Name: Tamara Maria Blazquez Haik
Creating Empathy Through Education Photography and Science
My name is Tamara Blazquez Haik, I am 29 years old and I am a conservation photographer and a vegan animal rights activist.
I have lived in Mexico City, one of the largest, most populated and most polluted cities in the world, my whole life. This caused me to feel an incredible fascination for nature and wildlife since I was a little kid and I always yearned to be amidst nature and animals while growing up.
As such, I decided to become a conservation photographer, only after realizing that my passion for nature and wildlife was not something I shared with many people, as most citizens are filled with apathy and indifference towards our wild neighbors. I decided then that photography could be the answer to creating empathy, and inspiring the love and passion I feel for helping wildlife, in others. But I was a hypocrite.
How could I call myself a conservationist and say I was helping wildlife through my art when contributing to the first cause of Climate Change and Species Extinction: animal agriculture.
I became vegan only a few years ago when I realized this truth. No matter how much I recycled, or reduced how much waste I generated, I was still hurting the planet and the nature I claimed to love so much, so the decision came easy to me and I became vegan overnight.
When I became vegan, my empathy for other living creatures was enhanced. I even started overcoming my fobia of spiders and realized so many things in conservation were wrong.
This, along with all my time in the field photographing wildlife, and working along communities in Mexico and Mexico City have made me realize that the way we had been approaching nature conservation was wrong and will never bring any real results, on the contrary, we are still contributing to climate change.
And that is because most people are not scientists or aren’t educated in climate and biological sciences, and that’s okay, nobody is born knowing everything in this life. But it is up to us, the ones we know about this and how to work against this, to educate our communities in order to reach real results. But most people that work in science that I know, do not care about educating people or clean energy, or many other things. So sometimes science is not the best way to reach out to people. It is important to know science, but in the long run it will not make people realize about the crisis we are in.
Through my art and activism though, I have found that it is easier reaching to people than just sharing facts, and facts and more facts that not everyone can understand or grasp. And that’s why photography is so important: It is a way to shake consciousness and to show the world and the other victims of our actions that we don’t normally see: nature and wildlife.
Apathy, I have found, is the biggest enemy of biodiversity loss, and apathy comes from ignorance. People have to learn, we have to teach them. This why environmental education is fundamental to conservation and fighting Climate Change.
For the past couple of years, I have devoted my photography and activism into teaching people about the environment and how they can help it: by joining local environmental projects, being part of ethical ecotourism, becoming vegan, and the list goes on. But more importantly: by learning about the ecosystems and animals that live close to them, in their own communities, and in this case in Mexico City.
Mexico City houses 2256 species in many different ecosystems in risk of disappearing due to mankind’s avarice and apathy, and citizens do not know this. I have found that zoos have failed miserably at educating the public, especially the children and same goes for the authorities. So
I have also been giving classes to children in public schools and to the public in different spaces in the city.
The obstacles are big hurdles, as a lot of people do not care, but most do. After a while, and especially after the children start showing interest in their neighbors and their planet, adults tend to follow.
I have found that my photography, combined with sharing the stories of the animals I have photographed and their ecosystems and mixing in a bit of facts, have resulted really attractive to many different kinds of people, from different social status and situations and they have all started to awaken interest in nature and in how they can help to some degree or another.
The experience has filled me with hope for our planet to survive, and I have realized that this is the key: To destroy apathy and awaken the natural empathy the human kind holds for other living beings, but empathy has been made to sleep due to technology, greed, the media and other things that make exploiting nature and wildlife look like something natural even though it is killing every single one of us.
Soon I believe people will also realize their habits need to change, as I have seen the change firsthand with a family member that also made the connection after having her empathy re- awaken. And it’s the same for so many people.
Empathy for life is what is needed. Making people realize they do not need to be scientists to join this fight is what is needed. Involving communities and children in science and the environment is what is needed. And re-awakening the empathy and respect for animals and nature in may other scientists, politicians and everyone else is what is needed or we will not survive.
Photography, activism and arts combined with science and our own self example is what can help others take action before it is too late. Or at least, that’s what I’ve learned while working with my community, both human and non-human.