Photographing the planet’s approximately 12,000 species is no small feat, and it’s taken National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore 13 years to achieve 80 percent of his project’s goal.
“We are a little more than halfway done…nearing the 10,000-species mark” Mr. Sartore told the News-Press.
The project, called the Photo Ark, has documented almost 9,800 species thus far. The remaining species, according to Mr. Sartore, will take a bit more work than the previous ones.
“Because we’ll now have to travel farther and wider to get the remaining species, it’ll take us another 10 to 15 years to complete the National Geographic Photo Ark,” said Mr. Sartore.
When asked how he imagines the final moment — when he clicks the camera on the 12,000th species — will be like, Mr. Sartore told the News-Press, “I haven’t imagined that moment, because we have so much more work ahead of us!”
Part of the work includes educating youth on why exactly he is leading this photo project, which is predicted to take up to or more than a quarter of a century. The main goal is “to document species before they disappear — and to get people to care while there’s still time,” according to Mr. Sartore’s website. The photographer shared this message Monday morning to a Granada Theatre filled with 1,300 local elementary kids participating in UCSB Arts & Lectures’ Arts Adventures outreach program.
To present this message, Mr. Sartore relied on his best-known strength: photography. In his presentation, captivating pictures came on one after another. One photo showed what seemed like a leafy tree, at first glance at least.
Upon further inspection, the students realized that they were not leaves after all.
“You guys know what they are?” Mr. Sartore asked the fascinated students. “They’re not leaves, are they? Butterflies.”
The kids let out giggles at having solved a mystery, and Mr. Sartore brought a point home.
“If we want to save animals like butterflies and bees or anything, any insect, we have to give them habitat,” said Mr. Sartore. “We have to start planting city parks, roadways and our own backyards. It’s that simple, and it’s fun, you guys. And it’s really easy.”
Mr. Sartore’s talk also covered other topics, like the benefits of eating locally-sourced foods and dollar voting, which is a concept taught in basic economic courses in college. Instead of using jargon, Mr. Sartore broke down dollar voting in terms that anybody could understand.
“You don’t have to be a grown up and vote in an election to make a difference,” Mr. Sartore said to his audience, made up of 9- to 11-year-olds. “You’re voting everytime you break out your wallet or your purse. Everytime you pay for something, you are saying to that retailer, ‘I approve of this. Do it again…’”
For those who might be wondering the differences a child could make, Mr. Sartore had an answer.
“You guys certainly have influence over people who go shopping…” said Mr. Sartore. “My kids have influence over me. Make sure your parents buy things that are recyclable and sustainable.”
Mr. Sartore reminded the children that though saving species through everyday actions may not be easy, persistence is key.
“I’m a guy from Nebraska no different than you guys,” said Mr. Sartore. “I’m telling you that any of you could do what I do providing you have some drive, provided you care.”
After Mr. Sartore’s presentation, chatter buzzed among the children. When asked what their favorite parts about the talk was, several students told the News-Press, “the animals!” One child was specific, saying “The chimpanzees! So cute!”