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149: Jared Lipworth's 'Wild Hope': From Jane Goodall to Global Indigenous Stories

Guest Name(s): Jared Lipworth

Jared Lipworth of Tangled Bank Studios talks with Matt Matern about his environmental storytelling passion, shaped by early media exposure. He explains the studio’s goal to inspire action through the “Wild Hope” series, emphasizing biodiversity and local conservation successes. Lipworth addresses the ecological impacts of krill farming on whales and the effectiveness of the Billion Oyster Project in New York through water filtration demonstrations.

Jared underscores the importance of community involvement, supporting diverse filmmakers, and the need for sustainable environmental planning. He highlights storytelling’s role in raising awareness and commitment to environmental stewardship, stressing biodiversity and ecosystem interconnectedness.

Wild Hope >>

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HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, established in 2012 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, serves as a pivotal extension of its mission to promote science education and support life science research, making it the largest private nonprofit advocate in this field in the U.S. Renowned for its contribution to science, with over 30 of its scientists receiving Nobel Prizes, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios leverages its close ties to the scientific community to highlight crucial scientific and societal issues and advancements through filmmaking…
When it comes to the environment, the standard fare these days is a barrage of doom and despair. Enter WILD HOPE, a new series that crisscrosses the globe to spotlight the changemakers who are restoring and protecting the natural world. The people and stories in WILD HOPE reveal how saving biodiversity begins in our own backyards. There is no need—and no time—to wait for global accords. These mavericks are forging unexpected alliances, making bold interventions, and relying on local expertise to pull our planet back from the brink…
149: Jared Lipworth's 'Wild Hope': Stories of Conservation and Change

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got a great guest on the program. today, Jared Lipworth. Jared’s the head of Tangled Bank Studios whose mission it is to emphasize the power of storytelling to inspire interest in science and nature.

Jared used to be the vice president National Geographic studios where he produced films from a National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo, while PBS and Nova, one of them being Jane, a documentary about Jane Goodall, which is pretty amazing. And before that, Jared was at WNET in New York City and produced a lot of great programming there. Jared, welcome to the program.

Thanks so much. Great to be here.

Well, tell us a little bit I always like to get the background of what brought you to this space. You know, in particular, the environmental storytelling?

Yeah, well, I think I can, I can kind of blame two things. For this. It’s one was as a kid, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, I used to watch that religiously and National Geographic World Magazine, which was a kid’s magazine back when I was a kid. So between those two, I think those solidified my interest in Nature and Science. I’m originally from South Africa.

And I’ve been lucky enough to spend a good amount of time out in, in the wild in various game parks in Africa, and also just out in the wilderness here in the US. And I think that combination led me to always want to be doing something around science, something around nature and have managed to steer my career in that direction for for most of it. Oh,

it’s fascinating, that you start off with a Mutual of Omaha, certainly, I remember that as a kid. And I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the new hosts, Dr. Ray Wynn, who was amazing. And, you know, it’s blast from the past I didn’t even know this show was going until we did the interview was amazing. So I’m also curious as to did they play the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom in South Africa?

Well, I moved when I was young, we moved to New York when I was five. So it wasn’t as much as growing up there as going back a lot to visit family, and spending whatever, whenever I had an opportunity to travel, I quite often went to Africa and have spent some time in other countries as well. So yeah, there’s just you know, the wilderness there kind of touches you it gets under your skin. And once you’ve seen it, you want to get back as much as possible.

Well, that is, well, it’s, it’s great that you’ve aligned your, your professional life with with what you care about and passionate about. So then, where did you where did that take you? As a kid? You had the interest? And then where did you go from there?

Yeah, I you know, I’ve always had the interest in science, I was always interested in it as a, you know, as a member of the general public, I was never, I never really thought I would pursue a career in science. But I love the scientific approach to understanding the world I got into got into journalism actually got my masters in broadcast journalism.

At that point, I really knew that I wanted to be focusing on science and on natural history. But I really fell in love with it at WNET. That’s where I started, I was my first job in television. And got to quickly understand the power of storytelling there, we ran a series called Secrets Of The Dead, which was using forensic archaeology to explore mysteries of the past.

And I had never been much of a history buff, you know, as a student, but when you start to dig into these really intimate stories that tell you about a time tell you about a place, it kind of changes the way you think about history. So for me, I fell in love with that series, I fell in love with those stories and realize that if you tell a good story, you can actually get a lot of information in there for people.

