This autumn I was meant to be in Chicago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wetlands Initiative and to help kick-off the next chapter of the organisation’s vital mission to protect and restore wetlands across the American Midwest. Wetlands are amongst the most threatened and fragile ecosytems on the planet: in Europe, roughly two-thirds of the continent’s wetlands were lost in the 20th century to drainage and development; and between 1970 and 2015 alone, 35 percent of the world’s wetlands were destroyed, from small ponds and streams to vast marshes and lakes. Essential for biodiversity, pollution filtration, coastal flood protection, migrating and resident wildlife, recreation, tourism, irrigation and other essential human needs such as drinking water, food, wonder and beauty, their loss releases a cascade of ruinous consequences throughout the web of life we rely upon. But the work of the Wetlands Initiative seeks to correct this diminishing, restoring wetlands to thriving life as well as working to ensure that the enlarging possibilities of people engaging with wetlands are made more widely accessible. While in the end we couldn’t be together in Chicago because of the pandemic, we realised we could still share stories of the thing that connects us – the wetlands that we love and call home.
I’ve spent the past twenty years living beside the Prespa Lakes in northern Greece, and in that time I’ve witnessed just how important these wetlands are to local communities. I’ve seen how critical they are to Prespa’s rare pelican colonies and to the region’s stunning biodiversity. And I’ve understood how they are the foundation of this remarkable place. So, in light of the pandemic upending our plans, we decided to span the continents and celebrate the fundamental idea of connection through wetlands. While the Wetlands Initiative filmed the restored waters of Illinois, I spent the summer filming the lakes of Prespa, following the shifting spell of light, the circling pelicans and the shimmering water and reeds. And together, we’ve made this short film, Wetlands: Havens of Life. We hope you enjoy it.
Video best watched in HD where possible.