Last month, I attended a National Geographic Live presentation, where the speaker was a fascinating gentleman by the name of Charlie Hamilton James. Charlie is a wildlife photographer who has won several awards and done work all over the world.
One of Charlie’s more recent projects involved photographing the wildlife at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, USA. To do this, Charlie used a different approach than other photographers, and tried to make the audience look at the world (the cast of us in the world) and animals in a different way than most people may observe it today. One such example is when he took photographs of vultures in the Amazon Rain Forest. While most people think of vultures as disgusting and ugly animals, Charlie’s photographs will make you think twice, as vultures are truly incredible creatures.
In addition to his stories about Yellowstone National Park and vultures, Charlie feature presentation was called, “I Bought a Rain Forest”, which was meant to help the audience look at this area of the world in a whole, new way. For example, a lot of people in the developed world criticize people for cutting down the rain forest but they don’t realize why the rain forest is being cut down. Charlie’s presentation showed that the main reason for trees being cut down is to provide money for the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing. People in the developed world don’t realize we are paying the people in the undeveloped world for their natural resources, which in many cases are used to manufacture things we don’t really need…or can use a little less of.
For example, when you take a close look at how the people in these areas are making their money, you realize that a lot of the rain forest is being cut down so people have space for their cattle. Not to ruin a person’s livelihood, but the truth is, that if we ate just a little less meat (and I love a good steak as much as the next guy), a lot of this land could be saved.
Another example I found mind boggling is, that a lot of the trees being cut down are mahogany trees, and the only reason these trees are being cut down is to build caskets for North Americans (mahogany is the number one wood used for casket). As Charlie suggested, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to destroy the rain forest to make coffins…a product that ends up back in the ground.
As much as I care about the environment, I have never considered myself a granola eating tree hugger, and Charlie’s presentation showed me that you don’t have to be one, to still care and do your part to protect this vital area of the world.
Overall, I found Charlie to be fascinating, entertaining and certainly worth listening to, if he is ever in your area. Charlie did indeed buy a rain forest… but to hear that story you are going to have to attend one of his events.
Charlie Hamilton James
National Geographic Live Speaker Series