Conservation in pop culture: an elephant film, a ‘climate-friendly’ cookbook and more

© Art Wolfe/ www.artwolfe.com

Conservation is everywhere in pop culture — even if we don’t always recognize it as such. In an occasional series, we review shows, podcasts and more that bring nature to life for you.

A nature documentary that captures the value of family (even for elephants) 

Across the vast grasslands of Kenya roams the world’s largest land mammal: the African elephant. In the new documentary “The Elephant Queen,” viewers follow an African elephant matriarch named Athena as she guides her herd through the savanna to find a new watering hole during the dry season. 

Released by Apple TV+ — the technology company’s new streaming service — “The Elephant Queen” virtually transports viewers into the elephants’ world, capturing each of their unique personalities.

While watching the film, people will find themselves comparing baby elephant “Wewe” to an annoying — but endearing — younger sibling, or mourning with the entire herd as they stumble upon a fallen comrade’s skull. During their treacherous journey, this elephant family faces food and water shortages caused by a changing climate, but even severe droughts are no match for their fearless matriarch as she leads them to safety. 

Viewers will also get to meet other characters in the Kenyan savanna — from pugnacious dung beetles to a confused goose named Steven.  

An added bonus: While you’re watching this elephant herd, you are actually helping to protect their entire species. In a partnership with Conservation International, Apple will make a donation for each view of the "The Elephant Queen" that will support elephant conservation efforts in the Kenyan savanna. 

A new (online) cookbook takes the mystery out of 'climate-friendly' food 

We’ve all seen the headlines and reports: Climate change is here, and it is humanity’s fault

It’s easy to get bogged down by this endless stream of bad news, sucked into an abyss of guilt and helplessness. Yet, as an individual, your decisions can make a difference for the environment. One place to start is by changing your diet.

In a collaboration between The New York Times’ food and climate desks, the “Climate-Friendly Cooking” series offers a range of adventurous and sustainable recipes to minimize the impact of your meals on the environment. 

Let’s admit it: Changing your diet is easier said than done, but this online cookbook gives alternatives to classic meals that you will actually want to eat. 

If you’re in the mood for seafood, try the baked cod with crunchy miso-butter breadcrumbs. Thinking Japanese? Try the kimchi rice porridge. 

“Takeout-style sesame noodles” is a quick and healthy dish that can help you make the sustainable switch from expensive, carbon-emitting delivery (avoiding takeout food can help reduce plastic pollution in the environment, too!).

A podcast that investigates how science shaped the way we live now 

Sometimes, the best way to prepare for the future is to learn from the past — and science is no exception. 

The “Science History Podcast” revisits critical moments in history that have helped shape science in the present day. This monthly podcast explores topics that you didn’t even know you wanted to learn about (what is plant warfare, exactly?). 

In the most recent episode, the show’s host, ecotoxicologist Frank Von Hippel, interviews Ian Harrison, Conservation International’s director of freshwater science and policy. During the one-hour episode, Harrison discusses the rapid decline of freshwater ecosystems — and what it is going to take to save them. 

“We’ve forced ourselves into this point where we have to be thinking more practically about water use and needs because it is becoming such a restricted resource,” Harrison says in the episode.  

One of the many ways to protect freshwater ecosystems, Harrison suggests, is by encouraging people to conserve the “charismatic” species that depend on them. By protecting the habitat of  “lovable” species such as pink river dolphins, people will also indirectly conserve other important (but perhaps less attractive) species, such as trout. 

  • Only have a minute? Listen to Conservation International Chief Scientist Johan Rockström (briefly) describe an innovative way to reduce climate-warming emissions.

A photo collection that is changing the way we talk about climate change

A child huddled atop a car, seeking refuge from the deluge that plagued her house after a tidal wave. 

A farmer clinging to the dry remains of his once-healthy soil after a severe drought. 

A firefighter shrouded in ash and smoke as bushfires blaze through Australia. 

These are a few of the photographs from the vault of the “Climate Visuals” photography project, which tells the stories of people across the world that are struggling to adapt to the destructive impacts of climate change. 

Created by Climate Outreach, Europe’s foremost climate communication organization, this compelling photo gallery captures the human toll of the climate crisis through the frown lines etched on an impacted individual’s face — or the angry spark in a climate protesters’ eyes.

These images were not chosen at random. 

In 2016, Climate Outreach conducted a massive social survey in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Germany to determine which types of photos are most engaging to an everyday audience, finding that people relate most to candid climate scenarios in local communities.  

With more than 600 images, the Climate Visual library is pushing climate communication in a new direction. Rather than only showing polar bears on melting ice caps, this project illustrates what will happen to humanity if our behavior does not change. In the fight to stop climate breakdown, a picture can be worth a thousand words. 

 

Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A lone tree in the Masai Mara National Park, Kenya(© Art Wolfe/www.artwolfe.com)


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