And so the medium kind of grew on me, from WNET. And then when I moved to National Geographic, that was more of a shift specifically into, you know, more science oriented and nature and conservation oriented programming.

So how do you see that kind of dovetailing with the movement to educate people about climate change and, and how our planet is changing?

Yeah, I think it’s integral. I think the need for good storytelling is so key, particularly when it comes to conservation when it comes to climate change. There’s so much doom and gloom out there and rightfully so. It’s a pretty scary world we live in but I also think it’s really important to give people hope and to get to show people that actually there are things that can be done. There are people who are doing them.

There are stories of success out there, because I think that’s the, that’s the motivator to get people to make change in their own lives in their own worlds. So for us, we we tend to a tangled bank, we tend to take a very positive approach, we look for the stories that are going to inspire people that are going to give people that hope. And we try to find the intimate ways to tell those stories. So one of the differentiators, we have a series out right now called “Wild Hope,” which is stories of conservation successes from around the world.

When we were setting out to develop that series, we actually made a pretty significant distinction in the kinds of stories we were going to tell in that we set this up as a biodiversity series, not a climate change series. Now, it’s not to say that climate change isn’t a big part of many of these stories. But the way we were looking at it is that, you know, climate change is global. Therefore solutions, for the most part need to be global.

Biodiversity loss tends to be local, driven by lots of different things, including climate change, but because the biodiversity loss happens locally, you can also see local solutions working. And so that was the that was the the approach we took to the series Wild Hope. And what that then allowed us to do is to go all over the world, but in each place, tell a story about work that fits the place and the problem where they are, as an example of what people can do and what people are doing.

So, you know, it comes down to I think it comes down to characters, it comes down to people that you can recognize as not all that dissimilar from yourself who are making a difference.

Well, I think as you’re talking, I’m thinking about how the unifying power of you know, National Geographic and that type of platform and that basically, I have never met anybody who said, Oh, I hate that National Geographic Channel or whatever.

I mean, it’s like everybody kind of loves it. And, you know, some may be a bit more than others, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t divide people. It’s very unifying. And I think that’s a beautiful kind of way to, to bring people together is say, hey, we all we all love these stories. We all love these animals. This is this is something that we can all get behind.

Yeah, I think so. Although I would, you know, I would say I always joke that if I feel like I’ve made the perfect show if I can reach the EMS audience and the Cabela’s audience, you know, so I do think there are some differentiators, I think, everybody, there’s huge numbers of people who love the environment, love the planet love nature, but come at it from different ways.

So, you know, I think that’s important to to not only be singing to the choir, you know, we want to actually expand who we’re reaching, find stories that are going to appeal to people who we may not think of as necessarily the kinds of conservationists that we generally see a couple of examples of that from from Wild Hope we had an episode in the first season, called woodpecker wars, that told the story of how a US military base in North Carolina was actually taking better care of a very rare woodpecker species than the biologists who are trying to save it.

And they eventually started out at odds with each other and eventually actually came together. Because they recognize that what the military was doing by chance on their live firing range was actually creating the perfect habitat for these for these woodpeckers. And then you had local farmers in the area who, in earlier days had been cutting down trees, because they were afraid they would find these, this this protected woodpecker and then have to do certain things on their land, we’re now starting to embrace the woodpecker and realizing that actually, it’s benefiting them then and the woodpecker to protect those forests and those lands.

So I think we look for unexpected alliances, I would say is one of the you know, one of the kinds of stories we look at, we’ve got another one coming out later on this year about hunters who are working to change the ammunition that hunters are using from lead bullets to copper bullets, because the lead bullets are actually poisoning the raptors and the Eagles and some of the other predatory birds that eat on the remains of of animals that the hunters have shot.

So that film starts out with hunters. It’s about hunters, but it’s also a conservation success success story. So you know, we want to try to make sure that we’re not taking too narrow a focus on who our audiences and what you know, what kind of stories that we think will appeal to them.

Well, I think that’s, that’s brilliant and I, you know, we could all do more of that to draw in a larger audience because everybody is affected by this. And to the extent that we kind of, maybe take this holier than thou approach it doesn’t draw people in.

And so I applaud you for trying to expand the scope of the playing field. So that so there again, because I think that generally speaking, things like National Geographic type stories do cut across pretty much all boundaries and and nobody kind of sees them as political, or at least nobody I’ve heard of.

