In his TED Talk, Yann gave the following statistics:
“According to scientists, in 100 years all the mountain glacier will be gone.
According to FAO, if we don't change our system of fishing the main sea resources will be gone in 2050.
According to the U.N., we speak about 250 million refugees in 2050.” (SOURCE: TED Talks)
As much as he does not want to be the bearer of bad news, Yann could not sit around and wait for the worst to happen. He is the type who would give himself to a cause, even if it means a lifetime of fighting. It gets even more unbelievable when he speaks of his fear for the future. Consider this: present generations are abusing nature, but those who are yet to be born will reap and suffer the consequences. That is what Yann Arthus-Bertrand dreads the most; he’s not afraid for himself, but for the fate mankind. What can be more selfless than that?
The least we can do is help Yann create a noise and spread the word. If we really love our children, it’s time we think more about what awaits them decades from now. Natural calamities will worsen, unprocessed food will be depleted, pollution will become unbearable, and life will be far from comfortable.
Yann is not only a photographer. Recently, he has directed a small number of films and started initiatives to “revive the humanity in us” - the need to care for one another. As if giving his life to his cause is not enough, he offers his movie, “Home,” free of charge. He did not push for a copyright, knowing that the movie’s message is far more important than profit. If a picture paints a thousand words, a movie moves and causes people to act, because, unless we act, we will never see change. And we need to change sooner rather than later if we want our children to live in even a relatively-safe world.
Early Life and Career
Yann Arthus-Bertrand was born to two jewellers in Paris, France, on 13 March 1946. Raised in a comfortable household, Yann took an early liking to nature; he loved being surrounded by trees and animals, even as a young boy.
However, he did not become an active environmentalist until he was slightly older. Before he even turned 20, Yann also began dabbling in acting. He worked as an assistant director in the early 1960s, prior to acting in the 1965 movie "Dis-moi qui tuer" alongside Michèle Morgan, which was directed by Etienne Perier. Five years later, he appeared in a Pierre Kalfon movie entitled "OSS 117 prend des vacances."
Even before his final movie was shown, he had already been contemplating a new career that would get him more involved and appeal to his nature-lover side. So he accepted a job at the Château de Saint Augustin wildlife park in Château-sur-Allier, where he oversaw its day-to-day operations. However, he soon felt restricted; wanting to have a larger role in caring for the environment, he left France with his wife when he was 30 years old. He then found himself at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya for three years, focused on observing lion packs.
That was when he started photography. He and his wife knew taking pictures was a very effective way of telling a story or documenting research. Realizing he had a gift for taking photos, it quickly became a hobby. In order to further finance his research, he applied for a job as a hot-air balloon operator; from above, he saw Earth’s beauty from another perspective. The view from the balloon was so striking that he couldn’t help but immortalize it with pictures. From then on, Yann focused on enhancing his aerial shooting skills.
After spending three years in Kenya, he returned to France with a new career - that of both a journalist and photographer. The product of his time in Kenya was the book “Lions,” a compilation of photographs released in 1983. He later worked as a sports, aerial, and wildlife photographer for Paris Match and GEO, and even received a yearly assignment to the Paris International Agricultural Show.
From Pictures to Films to Environmentalism
A decade after he discovered photography, Yann again took his skills to the next level and founded the world’s first aerial photography bank, naming it “Altitude Agency.” They gathered over 500,000 pictures taken by about one-hundred photographers hailing from all over the world. Perhaps UNESCO saw in Yann a dedication quite rare for a humble photographer, and they sponsored a study that takes a thorough look at how human beings are caring for the environment. The study gave way to the publication of ‘la Terre vue du ciel,’ or "Earth from Above" in English. Yann knew people would take the time to read it because of its breath-taking photos shot from a helicopter. He was not mistaken, as it ended up being translated into 24 different languages and selling over three million copies worldwide! The “Earth from Above” photos were exhibited for free in 110 cities, followed by the release of a DVD copy in 2008, making them freely available all over the world.
The first non-government organization Yann founded to promote caring for the environment was the GoodPlanet Foundation. One of its most successful programs is Action Carbone, which aims to lessen carbon dioxide emissions by looking into alternative fuel. It set a model for companies and individuals to follow as they grow more conscious of their carbon footprint.
Their website included the following as current initiatives:
• Exhibitions & Festivals: To raise awareness through images and encourage everyone to preserve the environment.
