We first met Gelareh before her move to Los Angeles, when she covered one of our projects in the Adriatic Sea for Al Jazeera English.
We had quite an effect on each other. On the one hand, she was the first to do a complete story about us for an international news agency. On the other, she performed her first dive on assignment with us!
Now, we couldn’t be happier to welcome her on board Healthy Seas as an ambassador for our organisation!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are from?
My name is Gelareh and I am a Canadian-Iranian-British environmental correspondent and documentary filmmaker. I’ve been on the ground reporting on major crises — from the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest to the Australian bush fires.
What inspired you to focus your career on science and environment reporting?
Early on in my career, I was asked to research and write a multimedia project for the National Film Board of Canada. It was centred around the fragile ecosystems of the Great Lakes, the largest source of freshwater on Earth. I went down a research rabbit hole and had incredible breakthroughs in terms of what I personally wanted to be focusing my reporting on.
Growing up in Canada, environmental education was a big part of our learning and my hometown of Vancouver specifically has immense roots in activism – it’s the birthplace of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd. In many ways, that project was a perfect storm that brought together so many parts of myself and helped me get clear on what I wanted my life’s work to be.
What are your interests and hobbies?
I think I must have mountain goat in my DNA, because I’m obsessed with hiking. I try to get out and into the mountains a few times a week. It’s my church, my meditation and a chance for me to connect with the planet I’m fighting so hard for.
I’m at the point where I’m starting to push myself and do more challenging hikes including the highest peak in Northern Africa!
How many countries have you visited? Which one would you say is your favorite and why?
I’ve been on the ground reporting across six continents, in over 20 countries, including Haiti, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In fact, it’s these places that are considered areas of tension or “conflict zones” where I’ve found the most beauty.
If you could solve one environmental problem, which would it be and why?
To be honest, I think the root of most environmental issues is cognitive dissonance from the natural world. What I mean is, there seems to be a real disconnect between people, their actions and nature. What I would wish for most is a collective awakening and understanding of how just interconnected we are with all living systems on this planet.
Why is marine protection important for you?
My father was a navy captain and I’ve spent my entire life living near the ocean. It all started with me collecting garbage from the coastline on my morning runs and through my work has grown into a deeper understanding of issues like microplastics, ocean acidification and coral bleaching. Once I started diving, my dedication to protecting marine habitats amplified. In fact, my first dive ever was on assignment – covering a Healthy Seas mission in the Adriatic.
What was it like for you joining a Healthy Seas diving project?
I was pretty terrified, but Veronika, Pascal and the team made me feel so comfortable. This fast-tracked my love for exploring underwater. Since then I’ve gone on to complete my advanced PADI and a complex underwater shoot for the National Geographic Channel where I did a night dive in the middle of a box jellyfish bloom. I was the only one who didn’t get stung (that was pure luck and nothing to do with skill).
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
What many people don’t know about me is that I started my career in journalism as a fashion reporter, but once I had the personal breakthrough that I had a real interest and knack in science and environment storytelling, I kind of buried this part of my biography. It wasn’t until I made a film about Healthy Seas and the rise of sustainable fashion that I started to see the value in my experience covering the fashion industry.
Once I started investigating fast fashion and the environmental destruction brought about by our throw away culture, I really became passionate about this issue. I committed to only wearing sustainable brands on-camera which trickled into my everyday life as I began “greening” my wardrobe, my cosmetics and lifestyle. It’s a work in progress, but something I’m passionate about sharing.