Yeah, and the other thing, you know, a tangled bank, the other thing we try to do is, make sure that our stories are based in really strong science as well. So a lot of research being done to make sure that, you know, a lot of the stories that we tell are data driven, or science driven.

And we want to show scientific process, we want to show how scientists do their work as well, which is, again, another way of helping open people’s eyes to the way discoveries are made and how those discoveries can then have a huge impact on our world.

Yeah, and it’s always easier to kind of be taught when you’re being taught in in an entertaining way, I think for kids and adults is when you make it interesting. You tell a great story, you engage people and then they want to learn versus making it dry as toast. It’s harder to engage the audience certainly to broaden the audience.

So you’re listening to A Climate Changes with Matt Matern. And and I’ve got Jared Lipworth, head of Tangled Bank Studios on the program, and we’ll be back in just one minute.

You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. I’ve got Jared Lipworth, head of Tangled Bank Studios on the program. And Jared, were just talking about the power of storytelling to engage people and draw people in to educate them about issues and science and tell us how tank Tangled Bank Studios is is doing that and approaching that in the work that you’re up to.

Yeah, I think it’s always about being character driven. Nobody at the end of a long day of work or school or anything else is going to sit down, or very few people are going to sit down, wanting to be educated. Particularly when it comes to documentaries, when it comes to science and nature, what they are really excited about and get excited about is being told a good story.

So if you can find that approach, if you can, if you can ground your story in good characters, characters that the audience can identify with. That’s when you can get a lot of information in there. And I think, you know, one of our most recent films, is an IMAX film called Blue Whales Return of the giants that’s currently making its way around science centers around the world. And I think that was a great example that was a story about Blue Whales. There’s a lot of information in it.

But the the film followed two different expeditions one in the Seychelles, where they were trying to find blue whales for the first time in 50 years, because all the blue whales in that area had been wiped out by whaling. And then a separate expedition in the Gulf of California where a scientist named Dan Gendron had been studying Blue Whales there every single year for 30 years. And the whales come in at a certain time of year. And she’s gotten to know individuals, she can identify more than make her databases over 800 whales that she can identify by sight.

And the two, the juxtaposition of those two stories worked out really well because one was exploratory. And we didn’t know it was science. As it happens out in the field, we didn’t know if they were going to find these whales, we didn’t know if they were going to be able to tag the whales if they did find them.

But this was something that if they did find them, it would change our understanding of the recovery of the whales. You juxtapose that with Diane and her work where she knows she’s gonna see the whales. Her approach is a very different type of fieldwork. She is out there studying the whales day after day after day, spending hours and hours observing them. And it’s just another way that science happens in the field.

So to be able to show that process to be able to show people who’ve dedicated their lives to understanding these species in a new way, to me then sets the stage for being able to provide a lot of great information about the whale, about the whales about the way science works and all that. So, again, it comes down to the good story. You’ve got great images that people haven’t seen before, and you find a way to connect it to them, even if it’s something as exotic as the blue whale that most people will never be fortunate enough to see in real life.

Well, I happen to have a blue whale story and it was going from, you know, la to Catalina Island, I was taking a helicopter ride over there. And there was a mother and baby blue whale in the channel there. And the helicopter pilots that oh my god, you know, I’ve flown this route like 5000 times, and I’ve seen this maybe five times. And so we kind of circled around, and it was pretty spectacular to see.

Well, my director was not very happy with me, because he was out there for weeks and weeks, weeks, he’s been out there multiple times over multiple years. And then I came down for like three days. And we saw everything in those three days. And on one hand, they thought I was a good luck charm. On the other hand, they were not thrilled that I made it. I thought it was all very easy, because everything’s right there. So yeah, you get lucky sometimes.

We were also you know, part of part of the story in the film was trying to, to find a mom and calf because Diane, the scientist hadn’t seen one in a couple of years. And so that became one of the one of the search points for the film as well. But they’re, they’re amazing creatures. One of the things we wrestled with early, you know, throughout the whole making of the film was how do you? How do you really get people to understand how big these animals are.

And I’ve now been lucky enough to see them in the wild, I still don’t really have a handle on it, when you see them in the water unless there’s something next to them to give that perspective. So we wrestled with a lot of different ways within the film as to how we describe it, what you compare it to, we also did, we created an AR app that lets you play around with the size and actually see a blue whale in your own environment life size, so that people have that, that understanding.

