Our beloved friend and colleague, world-renowned photojournalist Gary Braasch, died Monday March 7, 2016 while snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. He was documenting the effects of climate change induced coral bleaching.
Gary was the co-founder of Young Voices on Climate Change and co-producer of the Young Voices for the Planet films.
This is a profound loss not just to those of us who knew and loved Gary, but for all the world, for Gary Braasch was an indomitable, passionate climate change warrior who realized what was at stake if we humans do not reduce our carbon emissions. Outpourings of dismay have come from across the world. After seeing Andrew Revkin’s eulogy to Gary in his New York Times blog dotEARTH, children’s book author Debbie Miller wrote,
“There are few people who devote their lives to the planet and its future in the way Gary did, with his camera, his love for nature, and his belief that we can change our doomed destiny.”
Twenty years ago, Gary took it upon himself to do all in his power to alert the world to the global climate crisis. His extraordinary photographs reached people’s hearts and minds. He thought that if people could see, with their own eyes, how climate change was transforming ecosystems, causing animals to change their ranges, melting the arctic, causing seas to rise and, imperiling the human race, they would be motivated to take action to reduce CO2. Gary followed scientists into the field photographing them and writing about their research. His project became the book “Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming is Changing the World” and a website, “World View of Global Warming“.
Young Voices on Climate Change’s mission reflected Gary’s mission: to limit the magnitude of climate change and its impacts through empowering children and youth, through positive success stories, to take an essential role in informing their communities, and society at large, challenging decision-makers, and catalyzing change since they will bear the brunt of climate disruption.
To empower youth, Gary and I wrote an award-winning children’s book, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Cliamte: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, embellished with his beautiful photographs, so young people could teach their parents. Teachers and kids liked the climate solutions part the best.
In many magazines such as National Geographic, Time and Life, Gary’s photo essays often documented hopeful stories about countries’ commitment to—and transition to–renewable energy, solar panels and wind turbines. But he also showed how the juggernaut of development was creating large sacrifice zones throughout the world.
Gary and I founded Young Voices on Climate Change realizing that kids have power and that they listen to their peers. Over 8 years we produced 11 short Young Voices for the Planet films championing youth solutions to the climate crisis.
Andrew Revkin’s NY Times dotEarth blog ends with the following quote from Gary’s book Earth Under Fire calling for a price on carbon to level the playing field, allowing renewables to compete and reducing global warming gas emissions.
We can all pay tribute to Gary Braasch’s exemplary life by advocating for putting a price on carbon. A fee and dividend will reduce fossil fuel consumption and promote renewables. A price on carbon as it comes out of the ground would yield dividends that would put money directly back into taxpayers’ pockets. And there is a glimmer of hope: 12 Republicans are co-sponsors of New York Congressman (R) Chris Gibson’s Climate Change Resolution recognizing the impact of climate change and calling for action to reduce future risk.
I look at Gary’s marvelous photographs of dolphin clouds leaping across the sky, the arc of stars as Earth turns on its axis or ancient forests of verdant green and I think of all we have—and all we have to lose. We will all miss Gary’s warmth, optimism, intellect, reverence for life and his bottomless well of giving of himself for a higher good.
At Gary’s memorial on April 1, 2017, Obama Science Advisor Dr. John Holdren spoke of Gary’s generosity in providing him with many of the photographs illustrating climate change that he (John) used in presidential briefings as well as presentations to Congress, the UN and other international meetings.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon attended the dinner and, in a long thoughtful eulogy to Gary’s life and work, told how Gary’s decades-long documentation of climate change was so useful to him in his attempt to convince Congress to take action on climate change.
Gary believed whole-heartedly that people could make a difference; his photographs, books and films–and the example of his life — will continually inspire us to renew our commitment to protect our wondrous home planet. Hopefully with a little help from his friends, a fossil-fuel-free future will be Gary’s lasting legacy.
Director, Young Voices on Climate Change
Here’s a video of Gary describing his life’s work IN HIS OWN WORDS.
For updates on news and memorials to Gary, please “like” Young Voices on Climate Change on Facebook
Huffington Post: Gary Braasch — A Tribute to One of Mother Nature’s Favorite Sons
There have been outpourings of love and grief from around the world. Gary touched so many people. Here are some comments:
Gary touched so many people’s lives. Such an outpouring of shock and sadness.
