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PAUL NICKLEN

“I think humans are capable of great damage, but they’re also capable of great wisdom, and at some point, we need that wisdom to kick into right the wrongs that we’ve committed against nature.»

If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s being cold. As a child growing up in Northern Canada, my family was one of four that were non-Inuit. We had no telephone, no television, no radio. The only thing we had to read was a collection of Jacques Cousteau books. For entertainment, I would go outside and play or be on the land. I didn’t know it at the time, but this comfort with the cold would eventually define my career. I was learning how to be tough, how to survive, and how to freeze. I was learning how to read weather conditions and developing the right side of my brain — the Inuit are very much into visual storytelling; something else that would become the foundation of my career.

During the second year of a four-year biology degree with an emphasis on the marine environment, I saw a poster for a diving class. I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me? Could I really learn to dive?” It was life-changing. Shortly after that, I was in diving classes off the coast of British Columbia, and I was interacting with the animals that had intrigued me as a child. What followed is documented through a photographic career spanning more than three decades and more than twenty National Geographic assignments.

I believe that if you want to live in a perpetual state of awe, the best thing to do is to spend time in nature. Humans are powerful enough as a species to do irreversible damage to our planet, and I want to believe that we are also smart enough to recognize and correct our mistakes.

To be as effective as possible and drive positive change for a planet in crisis, my partner, Cristina Mittermeier, and I co-founded SeaLegacy in 2014. SeaLegacy is a global movement that utilizes the power of visual storytelling and community to drive transformational solutions for healthy and abundant oceans. We harness the power of millions of people around the world through unprecedented visual storytelling in conservation to influence change. SeaLegacy focuses on defending flagship species, protecting the ocean and coastal habitats and communities, supporting sustainable fisheries and eliminating plastic pollution.

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