And then we did. So we did a lot of outreach around the films. And we worked with libraries around the country and with science centers, and one of the things we created was a life size blue whale tail. That rolls out like a floor mat. And basically, we give it to the libraries, they can lay it out there on the floor, you can the kids can see how many people can fit on a blue whale tail.

And it was just a way of finding those ways to really connect with people and and you know, get beyond the wow, that’s big to wow, that now I understand how big that creature actually is. So it’s fun to get creative, both within the film and then in the outreach that we do, which is an important part of our mission to find those connection points.

Yeah, well, a shout out to the California Science Center, which is playing your blue whales movie.

Is it doing it? I met I mean, IMAX there, they have a big screen, I think yeah, they were a partner of ours in the development of the of the of the film, which also had funding from the National Science Foundation.

So we actually premiered the film there, and it is still showing they’re on their 3d IMAX screen. And they created some amazing materials around it as well that they use with the school groups that are coming through through who see the film and then want to dive in a little deeper. In fact, we were just I got back late last night we’re down in Laredo, Mexico, which is where, where we were based, when we were filming in the Gulf of California, they have a blue whale festival.

So we were screening the film for the local community we had, over the course of four days about 800 kids from all the local schools who came in for private screenings of the film and a discussion with the scientists. And then California Science Center had set up some amazing activities for the kids to kind of get hands on. So one of them was a trying to understand how the blue whale feeds this filter feeding and they weren’t the kids were on a skateboard.

Basically going into a mini ball pit scooping trying to scoop up balls as they went by kind of illustrating how the blue whale goes after krill. There was another activity they did where the way they were sure the kids were shown sound waves of the whales noises and had to try to figure out what they thought the whales would sound like.

And then they got to listen to the actual sounds of the whale. So there’s there’s lots of ways to really get the kids to engage and start to understand the way the whale why the way is the way it is in different ways. So it was a lot of fun and great for the local community to see this amazing resource that’s right off of their coast and to sort of feel proud of that ownership of of that story, which is really their story.

Yeah, I mean, we’re very blessed here in Southern California. There is a point out and Palace Verdi’s where they were talking about people volunteering or studying the whales where they will, they will chart hundreds of different whales that pass that point migrating both north and south and all different types of whales that they’ll be out there with binoculars and long telephoto lenses and all that stuff to dock You meant the migration of the whales.

Yeah, I learned on when I was out there with Diane, I learned that it’s not accurate. Least for blue whales, it’s not very difficult to get a photo that can be used for identification. And certain things they look at, they look at the, at the dorsal fin, they look at the patterning on the back of the whale. And so you can start to see if if you know if there’s a way to aggregate all the photos that the tourists take, you can start to see that a whale that shows up off the coast of La may also be you know, the next year or later on that year, maybe down in the Gulf of California.

And they do that with tags that the scientists are putting on some whales, but you start to get a picture of where these whales are going which areas need to be protected, where they’re most at risk from shipping. So there’s a lot you can do. And you know, community science is a big part of what we’re trying to get people to engage with find find a way in your local community to to be a part of the conversation to be a part of the scientific research. Right.

So did you go film down in Magdalena Bay? And the were the they do the cabling down there?

I guess or we didn’t for this film, we were just just in the Laredo area for for the Gulf of California part of it. And then and then off the coast of the Seychelles. So there was plenty, plenty between those two locations for us. Well,

I mean, just from the standpoint of getting to see the most amazing places in the world, the Seychelles and the Gulf of California and your job sounds pretty good. Pretty good. You know, I don’t know, maybe I can sign up for that.

What? Where are you off to next?

Well, I always joke that as a kid, I always wanted to be the guy who goes out and spends 18 years studying lions. Then I decided later on, I wanted to be the guy who goes out and spend six months filming the guy who’s out there for 18 years. And then eventually I landed on, I mostly stay home and send other people out to very cool places.

So once in a while I get to go on vacation, but for the most part, we’ve got amazing crews, who are, you know, who, who just love to be out there and to bring those places to life? I don’t think I would have done very well. 21 days on a boat in the Seychelles. I’m not sure that would have been beautiful. But yeah, not wouldn’t wouldn’t have been great. I get seasick too easily.

I hear you, in a similar way and lover, you know, the Dramamine would run out at some point in time. I have to like, deal with it myself. So what other projects you’re working on over a Tangled Bank Studios right now?

Well, the other the other big one is that series Wild Hope that I mentioned. So we are, we’re on our second season of that the first season, we had eight half hours, and they’re all on YouTube. And they’re all available for free. We for free. We partnered globally for free. We partnered with PBS nature, so the films are actually going out on their YouTube channel.