Lynne Cherry – I write this stricken by grief at Gary Braasch’s death but wanting people to understand what an extraordinary human being has been lost to the world, way too soon. This photo album is a celebration of the many years that Gary and I spent interviewing and photographing climate change scientists, exploring tropical rain forests, ancient forests, mangroves and national parks and searching Arkansas swamps for the Ivorybill woodpecker. Gary loved the natural world…
Gary emanated warmth and good will and was loved by everyone he met. He was my comrade in arms, creative partner and one of my closest friends. His leaving this world will leave a gaping hole. Let’s pay tribute to Gary’s exemplary life by stepping up our own personal commitment to address climate change. That is what he would have wished for.
Osha Gray Davidson – Gary Braasch had a sublime eye and a giant heart. The natural world has lost one of its great advocates.
John Friedrich – such tragic news. You and Gary have done such amazing work with Young Voices on Climate Change. This is such a big loss for the world. Thank you for sharing pieces of his amazing work. RIP, Gary, and like you said, may we all be inspired to work that much harder to confront climate change.
Bill Kovarik – I share your sorrow. Gary touched many lives with his photos.
James Medvedeff – Very sorry to hear that you have lost such a close friend and like-minded, like-spirited person. Grieve him well; tears are wind to the sails of the soul as it flies to its new home
Elliott Negin – This is so awful. He was such a mensch. A simply wonderful man. And such a talented photographer and journalist. What a loss.
Lane DeMoll – thank you. these are beautiful. I always think of the photographs from the time he spent weeks living in the rainforest canopy to photograph for with Smithsonian or National Geographic.
Kevin Murphy – You deep loss is shared by many of use who admired Gary, for so many facets of his life. My sincere condolences for your loss.
Suzanne Flynn – Gary died doing what he was passionate about. We are all privileged to have met him in person or know him through his work in your climate change book, Lynne. Gary will now be your guardian angel.
Karen Kane Jackson – I am so very sorry. Never a more committed person have I known.
Peter Adriance – “Thanks for your heartfelt and touching eulogy on Gary Braasch which I read in Revkin’s post this morning. I’m so sorry for your loss of a close friend and collaborator. Your joint work has been, and will continue to be, such an inspiration to so many and an important contribution to progress on climate. May the publicity around Gary’s passing help awaken many more to the central message of his life’s work. In sympathy and support,
Geoff Haines-Stiles (description of the experience making the ETOM film of Gary]: “A few years back, Jim Byrne, Peter Sinclair and I had the pleasure of a sit-down interview with Gary, with the discussion combining his usual clear-eyed analysis of what’s happing with climate alongside his characteristic optimism that if we can just envision – what an appropriate approach for a photographer! – a clean energy future we might be more empowered to achieve it. As Joshua Wolfe mentioned, Gary was kind enough to grant us access to many of his amazing images from all around the planet, as well as photos of himself, on the road. It’s good to read the tributes from his many collaborators and friends, but we thought you might also like to hear from Gary one more time, in his own words, and to see his smiles. He clearly loved doing his important work, his mission, his vocation… and he will be very much missed. We’ll update the video with dates and an “in memoriam” line, but for now we wanted to allow Gary to share his message of hope and progress in his own words and images.” (see video at YoungVoicesonClimateChange on facebook)
Deborah Brosnan – A loss to the planet in so many ways.
Sandy Gagliardo Durso – It is truly a loss for us all. I hope we all listen more carefully and start acting more responsibly on this Earth.
Kim Reich – We can’t afford to lose more like him….R.I.P.
Doug Cohen – Many tears flowing this week… Thinking of you & Gary and all our shared times ‘on the circuit’. Gary was so fortunate to have found his true soulmate and true love in Joan Rothstein, his partner in all things. She accompanied him on many of his photographic expeditions and was with him in Australia. My heart goes out to her.
David Eisenberg – This is such a huge loss. I met Gary Braasch a few years back with Lynne Cherry at an exhibition in Washington DC. An extraordinary man.
Josh Wolfe A great friend, colleague and mentor. And thanks to Andrew Revkin and Lynne Cherry for putting together such a touching tribute. http://nyti.ms/1UaywUP
Sacha Spector Gary made indelible images and stories of the natural world. I have a great memory of meeting Gary on the way to Macchu Picchu and spending a great day exploring the city in the clouds together.
