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TED2011

Louie Schwartzberg: The hidden beauty of pollination

March 2, 2011

Pollination: it's vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film "Wings of Life," inspired by the vanishing of one of nature's primary pollinators, the honeybee.

Louie Schwartzberg - Filmmaker
Louie Schwartzberg is a cinematographer, director and producer who captures breathtaking images that celebrate life -- revealing connections, universal rhythms, patterns and beauty. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
It's great being here at TED.
00:15
You know, I think there might be some presentations
00:18
that will go over my head,
00:20
but the most amazing concepts
00:22
are the ones that go right under my feet.
00:24
The little things in life,
00:27
sometimes that we forget about,
00:29
like pollination, that we take for granted.
00:31
And you can't tell the story about pollinators --
00:34
bees, bats, hummingbirds, butterflies --
00:37
without telling the story about the invention of flowers
00:40
and how they co-evolved
00:43
over 50 million years.
00:45
I've been filming time-lapse flowers
00:47
24 hours a day, seven days a week,
00:49
for over 35 years.
00:52
To watch them move
00:54
is a dance I'm never going to get tired of.
00:56
It fills me with wonder, and it opens my heart.
00:58
Beauty and seduction, I believe,
01:02
is nature's tool for survival,
01:04
because we will protect what we fall in love with.
01:07
Their relationship
01:10
is a love story that feeds the Earth.
01:12
It reminds us that we are a part of nature,
01:15
and we're not separate from it.
01:18
When I heard about the vanishing bees, Colony Collapse Disorder,
01:20
it motivated me to take action.
01:24
We depend on pollinators
01:26
for over a third of the fruits and vegetables we eat.
01:28
And many scientists believe
01:32
it's the most serious issue facing mankind.
01:34
It's like the canary in the coalmine.
01:37
If they disappear, so do we.
01:39
It reminds us that we are a part of nature
01:42
and we need to take care of it.
01:44
What motivated me to film their behavior
01:48
was something that I asked my scientific advisers:
01:51
"What motivates the pollinators?"
01:54
Well, their answer was,
01:57
"It's all about risk and reward."
01:59
Like a wide-eyed kid, I'd say, "Why is that?"
02:02
And they'd say, "Well, because they want to survive."
02:05
I go, "Why?"
02:07
"Well, in order to reproduce."
02:09
"Well, why?"
02:11
And I thought that they'd probably say, "Well, it's all about sex."
02:13
And Chip Taylor, our monarch butterfly expert,
02:17
he replied, "Nothing lasts forever.
02:20
Everything in the universe wears out."
02:24
And that blew my mind.
02:26
Because I realized
02:28
that nature had invented reproduction
02:30
as a mechanism for life to move forward,
02:32
as a life force that passes right through us
02:35
and makes us a link in the evolution of life.
02:39
Rarely seen by the naked eye,
02:43
this intersection
02:45
between the animal world and the plant world
02:47
is truly a magic moment.
02:49
It's the mystical moment
02:51
where life regenerates itself,
02:53
over and over again.
02:55
So here is some nectar from my film.
02:58
I hope you'll drink, tweet
03:01
and plant some seeds
03:03
to pollinate a friendly garden.
03:05
And always take time to smell the flowers,
03:07
and let it fill you with beauty,
03:10
and rediscover that sense of wonder.
03:12
Here are some images from the film.
03:15
(Music)
03:18
(Applause)
07:22
Thank you.
07:30
Thank you very much.
07:32
(Applause)
07:34
Thank you.
07:38
(Applause)
07:40

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Louie Schwartzberg - Filmmaker
Louie Schwartzberg is a cinematographer, director and producer who captures breathtaking images that celebrate life -- revealing connections, universal rhythms, patterns and beauty.

Why you should listen

Louie Schwartzberg is a cinematographer, director and producer whose career spans more than four decades of providing breathtaking imagery using his time-lapse, high-speed and macro cinematography techniques. Schwartzberg tells stories that celebrate life and reveal the mysteries and wisdom of nature, people and places.

Schwartzberg's recent theatrical releases include the 3D IMAX film, Mysteries of the Unseen World with National Geographic, narrated by Forest Whitaker, and the documentary Wings of Life for Disneynature, narrated by Meryl Streep. Mysteries of the Unseen World is a journey into invisible worlds that are too slow, too fast, too small and too vast for the human eye to see, while Wings of Life focuses on pollination and the web of life. Schwartzberg also directed Soarin' Around the World, an international update to the original Soarin' ride now showing at Disney Parks in Anaheim, Orlando and Shanghai.

Designed to inspire, educate and evolve our perspective on the world, Schwartzberg creates and curates Moving Art videos, which can be found on your smart phone and Netflix. The Moving Art series will be expanded from six to thirteen videos in early 2017.

Schwartzberg's Gratitude Revealed series of shorts were launched on Oprah.com. Supported by the Templeton Foundation, with science and analytics by the Greater Good Center at UC Berkeley, the series explores the multifaceted virtues of gratitude. Schwartzberg is the first filmmaker to be inducted into the Association for the Advancement of Science and the Lemelson Foundation’s Invention Ambassadors Program.

For Schwartzberg, the greatest satisfaction is creating works that can have a positive effect on the future of the planet. "I hope my films inspire and open people's hearts," he says. "Beauty is nature's tool for survival -- we protect what we love. Nature's beauty can open hearts, and the shift in consciousness we need to sustain and celebrate life."

The original video is available on TED.com
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