And you know, that’s that’s a big push, what we’re really trying to do there is use these films to to start a movement where we’re telling stories about conservation successes, but really, we’re trying to activate a build a community and activate it to get involved where they are. So for example, one of our films from season one was about the Billion Oyster Project in New York City, where community groups can get involved in bringing oysters back to New York Harbor to to clean the harbor.

Well, that’s great stuff. You’re listening to it here at A Climate Change. And I’ve got Jared Lipworth, head of Tangled Bank Studios, and we’ll be back in just one minute to talk to Jared about all the amazing work that he’s doing.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Jared Lipworth, head of Tangled Bank Studios on the program. And Jared, we’re talking about Wales. And I just happen to have the chance to interview Captain Paul Watson who was the was the head of Sea Shepherd and now he’s got his own thing and Whale Wars and all that.

And, you know, he was talking about krill and that they’re doing all this krill farming that is kind of going after the, the, you know, the food that the whales eat? Is that something that you covered in any of your documentary?

Blue whales, not specifically crow farming, but certainly, in the blue whale film, we look at the recovery of the blue whales. They were they used to be 300,000 of them around the world, most in Antarctica. Whaling wiped them out. There were scientists back in the 50s and 60s who felt that we had reached that point where they were going to go extinct. There’s now somewhere between 15 and 20,000 and they are recovering in places but part of the concern with them is is their food supply, you know, they need to eat a lot they are they’ve grown that big because they need to eat.

So it’s a it’s a cycle of they, they eat, they’re big because they eat a lot. They’re they they eat a lot because they’re big. And so when their food supply changes, you find you find some pretty significant differences. I mean, that’s one of the things, Diane, who’s been following them in the Gulf of California for 30 years, she starts to see those trends. Or if you know, she’s seeing skinny whales, which you can really notice, the worry is, is there food supply being depleted by global warming by farming, you know, who knows what, you know, I don’t think we know enough yet about them to know what all the causes are.

But you know, different times the years we were, when we when I was there filming, it was about this time two years ago. And there were blue whales literally it and there was one day where in every direction we looked, we were seeing whales. Now same time of year there, the blue whales have already left that area, the blue whales go where the food is. So it means that they’re the food has changed this year to last year.

Now that’s not a trend necessarily. But that’s what the scientists are trying to understand is sort of where is the food supply is the food supply chain changing on a on a yearly pattern or you know, in a much bigger trends at play here, but very much plays a role and will play a role in the survival of the species.

Now one of the things that Captain Paul had talked about was just the amount of poop that the blue whales have, and it kind of fertilizes the ocean. And that if we don’t have, you know, animals like that out there, it it causes a circle effect of damaging the entire ecosystem.

That’s exactly right. And we do we do talk quite a bit about that in the film, it’s, there’s something called a whale pump. So the whales tend to eat deep and poop shallow. So they’re basically bringing up the nutrients from the deep waters back up to the top where, you know, and that leads to when there’s enough of them they’re doing that it significantly transforms the place and you know, it makes the ocean healthy.

And then you get these hotspots of life where there’s so much other life that is coming in because the you know, their poop then leads to phytoplankton and phytoplankton starts to feed other species. And then other feces species come in to feed on those. So you get these incredible upwellings of nutrients. And you get these incredible hotspots of all different kinds of marine life when you have whales in the ecosystem.

So when you when you see a whale poop on the giant screen, it’s a lot. And then you imagine that when there were 300,000 of them, and that’s just blue whales, how they actually can have a significant impact on the ocean. But yeah, and the kids all get a kick out of the of the poop for sure. No question about that?

Well, it’s and the connected the full circle here. The phytoplankton is responsible for the creation of oxygen, I think, for all of us are it’s I think it’s the creation of oxygen.

Right? You know, synthesis. Yeah, I mean, certainly certainly involved in that.

Yeah. Right. So if we, we, you know, have more whale poop, we’re going to have more oxygen, like, the whole cycle is there that if global warming kind of is is affecting, you know, without too much co2 in the atmosphere, this, this is kind of the antidote to that. And if we kill off all the phytoplankton, we’re not going to survive. We’re dead as a species.

Yeah. And I think there’s, you know, there’s so much we understand about that, that on a global scale, also, so much we don’t I think what we what we often do in our shows, we’re trying to illustrate that at a smaller level. So you know, we’re looking at specific ecosystems. You know, the whales are across the whole ocean. But their story is one piece of that we did another film a couple of years ago, that I think, was one of those ones that gave a lot of information in a in a pretty cool way.