Bill Kovarik – I got to know him in 2008 at an SEJ conference when we organized a gallery show for his work. His masterpieces of insightful composition just stole the show. He will be greatly missed among friends and colleagues.
Denise Eskildson – Too soon
Mary Vogel – Earth took one of it’s greatest champions from us on Mar. 7. Let’s do what we can to promote his legacy–as he worked for all of us!
Dan Ferber – Lynne Cherry has written a poignant and powerful tribute to the great climate-change photographer Gary Braasch, who died yesterday. Braasch devoted years of his career to documenting the dangerous changes happening on our planet.
Jonathan Kirschner – Beautiful tribute by author Lynne Cherry to Gary Braasch, naturalist and photojournalist who died suddenly while documenting the effects of global climate change on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Gary’s pictures have appeared in just about every major publication, and his work extends back to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in May of 1980 where he captured one of the most widely published photographs of the event.
Lou Jones – an amazing amazing man & should not be lost to us
Carey Stanton – I hope you find comfort in all you time and accomplishments together. His legacy continues through his amazing story and photographs.
Kristin Kristin – Such a shock hearing of Gary’s passing. Gary Braasch was, and in my mind still is, such a vital, powerful presence. I first met Gary when in college in Portland, OR in the late 1970s when we shared darkroom space. This was a few years before his breakout photos documenting the Mt. St. Helens eruption. And I have enjoyed tracing his career and meeting his son, as he became a leading spokesman and documentarian on climate change risks. My heart goes out especially to Lynne Cherry, who has been a close friend and collaborator with Gary for decades, and to his charming smart son Cedar, who undoubtedly has many amazing memories of his dad.
Tom Bender - I remember when St. Helens blew – we could see it even from the coast here – Gary’s first “famous” photo shoot! Blessings . . .
Mark Lukes – Lynne, what a beautiful tribute to Gary. Andrew Revkin in his New York Times blog said “Too Soon Gone.” All of us involved in conservation photography agree.
Doug Grandt – So sad … tears
Aimee Christensen – I’m so sorry.
Martha S McGuire - Thank you for sharing this awesome tribute. He was truly a wonderful human and was adored by so many. We are shocked and heartbroken.
Laura Bartels – Lynne, I thought of you with all my heart as I learned this. What a deep loss for you and the world.
Erin Ní Chonaill – I wish you safe travels on your journey and wish to say an enormous thank you for your work here.
Erica Fernandez Zamora – Rest in power!
Ines Perez Thompson – Extraordinary human being!
Karyn Strickler – Here’s to Gary, you and the work that you did together and individually on climate change. Condolences
Tonya Marie Sunshine – What a beautiful inspiring life!
Dana Zia – I am sorry for the loss to the world as well. He certainly has left a rich and powerful legacy for us to take action on.
Steve Whitney – Really sorry for the loss of your dear friend. Gary’s work will be an inspiration for generations to come. Sad.
Michael Philips – I met Gary in the early ’80’s living in Portland. He was already a well-regarded photographer at that time and went on to great renown. Loved his photos, especially from the Alaskan tundra. What a loss.
Martha Shaw – He was a big gain to this earth, and would feel proud to be remembered this way. What a life he had!
Tamara Shapiro Ledley – Such a terrible loss for all of us. Gary’s photographs brought the message of the impacts of climate to everyone. He will be greatly missed.
Sarah van Gelder – What an extraordinary man, and such a loss for us all that he is gone.
Don Duggan-Haas – I’m so sad to hear this news.
Cherilynn Ann Morrow – May you receive waves of strength, courage, and wisdom as you navigate this tragic loss.
Peter Dykstra – He was a hero.
Alice Madden – So sorry.
Joan Raderman – I am so deeply sorry for the loss of this extraordinary Human Being. He will be missed.
Tina McBride – I am very sorry to hear about the death of …Gary Braach. It is startling because when looking at his pictures and reading about his passion and commitment to changing the course of climate change, he seemed almost superhuman. I am reassured that the work that the two of you have done together in fostering the next generation of doers will help to accomplish more of those changes.
Please add your own remembrances to a life well-lived that has, hopefully, changed the course of history – and of the planet: