the damage caused by humans to nature, for instance when it comes to overexploiting our oceans and damaging the marine environment through destructive fishing practices. My usual way of working includes recording large datasets through years of field effort, analysing this information, performing statistical analyses, and publishing scientific papers that report the facts, document the damage and suggest mitigation measures. However, in recent times I have been sensing a growing urgency to reach out to wider audiences. While I am not particularly familiar with communication means other than scientific writing, I have been willing to “take the risk” and try something other than peer-reviewed science.

Unfortunately, when one chooses the climate emergency and ecological catastrophe as a topic, the message can hardly be pleasant, or bring comfort to the viewer. It is in fact one of the most unwelcome messages one can voice, often resulting in the topic being dropped or dismissed. Science-based information and predictions such as those contained in the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change) force us to face a gloomy reality. Coming to terms with such reality may be painful and, for some, it may require the equivalent of a grieving process. Awareness of humanity’s impact on our Planet may lead to legitimate frustration or despair. However, business-as-usual, denial, pessimism and inaction won’t help and those who do not react may become themselves a part of the problem. It would be preferable and wiser if we find ways to overcome, react, and eventually become part of the solution.

Solutions to today’s global problems require primarily system change and, clearly, a new breed of politicians who support such change and are not climate deniers or eco-killers. The solutions also require social change and individual shifts in behaviour. In addition to exercising our rights as voters and influencing change via the democratic process, we can choose to become aware and develop a deeper understanding of the problems. Then we can do something about it on a personal level, each in one’s own way. Finally, we can encourage change in others and push for a transformation in the system—something that is done more effectively by supporting and joining action groups.

Things may be bad, but we can still try to make them better. It is this hopeful vision that prompted me to venture beyond the realm of science, experiment with my pencil and offer my two cents: an illustrated intimate view of the challenge facing our species and life on Earth.

Dr. Giovanni Bearzi

Dr. Giovanni Bearzi

Founder and President of Dolphin Biology and Conservation, Italy