Imagine spending your third year of college sailing aboard the oceanographic schooner Sedna IV, a 165-foot sailing vessel, built specifically for scientific expeditions and documentaries. Anne-Marie Asselin embarked on the journey of a lifetime when she joined the documentary TV series “1,000 Days For the Planet”.
Led by film director, Jean Lemire, the documentary follows the team on a 1,000-day journey across Earth. The goal of the crew — made up of mariners, scientists and filmmakers — is to reveal the planet’s beauty and understand how Earth’s ecosystems work. Along the way, the crew meets other scientists who work to protect species and their habitats. Together with the experts, crew members scale mountains, traverse rivers and dive into coral reefs to find some of the world’s rarest and most threatened species.
Anne-Marie spent half a year on the vessel, with some crossings involving seven full days at sea. The team traveled to legendary dive locations such as the Bermuda Triangle, Cocos Islands, the offshore seamounts of Cuba, and the Cayman Islands.
“I think this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only was I able to travel and dive so many places, I also got a lot of experience in multimedia production in a large expedition setting. There were so many little details and unplanned scenarios, the adrenaline is very high in cinema and I was fueled by it,” Asselin said. “The locations we traveled to were remote and pristine, yet the human trace could always be seen and felt even in the open sea. That was seven years ago. The situation has deteriorated drastically since then.”
Following “1,000 Days for the Planet,” Anne-Marie fulfilled her studies at Concordia University and started working in Montreal for the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations. Alongside her work with the Secretariat, Anne-Marie embarked on a Masters degree in environmental studies, with a focus on marine conservation, spatial planning and maritime politics. While completing her Masters, Anne-Marie participated in the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO, in Paris.
“At IOC, I was part of the youth ocean delegation at the COP21 and I was present during the two week negotiations of the Paris Agreement, in 2015,” Asselin said. “Working in international environmental diplomacy opened my eyes to the politics and management of nature. I knew conceptually what it involved, but truly witnessing this huge bureaucratic machine was eye opening. There I understood the power of legislation and training politicians around the globe about the state of the environment.”
After several years working within marine conservation and education, Anne-Marie founded The Blue Organization, a Canada-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness through multimedia and collaborations.
“I came to the point where I was faced with so much misinformation on the news, I decided I had to take a stand,” Asselin said. “I realized the public is not equipped with the basics of environmental awareness. I also noticed a big gap in science reporting, worldwide.”
In mainstream media, where most of the public still gets its news, there is almost no science or environmental coverage. A Pew Research Center content analysis of a broad sampling of media outlets cited by the National Science Board revealed that from 2007 to 2010, science and technology accounted for only 1.5 percent of all news stories, with the same percentage for environmental news. That number dropped to one percent in both categories in 2011.
“Only 1.5% of all media content is dedicated to the environment. I created The Blue Organization to help communicate facts about global issues,” Asselin said. “It’s discouraging to hear news media report fake or false information on the environment. We live in very rapidly changing world, and society is not responsive. Education is key. Our mission at The Blue Organization is to document the state of the natural world we live in, and report our findings through multiple formats.”
Describing her goals for the future of marine conservation, Anne-Marie underscored the importance of speaking up in regards to environmental injustices.
“The next generation of ocean conservationists are learning that the focus is no longer on exploring and discovering remote untouched places anymore. We are focused on what is at stake for the future,” Asselin said. “The mark our generation will leave behind is if we are able to preserve the environment for the benefit of all. Our focus will be on the richness we’re losing, and what we hope to truly reverse. I hope that one day we can say we did turn things around, that we did unite efforts, and that we did save what we could.”
For Anne-Marie, the future of marine conservation will no longer be predominantly male.
“I meet female conservationists everywhere I go, there is such a vibrant scene for young female leadership,” Asselin said. “The women I meet are so inspiring and full of courage, they are scientists, entrepreneurs, artists…being an environmentalist should have nothing to do with gender anymore.”