It was about the reintroduction of wild dogs to a national park in Mozambique called Gorongosa National Park. And on one hand, they were bringing these, these these wild dogs back because wild dogs are very rare and threatened and need, you know, their their, their territory has just been constricting. So here was a place that used to have them. And they wanted to bring the wild dogs back because that could be a safe place to for them to live. But on the other side of that equation, the ecosystem was missing.

The wild dogs really needed them, because there were certain prey species that were kind of outside of their lanes. They were eating in places where they shouldn’t be eating because there were there they had no threats. So they were out on the plains when they should be in the bushes. You bring the wild dogs in their behavior changes. So when you bring a predator into an ecosystem, it’s not just about how many they how many prey they eat. In fact, But that’s not really where the main impact lies.

It’s what they call the landscape of fear, you’re creating behavior change, the predators are creating behavior change in the prey, which helps balance out the way the ecosystem should work when it’s working normally. So, you know, again, I think to be able to explore that through the reintroduction of an endangered species was, in my mind a great way to tell a story, you get to see some incredible animal behavior, some incredible work by scientists and conservationists, and learn a lot about how ecosystems work.

So where would we see that particular episode?

So that film was called nature’s fear factor, and it was a nova PBS Nova. So it’s actually streaming for free from the PBS site. And is available, at least in the US should be available for free online.

Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, I remember seeing a video that was shot about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, and how it changed the course of the river. And it, you know, it just, if anybody was kind of weary about reintroducing wolves into the, to the wild, you see that and you think, well, it makes total sense. And without the wolves in the environment, the deer run wild and it and it causes havoc.

So yeah, and one of the things that the scientists have often told me and, you know, I think I take to heart and try to make sure that we’re conveying in our films is that quite often you think you’re trying to restore a place to a balance at once had, and that’s not really the way scientists think of it, it’s not about about a balance that there once was, because it’s always evolving, what you’re trying to do is put a place back into some quiet kind of equilibrium that works in the present.

And sometimes that requires a lot of involvement from us, because the ecosystems are so degraded for many reasons that they need our involvement. Other times, and many cases, we find that if you give nature a chance, it comes back. So if you, you know, if you set the stage, and you get out of the way, it’s pretty remarkable how quickly it can recover?

Well, I’d like you to kind of circle back to your, your show, Wild Hope. And one of the concept that you talked about earlier, which I thought was fascinating, was kind of the intimacy that you’re trying to create, in as part of this process, and maybe you could tell us a little bit more about that.

Sure, absolutely. Both within the show’s themselves. And in the movement that we’re trying to create. It’s about finding connection points, and helping the viewers find ways that they can get involved. So I mentioned the Billion Oyster Project before in New York City. And that’s a great example of how this show is talking. There are scientists who are involved. There are citizens who are involved. There are teachers and students who are involved. There are volunteer organizations who are involved.

And there’s so many different ways to be a part of that program. Some of our others are much more exotic and other locations that don’t necessarily relate to a viewer who’s watching it in California or in New York or anywhere else. But what we try to do around the film’s is to showcase ways that people can get involved. And in some ways we’re still early this We’re in our second season. We’re trying to throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what kinds of engagement people get excited about.

So we did an episode episode about saving the Axolotl in Mecca in Mexico City is this amazing little creature that a lot of people know from, from pet stores and from scientific research, but there’s very few of them left in the wild in this one location. So a call to action from that you can actually donate money to the to the research that’s being done you can pay for an axolotl dinner or its house or its habitat. Another example we have a film about the reintroduction of of beavers to the UK.

And in that one of the calls to action for that film is you can actually work with NASA to help identify Beaverdam locations using satellite images from NASA so I don’t know I mean, I thought that was really cool how found to sit at your desk and you know try to find find bear dams there a beaver dams. So there’s lots of ways to do that. Were you know other ways to get involved in your local community we do a lot of work with with AI naturalist and and the app seek and bio blitzes.

Because of Bio Blitz is a great way to get outside wherever you are, and to start to explore your ecosystem understand what’s there understand, you know, how the species interact with each other. So the idea is really to wherever you are, there’s something you can do. And maybe that starts with sharing, you know, There are films with other with your friends.

