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My name is Safi Graauw! I am 30 years old. My BSc background is in environmental sciences. I started the MSc Environmental Management at the University of Amsterdam because I was looking for a challenge in Earth Sciences. During my studies the craft of filmmaking came by and it fared well with me, causing a lot of delay, but we'll discuss that another time!

Masterstudent Safi Graauw
Photo by David Dobbeldijk

Photo by David Dobbeldijk

When and how did you come up with the idea for the documentaries?

Well, because of the filmmaking, I was involved in many projects in- and outside of Amsterdam. Mostly for companies in the fashion industry. I was always interested in combining my background in Earthsciences and film but the chance did not exactly present itself yet. Until one day I was invited to a meetup with the people from Justdiggit. They held their story about landscape degradation in the dry tropics of Africa, and their solution in landscape restoration. In that room 30 "Influencers" where present, ready to use their hashtags and boost Justdiggit's communication to a next level. 

30 "influencers" and me, a young earthscientist and filmmaker with goosebumps because of their story. I was sat at the tip of my seat and I knew this was a project I could be useful in. I did not yet know how, but I'd figure that out along the way. After their presentation I decided to step up and a week after I asked the necessary technical questions. I decided to just cold call the people from Justdiggit and present myself. The energy and vibe was good and they asked if I could join them to Kenya to film their projects. After some discussion we quickly decided that just filming their projects with a drone would be time lost in such a beautiful place. So we decided to make the first documentary Rainmakers, about the socio economic benefits of landscape restoration for the Maasai community in Southeast Kenya. 

What did you learn while making them?

While making these documentary series I learned that earthsciences is not so much about a desk, a PhD nor a discussion on a conference. It is not about doing research and putting that research in a drawer, to be cited by future research, nor is it about passively pointing fingers and telling people what is right and wrong for our planet. 

To me, in a scientific epoch we've decided to call the Anthropocene, the field of earthsciences has to shift and probably re-organize its priorities and is a lot more about being a bridge between science and society. A combination of pragmatic and useful research connected to human challenges such as energy, environment or landscape use and activating society in applying solutions. It is about actively engaging in looking for solutions to problems that we as a species are causing directly, looking for ways and methods that change our perception of our environment and our consumption. Earthsciences should be able to expand itself across other fields and professions, not just other fields of science. 

In my humble opinion it is because of our lack in using communication, that untrue research and opinions get a chance to spread and for example; more people than ever, believe in a flat earth. Just kidding on this one, but you understand my point. 

Are you still in contact with the people of Justdiggit?

Oh yes! A lot! I have learned and observed many skills from Dennis Karpes and Wessel van Eeden (former founders of Dance 4 Life, which played a significant role in eradicating AIDS from Sub-Sahara Africa). Which I in my turn use and fuse with my earthsciences knowledge. I've learned that businesses are both the cause and the solution to existing problems in our environment. And by actively engaging businesses in for example landscape restauration I feel NGO's no longer have to beg for a dime at busy people in the streets to clean up an estuary that naturally filters our water. 

The documentaries have been awarded and you as well, can you tell us about the title Jonge Haan?

The Jonge Haan is an award for the most notable talent in advertising and communication. The Dutch Society for Advertising is an organization that consists of most marketing C-levels in the Netherlands, ranging from big brands such as Heineken to KLM. They select a pool of interesting young talents that can steer Dutch marketing and advertising into a new paradigm. I was selected amongst the three most promising ones and got a chance to present my vision during a big dinner with all these CEO's. And I won!

My plea was about the societal role that brands should be playing in the future and about the idea of brand communication becoming a respective, inclusive and conscious dialogue between brands and society. I asked for the C-levels to re-think about replacing endless profit with a meaningful role in our society, considering equality, environment and female empowerment. Not because I'm asking for it. But because future society demands it. 

What’s next for you?

I've made it my mission to actively involve brands and businesses in participating in the solution of our direct environmental and societal problems. Using my talent in film as a tool of convincing power. 

Watch the first and second documentary here  and here . And if you’re interested, the third documentary premiers this Thursday in Tuschinski! There are five free tickets available, you can email Danielle van Versendaal to get one.