Photographer And Former SMC Student Advocates Sustainability

Sebastian Copeland is a well-known photographer who has done work ranging from photos of Sandra Bullock and Phil Collins to video commercials for the hair product Pantene and Tommy Jeans.

The beginning of his professional journey actually began at Santa Monica College, where he attended for four semesters. Last Wednesday, he held a book signing for his newest work, "Antarctica - A Global Warning," at the Barnes and Noble in the Third Street Promenade, where he discussed his recent shift of focus to sustainability and working towards his belief that humans should have universal access to water, and that no nuclear weapons should exist.

Around 40 people gathered to see Copeland, and all seemed pleased with his passionate commentary on the importance of sustainability, nodding in agreement at his calls for action and shaking their heads in disapproval as he listed off some of the grim details of global warming. He referred to his book as a "visual story" where he is "putting a face to global warming." The book is full of images of shallow glaciers sparingly spotting the vast ocean.

The images are from a trip Copeland took to Antarctica, which he describes as "a very interesting and educational trip." He found Antarctica to be the perfect place to visually display that the world is shrinking. "The poles are essentially like the air conditioners to the planet...that cool down tropic areas," he said in regards to the two coldest places on our planet The metaphor successfully highlights the relevance of maintaining that vital temperature balance on this precious earth.

"These issues in Antarctica can seem very remote...but poles are like alarms for the rest of the planet," Copeland said. "The nature of my work has been focused on the poles as a symbol for humanity." He then listed off some supporting statistics for his statements, such as the one made by climatologist Ignatius Rigor of the University of Washington, who said that in 1989, ten percent of the ice in the arctic was old ice and now only three percent is. "As new ice is replacing old ice, it's much more frail," Copeland said. He added that this has been the "greatest consecutive ice loss in the past five years."

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre agrees with this information also adding that the ice extent for this year has more than doubled since Sept. "These warm conditions are consistent with rapid ice growth," Copeland said. However, their climate models also predict that atmospheric warming will become more prominent within coming decades. Copeland adds that "glaciers naturally pour into the ocean... but in recent years [there has been] a much greater increase in its pour rate."

With ice rapidly melting and temperatures rising, Copeland calls on the population to make more conscious decisions in their every day lives. "If we start to have that sort of mental shift... then we become a role model...if we start to implement change, that sort of radiates outwards," he said.

"We are ultimately a society of consumptions and a society of waste," Copeland said. "It's really daunting to think that 2.5 million plastic bottles are thrown away every five minutes. How do we create a future for this planet? For kids?" he asked the audience.

As well as calling on individual citizens for action, Copeland strongly believes in government intervention. "Regulation is a key component to market transformation. We need the government to take action," he said. He advocates state incentives for those companies being green, and acts such as the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which passed on Sept. 2, 2006.

Copeland's work on these issues has led him to a seat on the Board of Directors for Global Green USA, a part of Green Cross International. In addition to supporting such acts and policies, Global Green USA has secured $100 million for building green schools and has already built five low-income green homes and 18 apartments.

Global Green USA COO Richard Wegman, who attended the book signing to support Copeland, said, "Our mission is to create a value shift towards a more secure and sustainable future."

As a young girl at about five years old was climbing affectionately on her mother, he pointed to her and said, "We all need to wake up to [global warming] and make wise choices that are not going to hurt little kids like that.

I pray daily that we don't have to wait for a huge disaster to wake people up." More information regarding Global Green USA is available on their site,

When asked if he had a particular message for students, Copeland remarked that "to be a student is to be curious and inquisitive... the most important quality of a student is being curious."

Copeland himself became most interested in sustainability about ten years ago. "It's time for us to stop looking outwardly for change...but to start really taking charge," Copeland said as his ultimate message for the night.

His next project is trekking to the North Pole in March and April to raise more awareness. There are galleries posted on his website for those who are interested in seeing some more of the photographs: