Creative Conservationist and 2014 Emerging Explorer for National Geographic
M&V: Why is art an effective way to promote animal conservation?
ASHER JAY: Art translates across cultures, and it does not require any subtitles. Art is the oldest universal language available to me; it is as inherent to me as the wild. The wild is where I, we, come from. Wild and art both transcend tenses: It was a part of our past, it is an extensive part of our present, and it should be preserved and part of our future. Art has the capacity to bring the story forth from science, to touch all senses, to evoke authentic emotion and to inspire action. Art is the most effective way to promote anything, not just animal conservation.
M&V: What is the reaction you hope your art conveys?
ASHER JAY: When people experience my work, I want them to stop, think and ask themselves questions until they get to a place where they know how they feel about an issue—endangered species or pollution or illegal ivory trade. Not every work is going to get every person who sees it to become involved. However, at least by getting these messages out to the public, there will be greater awareness and the ability for people to make a conscious decision. When people are informed, they can no longer use “not knowing” as an excuse for not getting involved in the problems that threaten the entire human race. They have to accept the responsibility of making a choice—to improve the world or to turn their back on the planet, which will foster human survival or human extinction.
M&V: What is the most satisfying part of your job?
ASHER JAY: Everything—even the parts that are annoying, like dealing with paperwork, lawyers and accountants—is part of the process and progress, so I don’t pick and choose. It’s a privilege to be able to do what I do. I get to dive; I get to hang out with lions; travel extensively; innovate and collaborate with some of the most brilliant minds of the 21st century; and fight for a collective wild future.
M&V: What is your life philosophy?
ASHER JAY: I believe in an expansive, inclusive life. Who says you can’t do it all? Who says your job has to end at 5 p.m. and that you can only fulfill your bucket list after you retire? We each get 80 to 100 good years on this gorgeous planet. I intend to make the most of it, to live fully, to give without restrictions, to love without expectations, to enrich the world with every breath I draw. None of us get a second chance at now, so what are you waiting for? Make it count! This moment is all I need to contribute.