James Cameron’s plea to protect the ocean’s twilight zone

When not directing the film, filmmaker James Cameron explores and studies the twilight zone. His quests there have shed light on this carbon sequestering environment in the flooded abyss, filled with beautiful and whimsical creatures that look nothing like one of Cameron’s sci-fi epics .

CNN spoke to Cameron about why he wants to preserve the area and the animals that live there.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CNN: What makes the ocean twilight zone worth protecting?

James Cameron: The Twilight Zone is a wonderful place. It’s the largest biomass on the planet and in my eight expeditions to locations deep in the ocean, I’ve been going back and forth between it and I’ve caught glimpses of these amazing animals.

It’s very important because you already have the largest mass migration of animal life on the planet going up and down every day. Masses of hundreds of millions of tons move up and down. They go up close to the surface to feed at night, and then they go back down into the black abyss during the day to not be seen and eaten by predators. It acts like this giant carbon pump That’s pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and sending it into the deep ocean. It’s like a giant isolated process.

CNN: What is unique about the ecosystem that exists in this space?

You have wonderful fish, but some invertebrates are quite beautiful.

I have seen jellyfish nearly two meters in diameter once – a very rare specimen that has never been caught. And you see the amazing squid, the Humboldt squid, which are very aggressive pack predators, down to the tiniest bioluminescent animals. If you blink into the darkness in the twilight zone, you’ll be answered by literally millions of glowing creatures. It’s pretty cool.

CNN: What can we learn from the twilight zone?

James Cameron: Humans have a near-perfect record of going into new environments and essentially destroying them. The world’s fisheries are starting to turn their attention to the twilight zone because of all the biomass there. They don’t usually fish that deep. And so, as it begins to be exploited, we need to understand its role in our larger global ecosystem and its role in climate control.

Because apparently if it’s sucking, say, one gigaton of carbon out of the atmosphere every year – like all cars (emit) – we need to protect it. It is performing a service to us and to the world at large.

We tend to use or extract first and ask questions later. It’s important to get the science into it, study it, understand it – understand this carbon flux, understand the heat flux into the deep ocean, understand how the ocean works for us every day so we don’t get upset that that balance.

It can be a pretty robust ecosystem, but we have a pretty good track record of destroying robust ecosystems.

CNN: Are you optimistic about the future of the environment?

James Cameron: All these initiatives (the world leaders) are talking about – methane control and carbon pricing and all that. They have to be devoted to it, there must be real laws around it. Just committing to everything and then not finishing it won’t get us there.

I tend to be pessimistic about the political system and about the human system in general, but I am optimistic about people. We are very resourceful. With our backs against the wall, I believe we can work together to come up with the necessary solutions. And I believe we will be ready to make the lifestyle changes that we need to make.

Filmmaker James Cameron has made eight expeditions to locations deep on the ocean floor.

CNN: How has your exploration of the ocean changed the way you live on land?

James Cameron: I think they gave me a perspective and a greater sense of wonder, awe and respect for nature. And that translates into me trying to live my life with the lightest stamp I can and still accomplish my goals.

For example, my whole family is completely vegetarian – we have about a third of our nutritional carbon footprint as non-vegetarians, as some would call it a low-carb diet. American standard. It’s a big step that anyone can take.

I think people need to internalize these choices and take responsibility.

CNN: How do you draw attention to environmental issues through filmmaking?

James Cameron: If we can make the distinction, documentary-wise, I’ve done a number of documentaries about oceans and ocean conservation. A recent one with National Geographic is “The Whale Secret”, this goes into the mind, emotions and culture of the whales, so if we love them and respect them, we will protect them.

And in terms of features, with the “Avatar” movies there’s definitely some sort of environmental message between the lines. We don’t beat it, it should be entertaining first, but it’s definitely there if you’re looking for it, if you’re receptive.

CNN: Do you think people understand enough about what the oceans mean to our lives?

James Cameron: I don’t think anyone, let’s say a farmer in the Midwest, really understands the role the ocean plays in their daily lives – how it controls the amount of rain they get, how it controls the climate. post in general.

The average person doesn’t really know these things, that’s why I think it’s important that we do what we’re doing right now. To try to share that no one anywhere on the planet, even if you are deep in the Sahara, is unaffected by the role the ocean plays in their lives.

Nature's ticking ticking time bomb?
Nature's ticking ticking time bomb?


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