Former Secretary of State supports Bigelow's VR film on protecting African elephants: 'Stop the killing, stop the trafficking, stop the demand'
Hillary Clinton wore black. A sign of mourning for a presidency that almost was?
The former secretary of state made a surprise appearance at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday night, supporting the world premiere of a VR film by Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail on the effort to protect African elephants.
It was a vintage Hillary on display, which is to say she spoke in complete, thoughtful sentences (a talent that eludes the man who took her job in the White House). Yet those carefully-articulated sentences felt almost scripted, or lacking in spontaneous passion. Donald Trump's digressive verbal style succeeds in part because it feels authentic and unscripted (his fan base eats up his simplistic, easily-digestible thoughts).
Part of science is understanding the intricate relationships that we share with all those on this planet and particularly large mammals like elephants, who have a role to play both in reality and in our imaginations.
Secretary Clinton praised Bigelow and Ismail for creating The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger's Shoes, which focuses on the brave men in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who risk their lives to protect elephants from ivory-harvesting poachers.
She called the film "so critical, because it is a portal — a portal that people can go into and think about, 'Here we are in New York, what can I do?' And there is a lot that can be done — stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. And part of that is protecting these rangers, who are up against some of the most ruthless killers anywhere on the planet right now, and doing the very best they can."
Clinton noted her work on the issue, both as a private citizen with the Clinton Foundation and while in office as secretary of state.
"Under President Obama, I’m proud we passed a near total ban of ivory and proud that the Chinese made a ‘very important announcement’ last year on ivory [trade]," she said. "China had been the number one market, but the U.S. is the second biggest market for illegal ivory. China is going to be a key player, but we are too."
Clinton's appearance on the panel coincided with Earth Day and demonstrations around the world in support of science. She did not fail to mention that to the audience at Tribeca.
"We are marching on behalf of science. And part of science is understanding the intricate relationships that we share with all those on this planet and particularly large mammals like elephants, who have a role to play both in reality and in our imaginations," she said.
The consequences of her election loss on policy surely must have weighed on many who heard Secretary Clinton speak. It certainly weighed on me. Pres. Trump observed Earth Day by issuing a statement that touted America's natural beauty and the importance of science. Yet his administration has rolled back environmental protections, clamped down on the release of scientific data from government research and proposed slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by over 30-percent.
Time is the enemy on this one.
It is hard to imagine Trump taking much of an interest in elephants, other than perhaps to hunt them. His sons have posed for pictures with big game they've bagged around the globe. One photo shows Donald Trump Jr. holding the severed tail of a slaughtered elephant. Another picture shows Trump Jr. and his brother Eric holding a cheetah they had evidently killed. I find the pictures so disturbing I will not repost them here.
To me, Secretary Clinton seemed tired and kind of down -- understandably so given what she's gone through since November. She must have been buoyed by the reaction of the crowd, which gave her a standing ovation. But then New Yorkers have always had her back -- voters here elected her to the U.S. Senate twice, and she easily won the state in the presidential election.
Like Secretary Clinton, Kathryn Bigelow has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to preserving the population of wild elephants. Along with The Protectors, she directed the 2014 animated short Last Days, which explored the connection between terrorism and the poaching of elephants.
According to some estimates poachers kill 30,000 elephants or more each year. Bigelow told the Tribeca Talks audience the magnificent animals face the real threat of extinction.
"Time is the enemy on this one," Bigelow said.
National Geographic will release The Protectors on the virtual reality app Within starting May first, and on YouTube and Facebook360 the week after that.
Andrea Heydlauff of African Parks, an NGO that manages wildlife parks on the continent, and National Geographic's Rachel Webber also participated in the panel discussion, expressing the hope the new film will inspire people to take action to support the protection of elephants. Heydlauff and Secretary Clinton suggested people consider donating to OutfitaRanger.org, which would help provide better equipment and uniforms for rangers, who labor without quality gear.
After the talk I donated $100 to the site (knowing that if I put it off until later I'd never get around to it). I'm not mentioning this to make me look good, but perhaps to inspire others to donate too.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.