I am fortunate enough to live my passion, and to be surrounded by a team who are equally passionate about celebrating Africa and educating the world about this amazing place we call home.
This is not an easy journey, and we try our best to balance the need to publicise Africa’s issues while not overwhelming people with upsetting imagery and news. As social media and ever-developing technology rightly give everyone a voice, popular opinions often become interpreted as ‘fact’, and expert voices can be drowned in the rising tide of public emotion. Context, so vital in most matters, is often lost as conversation threads spawn heated exchanges that sometimes have no bearing on the matter at hand. And yet, in amongst all of that chaos, people do learn lessons, and pressure is put on decision-makers.
I get to meet so many of Africa’s heroes – the people who do so much every minute of every day to preserve Africa’s uniqueness – field workers, guides, researchers, activists, journalists, rangers and lodge staff (from managers to cooks, trackers to mechanics). These folk are my rudders – they keep me grounded and help me to contextualise life in the 21st century. One such hero features in the photo above – legendary Ugandan bird guide Alfred Twinomujuni, who added significantly to my modest bird list during a trip to Ruhija in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Africa faces challenging times, as the power hungry jostle for resources and increase their efforts to vacuum up whatever is left of Earth’s natural bounty. This amazing continent has done its best to resist the pressures, but cracks are appearing and we must all work hard to spread Africa’s message. We also need to make sure that Africa finds her own solutions and is not forced to adopt the flawed models that have removed a great deal of biodiversity and many naturally functioning ecosystems elsewhere. We all need to put greater effort into shining bright lights into the dark corners of the criminal underworld, into putting pressure on our leaders to free this planet of the shameless extraction industries that are pillaging our home.
Once a year my team and I step away from our frenetic online world – we unplug to compile a labour of love, our Yearbook. The pages in our coffee table Yearbook represent to us a visual celebration of our past year. There is no theme, no logical flow or deep hidden message – just a simple celebration. Like so many bush tracks in Africa the book takes many twists and turns, and we hope that you come back to it again and again, when you need that little bit of African inspiration. Most chapters feature a resources section, which directs you to where you can find out more online.
If you do one thing in the coming year, I recommend it be to travel to somewhere in Africa. Perhaps it will change your perspective and add context to your life, as it does for me.
Keep the passion. Simon Espley – CEO, Africa Geographic