That’s one very small engagement point. But from there, we hope that it’s going to build and people can find ways to do a whole lot more and, and become part of the solution and feel like they can be actually making a difference.

Well, I know that I had read about the oyster the Billion Oyster Project when I was planning to go back to New York for the 1% for the planet Conference, which is, you know, something like 5800 different nonprofits are sponsored by 1% for the planet, and one of the activities they had was to go out and kind of replant, I guess I don’t know what the word for it is oysters out there, which helped by guests, filter the water there in in New York and kind of restore the the ecosystem to, to some degree of balance.

So amazing work that you’re doing. We’ll be back in just one minute to talk to Jared, more stay tuned.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. I’ve got Jared Lipworth, head of Tangled Bank Studios on the program today, and, you know, it’s been a pleasure talking with you and just kind of circling back to the Oyster Project that you that we were talking about in New York, and I know you cover it in your film, maybe you could tell us a bit more about that.

Yeah, it’s circling back to that. And also to what we were talking about earlier about storytelling. You know, I always think in these films in a film that one hour or half hour film is probably that most two or three things that people are going to remember. And so when we’re making these films, we always try to think about what are what are the takeaways we want them to remember? And how are we going to make sure they do.

And I think the Billion Oyster Project was a great example, people have this vague idea, some people have this vague idea that oysters can clean the water, but we wanted to be really be able to show that. So one of the scenes in the film, we’ve set up two fish tanks, both with very dirty water from the river, one had oysters in it, one didn’t. And then we set up a clock and we ran a time lapse.

And over the course of eight hours, you see the tank with the oysters in it go from completely murky water to completely clear, and the other one stays dirty. and I were watching this, and we had this idea early on that if people forget everything else about the film, they’ll probably remember that little scene and understand something more about oysters than they ever did before.

And so, you know, I think that’s, that’s those are the kinds of anecdotes and kinds of visual stories that we like to find to help people remember the, you know, the key points that we want them to take away from the film’s?

Well, it’s fascinating that we could clean up an area around New York City, which we, you know, I think of is such a densely populated place that it could never kind of be Oh, natural again. And to bring it back to a cleaner, environmentally balanced places is kind of an amazing, amazing project.

Yeah, and, you know, I think it’s not going to be the oysters alone that clean up the waters in New York, but they can certainly have a pretty significant impact. And, and and start to point the way to how do we clean it up completely?

Right. It’s it’s taking that first step or taking a step and we keep continue to take good steps, then we’ll get better results. And I, I think lots of people in this environmental movement, recognize that if people feel that they are never going to make a difference, they won’t, they won’t act, if they feel like hey, we’re doomed. Why even try, versus we need to be inspired to see humans can make a huge mess, but we also can clean our mess up.

Yeah. And we try to find those bigger themes as well, to really to illustrate that on a you know, both on a small intimate level, but also globally, to have our films from Wild Hope, deal with rights of nature and the efforts to get rites of nature written into the laws in the constitutions of countries.

So our first season we had a film called does nature have rights, which looked at Ecuador, and how they were actually the first country to write the rights of nature into the Constitution, and how now conservationists are using that as a tool to try to save rainforest and endemic species.

And then in season two, we’ve got another episode in Panama where they’re using that same idea to protect marine eco systems and turtles and other endangered species. So, you know, this is an idea. This is a global idea, it’s starting to catch on in a lot of different countries around the world, where you’re looking at data at nature differently.

And we’re looking at him not as, as a resource to be utilized and depleted, but as as entities that have rights on their own. So I think that’s one of those bigger themes that we try to tackle and that we expect we’ll be coming back to more than once over the next few seasons, because it’s a growing movement, and we want to showcase where that’s happening.

Well, you know, it’s, it’s a bit embarrassing and humbling that as a lawyer for 30 plus years, I didn’t know about the rights of nature until like the last year or two and had a guest on the program. And we’re talking about the rights of nature, because it wasn’t something that we learned in law school, it wasn’t a concept that was out there. And we think of corporations have rights, and they’re no more than a piece of paper.

And yet, and ships actually have rights. That was one of the things that one of the guests were talking about ships have rights, but a river doesn’t have rights or an ocean doesn’t have rights or awake doesn’t have rights, that’s kind of crazy that we we should treat those things with as much care as we treat anything else.

Because we’re so dependent upon it. For God’s sake, like anybody who lives out here in the West, we we recognize that our water is if we if we screw it up, we’re toast we’re out of here.

