Mawlana Hazar Imam has often spoken of the importance of caring for the environment. In Ottawa in 2013, he said, “Our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, to leave the world in a better condition than we found it.” Young people today are shouldering this responsibility, and raising awareness of environmental issues, including through the medium of film.

Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent. Just as the land across this continent is vast and varied, so are the ecological and environmental challenges. The wildlife as well as rural communities bear the brunt of climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. With a motive to raise awareness on these crucial issues and inspire people to take mitigation measures, The Ismaili TV brings an award-winning series of documentaries entitled Giving Nature a Voice. These short films are produced by a group of east African filmmakers and compiled by the Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media & Communications environmental reporting programme.

As the home of some of the world's most endangered species, it is essential to protect Africa’s wildlife from further decline and make sure they survive in their natural habitat. In Kenya, several rallies conduct wildlife estimation with the help of dedicated local residents, community scouts, and ambassadors. One of the episodes of Giving Nature a Voice chronicles “The Great Grevy’s Rally,” wherein the participants are assigned an area to survey and given a GPS-enabled camera to capture the right flank of every individual Grevy’s zebra. Also known as the imperial zebra, its population has declined faster than that of any other African mammal, falling from 15,000 in the 1970s to just 2,350 today.

Huge tracts of the continent’s rich forests and grasslands are destroyed for industrial and infrastructural development every year. In pre-colonial times, 30 per cent of Kenya’s land was covered by forests, whereas now they only occupy 6 per cent of its space. In one of the films, the late Helen Thornton-Mutiso, who served as director of African Forest, teaches Kenyans how to grow plants in their own backyard and make money from medicines, skincare products, and dyes. It’s part of a nationwide effort to cover 10 per cent of Kenya’s land with trees. 

“It is not productive to plant ample trees and later not care enough. Plant fewer trees, but make sure they all survive,” she said.

With its breathtaking cinematography, incredibly raw musical score, and gasp-inducing shots, these documentaries have managed to ignite concerted efforts in saving our environment. It has prodded business leaders and citizens to take action like banning plastic bags, stopping new coal fired energy plants, and passing legislation to protect unregulated fisheries.

Just as nature needs a voice in Africa, so do the mountains in Central and South Asia. Hundreds of millions of residents of Earth’s third pole are directly at risk from the worst consequences of global warming as a great arc of glacial mountains is melting quickly. From the Pamirs to the Karakorum and Himalayan mountains, the planet’s largest repository of ice outside the polar regions is in trouble. The people and wildlife are under the threat of catastrophic mudslides and desiccating pastures. 

To spotlight the impact of climate change and explain how community-based solutions can help reverse the region’s dangerous trajectory, resources of the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, and the University of Central Asia have launched “Voices From The Roof Of The World.” Under this project, a select group of young Asian filmmakers will be trained, mentored, and supported to produce groundbreaking environmental films.

This upcoming series will deliver a vivid portrait of the region and its people in an era of rapid change. It will help the public and policymakers to better understand what is at stake and what can be done to protect the region’s environment, both for its inhabitants and the countless others who depend on its waters. 


All episodes of Giving Nature a Voice can be accessed via The Ismaili TV on demand.