If exploring the planet’s most remarkable wild places was a competition, Mattias Klum would certainly be in the running for world champ. From the examining the treetops of Borneo in a hot-air balloon to coming face-to-face with mating African lions to nearly kissing king cobras in the rivers of Southeast Asia, the Swedish nature photographer and filmmaker enjoys a constantly exciting life on the road, portraying these worlds with his various lenses and bringing them back to the rest of us to behold.
In anticipation of his upcoming talk at UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Klum — whose recent book Being There relays a lifetime of adventure — answered a few questions via email. Klum delivers a lecture on The Last Wild Places on Sunday, December 2, at 3 p.m. Call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for tickets and info.
The headlines across the planet proclaim that our wild places are disappearing at an alarming rate, yet you remain optimistic. Why? We have come to a point where especially scientists, business leaders, and thinkers have come to understand the most challenging issues and that it’s not merely a sacrifice to embark on a more sustainable path but equally a business opportunity. But we need this mind shift quickly. We’re behind schedule!
From my own experience in the developing world, many people don’t recognize the importance of saving nature versus the daily needs of survival. Is that changing? We need to work on sustainable solutions for poverty alleviation. It’s essential to find ways for people all over the world to become a good citizens by default. If we cannot achieve a reasonably safe environment and safe working and living conditions for the many people, we will certainly have a tough time to implement sustainable change.
Do you find that appreciation for the great outdoors is an innate understanding in the human psyche, or is it something that must be learned? I think good and sincere images, films, music, et cetera really can move people to feel for our world. However a great firsthand experience is pretty hard to beat. Passionate storytelling might trigger a first visit to realms people have yet to explore — next to us or far, far away.
In places where conservation has taken hold, how safe are the protections provided? With regime changes, could some of the new conservation zones in Africa or Asia simply be wiped away? It truly differs depending on where we are in the world. I think we have to value our resources in multiple ways — ethically, morally, financially, biologically, etc.
What is the most beautiful place on earth? My backyard in Sweden. It’s hard to pick one. I truly love diversity!
Where do you want to go next? So much to explore! New Zealand would be nice!
Which place has changed the most on the planet? Lots of places have changed. Glaciers are disappearing, rainforests are going down the drain, 30-percent of all coral reefs are bleached or dying. We are putting a huge pressure on Tellus! [Tellus is the Roman mother earth goddess.]
Which place has changed the most for the better? Many cities and towns are becoming cleaner inspite of everything. Stockholm in my native Sweden is a good example. In the old days, the river running through our capital was a smelly poisoned pea soup. Now it’s relatively clean — people are catching salmon and sea trout smack in the middle of Stockholm.