Seeking Planet Heroes

Natasha Milne has been a professional photographer for over 20 years. She is the co-editor of the acclaimed environmental book One Hundred and One Reasons To Get Out of Bed, and the creator of the new My Home Planet podcast. She has a bachelor’s degree and when not working, volunteers with her local wildlife rescue organization in Sydney, Australia, where she’s rescued everything from lizards and possums, to birds and bandicoots.

In this guest piece, Nat shares the inspiration and central theme behind her new podcast; which focuses on the potential of individuals to create a culture for conservation, to find their voice, to lead by action—to be Planet Heroes!

planet-heroes

Heroes. While there are certainly those who are worthy of the title, it seems that these days, the word ‘hero’ has been appropriated by Hollywood blockbusters and over-enthusiastic sports commentators.

Of course that’s not really true. There are plenty of people out there in the real world to whom the term hero would apply-those who go out of their way to do something courageous, or noble or brave. Many people have their own ideas of what a hero looks like-and when asked, most could name at least one person who embodies their definition of one.

Without really being aware of it, over the past few years, I’ve found myself searching out stories of hope to counter all those headlines of our planet in crisis. So, by default I’ve really become a seeker of heroes. And what I’ve discovered is that the world is actually full of them, millions in fact. And the ones who interest me the most are those who wake up each day and put our planet and those we share it with first.

Some of my heroes are familiar: Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, Rick O’Barry, Rosalie Kunoth Monks. They’re people I turn to, for inspiration and to remind me that humanity is in fact capable of compassion, selflessness, courage and bravery. But what about those who are less known?

Last year I decided to share the insights of some of these everyday planet heroes in a book that I produced with my friend Dr. Barbara Royal. So while some, like Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle, are in the book, they are joined by ninety-nine others. A boy with a lemonade stand raising money for orangutans, an ex-ranger providing critical equipment and help to wildlife rangers in Africa, a race car driver using her global reach to highlight species extinction and who offsets her own carbon footprint, a conservationist creating a wildlife corridor from the Yukon to Yellowstone-just to name a few. Each explaining the one thing they are passionate about and sharing their reasons for getting out of bed to nurture and preserve our beautiful earth.

As an extension of that book I recently began a podcast called My Home Planet-a place for seekers of planet heroes like me to meet and listen to some of those incredible environmental and animal advocates, and to bridge a gap between preaching to the converted and those who are comfortably unaware.

What is it that drives these people to do what they do? is it simply circumstance or choice? These are the questions I ask in the podcast. And what I’ve realized is that while many of their well known achievements are certainly interesting, it is in asking questions about their childhoods, memories and passions which garner the best responses. By allowing each guest to tell their story without interruption or confrontation they feel comfortable in sharing their greatest insights.

For instance, Audrey Peterman shares the inconceivable fact that up until the late 1950’s many people of colour were still being lynched in some U.S National Parks, and it is for this reason that she strives each day to make sure that the beauty of nature is accessible to all people. The lyrical way in which Audrey Peterman describes her first trip to the Grand Canyon caused one listener to declare “I think if Mother Earth had a human voice, it would resemble very closely to hers”.

As Lola Webber heartbreakingly describes the horrors of a South Korean dog meat market, she whispers out a promise she made to those dogs six years ago. As she speaks of her daily commitment to abolishing the illegal dog meat trade, she also shares a surprising fact that not one of the hundreds of dog farmers she meets actually wants to do this as a job.

And while environmentalist, entrepreneur and best selling author Paul Hawken kicked off the first episode with musings on why there are no mocking birds left in his neighborhood, he also challenges us to rethink climate change as happening for us, not to us.

Along with each guest’s individual insights, a common thread emerges: they do what they do, because they understand that every action counts, big or small. And while it’s easy for many of us to feel that our actions don’t make a difference, these people are out there everyday showing us nothing is ever black and white and that everyone can do something. Paul Hawken sums it up nicely when asked why he does what he. He simply replies “because we’re here”

So hero? Well I actually think it should be used more often, more appropriately, beyond film and sports, to describe the millions upon millions of people who just pick their one thing, whatever it is, and take those small world steps to inadvertently become big planet heroes.

Learn more about the podcast, book and Natasha at: myhomeplanet.org

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
Inga Yandell

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Inga Yandell

Inga Yandell

Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.