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“The future of our planet and of humanity relies not just in lifting women up, but in giving them the opportunity to lead and to help invent a new economic era… because what’s good for women and girls, is good for Earth.”
When we do this, we change the cycle. We build change. Seeds of change. Winds of change. Oceans of change. Climate change. Catalyst of change. Cristina Mittermeier is an engine of Change.
She is a Sony Artisan of Imagery, National Geographic Woman of Impact, founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers and co-founder of Sea Legacy, an organization combining decades of experience in conservation, photography, and communications, with the latest digital and social technologies, to build a healthy future for our oceans.
Photo Credit: Cristina Mittermeier
She is a woman whose influence has grown beyond her Mexico City roots as a marine biologist, artist, author and global champion for a sustainable earth. Her accomplishments fill an impossibly long list of environmental protections working in over 120 countries, from fisheries, biodiversity and the plight of indigenous peoples around the world to the support and education of young women and girls.
Mittermeier’s success as an activist and her ability to see into the needs of our world comes from a special place. All of her success and the mission that drives her comes from her ability to truly see the world and people as they are. Her provocative, insightful images come from a much deeper place when you understand Mittermeier’s focus behind the camera:
“There are some who believe that when you photograph a person, you capture an image of their soul. When photographing people, I have always focused on creating a photo that captures their essence as a human. My profound love for taking portraits is because they have such a deep narrative- a lifetime of stories within a single image.” ~ Cristina Mittermeier talks about “Lady With the Goose.”
“Lady With the Goose” was featured on the cover of FREEDOM | Vol. 05
For International Women’s Day, German automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz chose Mittermeier as a central figure in their global initiative, She’s Mercedes. She’s Mercedes recognizes her ability to “inspire, connect and empower women in creating a dialogue that transcends cultures, industries and experience.” In doing so, Mittermeier’s conservation and photography honors the company’s storied traditions established, in part, by one of its pioneering founders, Bertha Benz.
Mercedes-Benz was founded on a dream to utilize technology in a way that would enhance the lives of people and the overall progress of humanity. As the wife of Karl Benz, Bertha was instrumental in supporting his vision of an engine-powered vehicle. But it was Bertha’s insistence that he use her dowry before the couple was married to save the fledgling company as it struggled financially, in the early stages. Further to this, she also suggested technical enhancements such as adding wire insulation and leather brake pads, during the initial creation of this new “horseless carriage.”
Photo Credits: Anna Heupel for Mercedes-Benz
In fact, Bertha Benz was so committed to advancing progress as quickly as possible that she secretly took the first long-distance journey in the company’s inaugural motor car, traveling 105 km (65 miles) with her two teenage sons. Karl had no idea and during the rigorous drive, Bertha solved technical issues and proved to doubters that his 1888 invention was safe and reliable.
The confluence between Benz’s work and Mittermeier’s is obvious, more than one hundred years later. Mittermeier uses her camera, embarking on her own long-distance journeys to document the plight of our oceans and the effects of unsustainable living habits on our planet. As a trailblazing spokesperson for the damaging effects of climate change, it’s inspiring to see her recognized and supported by the very company that Bertha Benz helped establish.
Who would have thought that the connection between these two heroic women would run so deep? Benz ushered in mobility and progress, while Mittermeier advocates for cleaner technologies and progress away from petroleum-powered vehicles. This bold move by Mercedes-Benz recognizes Mittermeier’s influence as an advocate and spokesperson for the damaging effects of climate change. Mittermeier’s collaboration with the very company that Benz helped to establish speaks to the role that every company should play in combating the devastating effects of the petroleum industry.
Photo Credit: Anna Heupel for Mercedes-Benz
By the year 2022, the mission of Mercedes-Benz is carbon neutral production in all European plants (and worldwide by 2039) through renewable energy sources, such as wind power and other clean forms of energy. Once again, the automobile giant will need technological ingenuity and financial investments to change production methods, renovate factories, overhaul supply chains and develop new models of electric vehicles; all this while reducing production of the combustion engine within the next 20 years.
By promoting the use of hybrid-gas and electric powered cars, Cristina Mittermeier is driving change into the future. The theme for She’s Mercedes is Change Your Mindset. And that is what Mercedes-Benz has done. They have changed their mission and business model in accordance with their values.
“We have set a clear course to help prevent further acceleration of climate change,” the auto maker said in a statement, adding that the Paris climate accord is “more than an obligation — it’s our conviction.”By using art as a tool, Mittermeier exposes the truths about the effects of climate change, our oceans, and the lifeblood of our existence. The oceans are under siege and not indestructible. They are the healing source of life and regulator of our climate. Oceans provide food and medicines for over seven billion people, yet they have become a holding tank for over 8 million metric tons of plastic – used once, and discarded. The implications of discarding a plastic water bottle or a single straw can no longer be ignored.
The extent of our negligent behavior can be seen, as Mittermeier suggests, as far as the polar regions and the coldest places on Earth. Antarctica is not immune to the immense threat of climate change. In addition, large commercial fisheries exploit foundation species, like a small crustacean called krill, a staple in the diet of whales, penguins and seals, and whose population dynamics are barely understood. A growing tourism destination, increasing pressure is put on fragile landscapes of the southern regions.
As consumer awareness about the harmful effects of gas emissions and the production industry that supports gas powered vehicle manufacturing, it is up to all of us to change the way we travel in the present and into the future. Our freedom to easily navigate our lives and explore our earth must acknowledge the footprint on our environment and the species that inhabits it.
“This year marks Antarctica’s 200th anniversary since it was first discovered and, unfortunately, it’s also the year where the highest temperatures in the ice continent’s history were recorded. This past February, temperatures soared to 20.75°C (69.3°F), alarming scientists and conservationists across the globe. World leaders are joining together to consider the establishment of three major MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) that would span across East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Weddell Sea.
This would protect almost 1% of the ocean globally and approximately 4 million square kilometers. This is our chance to protect ecosystems to provide climate stability and to mitigate the effects of global warming on future generations. Think about that! At our fingertips is the creation of the greatest act of ocean conservation in the history of humanity, and it can all happen in a pandemic year!”
Photo Credit: Anna Heupel for Mercedes-Benz
Photo Credits: Cristina Mittermeier
Mittermeier reminds us that 90% of the fish have disappeared from the oceans so every protection counts. “When I take stock of the challenges facing humanity and planet Earth, I cannot help but wonder, how can we aspire to solve massive global existential threats like climate change and inequality when half of our planet’s population is disenfranchised participate in the solutions?”
Women make up slightly more than half the global population. If we are serious about engaging every sentinel to save our great earth, we must ensure women have the opportunity to change the trajectory and find solutions.
by Arica Hilton
This article was published in the October 2020 issue of WomanScape Magazine. Please support the extraordinary work that WomanScape does in supporting, empowering and inspiring women and girls. And a debt of gratitude goes out to Mercedes-Benz and She's Mercedes for their support and efforts in working towards a healthier and safer environment for us all.
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