Acclaimed nature photographer delivers environmental message through stories, pictures
The Lehigh community took a walk on the wild side recently, exploring the many wonders of Planet Earth through the work of nature photographer Marty Essen, author of the award-winning book, “Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents.”
Essen’s presentation, titled, “Around the World in 90 Minutes,” was a slideshow-based tour of all seven continents, combining breath-taking photos, interesting facts, and humorous stories into a program that both entertained and informed a standing-room-only crowd in Sinclair Auditorium .
Known to be one of America’s top campus performers, Essen’s own journey began when he and his wife took a well-deserved vacation to Belize, which he wrote an article about for a local newspaper. The success of the article, along with the “travel bug” the Essens acquired, led to more trips and articles, and eventually to a book based on their experiences.
Since the publishing of “Cool Creatures, Hot Planet,” Essen has been touring in support of the book, giving talks and sharing his photo diary from his travels with college campuses nationwide.
The show included pictures and stories of encounters with everything from whales in the Antarctic, to black wolves in northern Canada, and elephants on the African savannah. Besides being a master storyteller, Essen is also a walking encyclopedia of animal facts – rattling off numbers and statistics that might help audience members win final Jeopardy some day.
For example, he may have been the only one in the room who knew that vampire bats have an anticoagulant in their saliva that is now being used in a blood-thinning medication appropriately named “draculin.”
Essen enjoys entertaining his audiences, but says there is a definite environmental message in the presentation that he hopes to convey. By entertaining the audience, Essen hopes they “learn something (about environmental problems such as global warming) without realizing it.”
Essen also added that while a call to action may not come across as the primary point of the show, it is the reason he does it. Essen has been focusing his message toward college students because he says this generation is going to experience the effects of global warming “much more strongly.”
“Global warming is a real problem,” said Essen. “I base that on the fact that a vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is a real issue…If the dissenters aren’t basing their argument on science, what are they basing it on?”
Other themes in the show touched on the political, including stories of how friendly people in other countries were toward Americans, despite what we in America may think, and an urging of young people to travel the world and experience new things – “to get down and appreciate the small things,” which he and his wife tried to do during their explorations.
But overall, Essen’s mission remains a call to awareness. “It is important that young people get involved,” said Essen, “because if something isn’t done, we will pay the consequences.
“It is going to take bright minds, like those at Lehigh, to come up with the alternatives,” he said.