• 7 Billion Others: To meet the Others, from near and far, and to get to know them.
• GoodPlanet.Info: To keep up-to-date on environmental issues and their challenges.
• Books: To understand the different problems of sustainable development through strong visual messages and texts accessible to all.
• Good Planet Posters: To educate the very youngest in environmental challenges through educational posters distributed free to schools in France and Belgium.
• Human: The new Yann Arthus-Bertrand movie.
• Local events and awareness campaigns: To meet the public and rise people awareness to environmental issues.
Under Social action:
• Action Carbone: To encourage everyone to act, at his own level, in his business, community and personal life, to reduce his carbon footprint and support socio-environmental projects which improve the quality of life for inhabitants of the planet.
• GoodPlanet Solidaire: To encourage people to engage in joint projects which give children a better education in their environment, particularly in developing countries. (SOURCE: Good Planet Foundation)
It was Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” that gave Yann the idea of filming his shots:
“I discovered Al Gore’s documentary and I decided to help promote it in France. We showed An Inconvenient Truth to the French deputies and senators, because as a whole they didn’t think climate change was an important matter. The legislative power didn’t reflect the opinion of the French people. Polls were showing that climate change was important to them and politicians were lagging behind. This film really helped get the message through. Cinema — moving pictures — is a very powerful medium so I decided to use it and follow in Al Gore’s footsteps.” (SOURCE: TED Blog)
This led to the production of “Home,” a documentary which shows the Earth from a different perspective than many have ever seen. For a movie that consumed both his energy and money, Yann had no intention of earning a dime from it; he released it free of charge and without a copyright.
It makes us wonder what else this United Nations Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador may have up his sleeves for the sake of humanity and our planet. It appears he isn’t stopping anytime soon:
"I’m starting my next one soon, and I hope I can do as well. I plan to do something about the people who don’t complain; all the people who work the land with their hands to feed their children, who are about two billion in the world; who, more than us in the rich countries, are going to suffer from climate change.
They don’t complain and often have a good sense of what we have lost. I will start work this year, but it will not be ready for a few years." (SOURCE: The Connexion)
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Altitude Agency
- Action Carbone
- 6 (or 7) billion Others
- Good Planet Info
- Good Planet Junior
- Good Planet Conso
- Fondation Chirac
- The Royal Photographic Society
- Forests and People
- GoodPlanet Film Festival
- Hope Production
- GoodPlanet Solidaire
Awards and Achievements
- 1967: Ran the Château de Saint Augustin wildlife park in Château-sur-Allier
- 1991: Founded the “Altitude Agency,” the world's first press agency and images bank specializing in aerial photography
- 1994: Started a thorough, UNESCO-sponsored study on the state of the Earth
- 2003: Awarded an Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society
- 2005: Founded the international environmental organisation “GoodPlanet”
- 2006: Launched a series of documentaries called “Vu du ciel” and published “Algeria from Above”
- 2008: “Earth from Above” was released on DVD
- 2008: Made Officer of the Ordre National du Mérite
- 2008: Given the Georges Pompidou Award
- 2008: Started participating in the Foundation Chirac Board of Directors
- 2009: Designated as the United Nations Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador (UNEP)
- 2010: “Our Living Earth” received National Outdoor Book Award
- 2011: Created “Hope Production” together with Jean-Yes Robin
- Made a Knight of the Légion d'honneur
- Elected alongside Lucien Clergue at the Académie des Beaux Arts
- Received the “Earth Champion” award
- 1965 : Dis-moi qui tuer
- 1970 : OSS 117 prend des vacances
- 2004 : Earth from Above
- 2009 : Home
- 2010 : Paris (View from Above)
- 2013 : Metz and the Messin pays (View from Above)
Wikipedia (Yann Arthus-Bertrand)
The Fondation Chirac ( Board of Directors: Yann Arthus-Bertrand, member since 2008)
Good Planet Foundation (Our Missions)
Good Planet Foundation (Founder)
The Good Planet (Our Programs)
TED Talks (Yann Arthus-Bertrand: A wide-angle view of fragile Earth)
TED Speakers (Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Photographer)
Home The Movie (An Interview With Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Co-Writer and Director)
The Connexion (Humans are ruining the environment)
TED Blog (Q&A with Yann Arthus-Bertrand: The environmentalist behind the camera)
Interview Magazine (Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Home Is Where the Art Is)