My name is Kate Hildenbrand. I’m a marine ecologist and conservation filmmaker and photographer, a podcaster and author. My goal is to create a space where normal humans can learn about this stunningly beautiful and wondrous planet, to understand and see the beauty, and to feel like they can make a difference.
I used to call fish ugly and disgusting because I knew nothing about them. I’d only seen them dead. Becoming a SCUBA diver changed my life forever. Dipping underneath the surface opened up a new world to me, a world that has had me in its grip since. I saw, first-hand, the effects of humans interacting with nature: plastic at the bottom of the ocean, a fishing line and weight hanging from the lip of a giant sea bass that was bigger than my husband, and sargassum seaweed displacing giant kelp forests around Catalina island.
But, I’ve also seen a species of sea stars return after they were believed to have vanished from the area, divers working together to relieve the sea bass from his plight. I’ve played with sea lions at one of their rookeries, searched for octopuses in their clever dens, and floated speechless in front of anemone-covered reefs. I will never forget the day a fin whale swam past our boat on the way to a dive site.
How could I encounter the majestic beauty of such a large animal and not want to save it? How could I see fish spawn, hatch, and grow without appreciating them as living being with moods and characters? Seeing nature, really seeing it, has changed my life. The more I learn about nature—above and below the waves—the more I want to defend it, fight for it.
Alongside community, knowledge will be what saves humanity from itself and from destroying their home. I believe that opening people’s eyes to all the astonishing creatures on this planet, making them see them the way I learned to see them, will make people care. So I set out to share what I know, to spread the beauty and wonder of this blue planet.
Learning to love people was similarly hard. Looking at the world, it’s easy to hate humanity—especially if you love nature. As an environmental activist, I know what it is like to lose hope, to find hope, and to inspire hope. As an autistic woman with dreadlocks, unconventional clothes, and bare feet, I know what it is like to be judged. As a queer woman married to a man, I know what it feels like to be mislabeled and misunderstood. As a Caucasian who grew up in a household that could afford a comfortable life, I know privilege. As a woman, I know what it is like to live in a patriarchy. As a member of the unfortunate #metoo movement, I know what it is like to stay silent for far too long. As a chronically ill person who has struggled with medical systems and society in four countries, I know what it is like to be called dramatic, crazy, an attention-seeking pretender.