As 2019 comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what opportunities to raise environmental awareness, what may lie ahead in the new year, and where they are picking up from this year. It’s been a wild one!
Since April, I’ve been sitting in front of this 13-inch screen picking away at editing Hidden Corners: Tropical North Queensland, from last winter’s filming excursion in Australia. Life hopped into the fast lane, and the documentary went on the back-burner for some time as environmental work unfolded on the forefront here in Niagara, which I am happy to call home for the holiday season.
With the majority of the film’s creative work done, and some finishing touches to go, reviewing the footage has reminded me of what 2020 needs more of in an environmental context, and how I plan on using my time and resources to make it happen.
There are some upcoming potential filming expeditions I plan to use as a conservation tool.
Jamaica has been on the list as an affordable and convenient candidate spot to film my series, Hidden Corners, over the past couple of years. Its geographical isolation means that Jamaica cooks up a lot of natural wonders typical of islands. Surrounded by water, but large enough to sustain a variety of ecosystems and its own microclimate, there is potential for unique life forms to thrive here.
Because those species have been physically limited to expand their genes to other areas of the planet, the endemism rates are exceptional. This just means that a relatively high percentage of the species here are found nowhere else in the world, which is extraordinary for biodiversity on the global scale. Plus, who isn’t humanly fascinated by something rare, unique, or exclusive?
The following reminders are probably not the holiday Jamaica we think of. It has its own species of boa found on that island and nowhere else on the planet, just slinking its two-metre body silently through the lush vegetation. About a quarter of the country’s plant species are found strictly on this landmass. Regarding my personal favourite group of organisms, reptiles, the Jamaican iguana is not only restricted to the island, but specifically to one type of limestone forest ecosystem in a small pocket of protected land. It is therefore one of the rarest reptiles in the world.
There is the illusive American crocodile, which patrols the saline waters off the Jamaican coast. The creature remains instrumental in regulating the ecosystem, as it has done for millions of years. This is a saltwater machine, built much like its massive close cousin in Australia, the saltwater crocodile (which I was fortunate to film in close quarters for the upcoming documentary, where you can watch one effortlessly smash a coconut open with its jaws in the river).
The biggest high I can chase in life, is the chase of finding a particular species. I crave that meeting, face to face, with an animal that has existed on the third rock for far longer than we have. There is always a story in just trying to make this meeting happen, and it’s super cool to show people why that matters.
This Hidden Corners formula is always productive. By searching for rare or unusual species, you’re often forced to go into their neighbourhood, areas where nature is still the boss and in charge. These are usually wilderness areas or locations that are daunting to access for the determined hominid. Thank goodness for rugged mountains, for if they were more complicit, we would have likely already gotten there and wreaked havoc on these biological refuges, our sincere natural heritage.
Mountains and valleys, as I experienced first hand in Ecuador and Peru, not only shelter populations of plants and animals removed elsewhere, but also independently continue to produce their own new species. It’s almost like evolution itself is sheltered in the hills and deep valleys of the world.
Let’s fly to the other side of the world to another island, considerably bigger than Jamaica, where the wild spaces and animals are on a greater scale. It’s not to say that Sri Lanka is automatically higher ranked as a candidate for a filming project, but it would certainly be different and require a different level or preparedness for safety reasons. I love the rush of that.
This also has my mind wandering and wondering about Borneo or Madagascar perhaps. Both are amidst a conservation crisis, as their superbly high biodiversity is being eliminated or pushed deeper into the mountains of the island. There is an immense opportunity here to highlight this, the global implications, and why the heck our natural world should matter more at the turn of the decade than ever before.
Let’s be resilient, like those island mountains, and not let the environment slip away on us in the new year.
I hope everyone has a safe and eco-friendly Christmas holiday. Thanks for your readership and being a thoughtful part of our community.