Yeah, yeah. And it’s amazing to see how it’s catching on as well, because I, you know, I’d never heard of it either until a couple of years ago, but start small, and then more countries are now seeing it and seeing that, that opportunity. And I think a lot of the key is to figure out how to do it in in a way that works for the local communities as well.

I mean, the key to the conservation ultimately comes down to if you’re, if you’re telling people not to do something that is part of their livelihood, you also have to figure out, they have to figure out ways to change their livelihoods that benefit both themselves and the conservation of ecosystems and species around them. And we’ve got a lot of examples within the film of exactly that places where it’s it’s a it’s a different way of thinking a different way of approaching conservation.

So it’s not about the fortress model, where you’re keeping people out. It’s about helping people understand that there are ways to benefit. We’re where there’s mutual benefit to both wildlife, and people. And I think that’s the key to conservation, I think, in this era is to find more and more ways to do that.

Let’s talk a little inside baseball for a minute here and say, you know, how do you how do you go about doing this and supporting maybe documentary filmmakers or people who are out there doing this type of work? Are you engaged in that type of, you know, finding people who are great directors who have great stories to tell? How do you go about finding that?

We do, it’s a really big part of our mission as well. You know, not only are we out there telling these stories, but we’re also helping to train a more diverse body of filmmakers, people from different backgrounds outside of natural history and science programming. People from all over the world. The idea, I believe that having local people tell their stories, you’re going to get different perspective than if you fly in and tell someone else’s story.

So we we work with the Jackson wild summit and Media Labs to train up, up and coming filmmakers or people who have been working in other parts of our world. You know, maybe it’s photographers, maybe it’s scientists, teach them to become better science communicators and filmmakers so that we can actually start getting more of that perspective, we work with an organization in South Africa called Knuth that is building a Pan African group of incredible filmmakers who are telling the stories of Africa from their perspective.

So the more we can do that, the more through our Wild Hope series that we can engage with filmmakers in Brazil and Panama, wherever we’re going wherever we find these great stories, and they really are all over the world. We find out we try to find who can tell these stories. from a local perspective, how can we help lift the community of filmmakers to make better content, more scientifically accurate content and bring local perspectives to that storytelling?

Well, that’s great. You know, I think of all the indigenous communities and the wisdom that they have that can be imparted to all of us and what what are you doing on that front as far as engaging with indigenous communities to tell their stories?

Yeah, also, same thing also through Wild Hope. We had a story season an episode in our first season. About the Elwha River and the the local tribes efforts to unjam the river, which eventually happened. What was great about that film is it’s something we were filming for quite a long time. So there was amazing baseline data of what the ecosystem looked like, before the dams came down.

And then watching the recovery over 10 years, we have another film in in Montana about the reintroduction of black footed ferrets, which also has a great you know, the indigenous tribes there are very much a part of that effort. What I love is when they start to pair up with scientists to come in from the outside, and they’re working together to truly understand these ecosystems in new ways and to protect them.

Well, I think that their philosophy, the indigenous groups of, you know, looking seven generations out or longer of what our effect is going to be, we need to start doing kind of longer term planning and saying, Hey, how is how is this going to affect people downstream like, unfortunately, our myopic view of life is driven by our capitalistic system, which is one quarters profits are the next quarter and the next fiscal year is just too short term to really make good decisions, unfortunately. How are we going to change that?

Start to show people that there is that there that there are people doing it? I mean, I think honestly, that’s that’s the thing. It’s like, how do you, how do you relate? How do you show? How do you help an audience understand that they can make a difference? You know, we realized midway through our first season of Wild Hope, we realized that five of our episodes completely unintentionally had farmers at the hearts of their stories.

And when you think about it, it makes a whole lot of sense. Farmers are very close to the land, they’re a part of, you know, they’re part of some of the problems. They’re also a part of many of the solutions. And so when you start to, you know, to see that it’s about creating that, that on ramp where you’re moving in the right direction, you’re not being short sighted, you’re looking at what the long term viability of your projects are.

And and you know, as you say, let’s let’s not just stop it next week. Let’s stop it next generation and seven generations down the line.

Jared, thanks for being on the program. Jared Lipworth, of head of Tangled Bank Studios. It’s been great talking with you about these issues, and I applaud the great work that you’re doing out there in the community. Check out Wild Hope. Check us out at AClimateChange.com You can check us out at Apple, Spotify, iHeart.

Thank you for tuning in and tune in next week. We’re gonna have other great guests coming up.

(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)

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