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Women Working For Our Planet: Lisa Truitt On The National Geographic Encounter & How It Will Help Us Save The Oceans

"All of this work convinced me that the real world can be just as fascinating, thrilling, and entertaining as the best fiction."
National Geographic Encounter 

National Geographic Encounter 

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Today we continue our series with Boxed Water introducing you to women across the country who have dedicated their careers to protecting our ocean waters. You have most likely seen Lisa Truitt's work as she's spent 25+ years working in various capacities for National Geographic. Her purpose: Bringing the natural world to the masses. Truitt travels to far off places many of us will never see, all with the intention of creating a connection to the earth. As she explains, "I always sought projects in the most remote locations possible, places that are both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly fragile." 

Truitt spoke with us about her most recent, and perhaps most impactful, professional chapter: Overseeing the National Geographic Encounter in Times Square. It's "a virtual ocean where high tech meets the deep sea" and "a first-in-kind immersive entertainment experience."

Read on for more of Truitt's fascinating career trajectory, the meaning and importance of entertainment with purpose, and how companies like Boxed Water are "creating a cleaner future that will allow our planet to thrive." 

Before we get too deep (no pun intended) into the Odyssey Ocean experience, I would love to hear more about your previous life as a filmmaker. How long were you making movies for National Geographic? Will you share a few places you traveled and profiled? And finally, how did that career inform and prepare your vision for NatGeo Encounter Ocean Odyssey?

I was at National Geographic for nearly three decades, and worked as a producer, writer, director, executive producer, and business exec, at various times in television, feature films, giant screen/specialty cinema and 3D and immersive dome productions. Many of my projects also involved raising financing, driving educational results and spearheading marketing and distribution, so I’ve come at non-fiction media from many different angles.

As a producer, I always sought projects in the most remote locations possible, places that are both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly fragile. I filmed wildlife on the edge of the Arctic sea ice, camped and filmed with indigenous peoples in the Amazon River basin, filmed paleontologists at the Flaming Cliffs in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, and worked in Iran, Egypt, south and east Africa and in many locations underwater.

Some of my theatrical films included giant screen films Mysteries of Egypt, starring Omar Sharif; Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West; and Sea Monsters 3D. I also executive produced Deepsea Challenge 3D, a 3D feature documentary about Academy Award-winning director James Cameron’s historic 2012 solo submarine dive to the ocean’s deepest spot, the Mariana Trench.

All of this work convinced me that the real world can be just as fascinating, thrilling, and entertaining as the best fiction. And from working in immersive cinema, I knew that there was great potential in translating those amazing stories into an entertainment venue. It was also clear to my partners and me that the technology was available to create a truly immersive space, without the encumbrance and isolation of VR headsets, and to use that to take people to places they could otherwise not visit.

National Geographic Encounter

National Geographic Encounter

How do you describe Encounter Ocean Odyssey to someone who is unfamiliar with the exhibit?

National Geographic Encounter is a virtual ocean where high tech meets the deep sea. It is a first-in-kind immersive entertainment experience that pushes the boundaries of typical attractions by combining National Geographic’s incredible storytelling with an innovative blend of cutting-edge visual effects and technology — allowing visitors to take an interactive walk-through journey across the Pacific Ocean over one incredible night. Guests can splash in the shallow waters of a spectacular coral reef, escape a magnificent 3-D feeding frenzy, get up close with a 50-ft Humpback whale, play with their own sea lions and more – all without getting wet.

National Geographic Encounter

National Geographic Encounter

Why is it important to have a natural exhibit of this magnitude in the center of one of the most recognized and traveled cities in the world?

After decades in media and immersive theatrical storytelling, I wanted to apply my skills and experience to creating something that would reach a new and more varied audience. Encounter offers entertainment with purpose, allowing people to have a great time, but also to form an emotional connection to the ocean, and a real appreciation for its beauty. I’m a true believer in that saying that we will protect only what we love, and I hope that Encounter introduces many hundreds of thousands of people to that magnificent wet world that I have come to love so much.

And what better place to do so than in the ‘Crossroads of the World’? Times Square was always our first and only choice to launch Encounter. It’s got a huge potential audience of both local and global visitors, and we love seeing them laugh and play and have fun in our space.

And judging from the fact that many of our guests take a pledge to do something in their lives to make a difference, we believe we are inspiring people to love and care for our oceans.

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National Geographic Encounter 

How important is it to you and to National Geographic to create a connection with the world's oceans? And what are some of the biggest conservation hurdles we are facing in protecting our waters?

Over the course of my career, plus decades as an avid scuba diver, I have witnessed firsthand as our oceans suffer, fish stocks diminish, and coral reefs struggle to survive in an ocean that is getting warmer and more acidic. We really do need to all recognize that beneath that flat ocean surface is a thriving world on which all our lives depend. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, provides food and jobs, sequesters a third of manmade carbon emissions and produces half of earth’s oxygen. Truly the ocean’s fate is our own fate.

As you may know, National Geographic Society’s ‘Pristine Seas’ initiative explores and protects the last wild places in the ocean with the goal to protect 20 of the ocean’s wildest places by 2020. 

National Geographic also has the ‘Planet or Plastic?’ initiative which is a multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis, encouraging everyone to reduce their own single-use plastics and take a pledge.

Boxed Water is one of the sustainable options the National Geographic Encounter offers after you pledge to help the planet.  

Boxed Water is one of the sustainable options the National Geographic Encounter offers after you pledge to help the planet.  

How are companies like Boxed Water making a positive impact on the aforementioned hurdles?

It astounds me that around the world, nearly one million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute and approximately 500 million plastic straws are used a day in just the U.S. alone. Those go into landfills or the ocean, and they don’t ever go away. Some of it breaks down into tiny particles that gets ingested by fish and ends up in our own food.

Plastic is convenient, but there are many cost-effective options. I’ve taken to always carrying a refillable water bottle, or buying from companies like Boxed Water and Bambu, which makes eco-friendly products such as reusable bamboo straws.

Real change needs to be market-driven, and companies like this are taking the lead in creating a cleaner future that allows our planet – which is really all of our life support system — to thrive. The more we all embrace these kinds of options, the more we consumers will drive change, which will compel companies to find ways to do business sustainably and affordably.

In light of current news, it can often feel like we are headed for a dystopian future. For those who cannot visit the exhibit in person, what can we do to bring some of the magic of NatGeo Encounter Ocean Odyssey to our own homes? And what are three actionable things we can all do to help protect our most valuable resource?

The news can seem overwhelming and depressing, but every person really can play an important role in driving change. If each of us takes small steps, that adds up to huge momentum. Manufacturers and policy-makers will notice, and it will make a difference! At Encounter, guests can take individual pledges to make a difference in ocean conservation, and those choices are open to all of us:

Avoid single-use plastics, such as bags and straws. It’s hard to eliminate plastic packaging, but buy the option that uses less of it. Companies will notice, and will eventually they’ll change their packaging.

It’s also really important that we eat sustainably harvested seafood in order to keep fish stocks plentiful enough to keep providing our food. Wild fish can’t reproduce fast enough to keep up with many of the massive commercial fisheries.

If you’re at the ocean, use sunscreen that isn’t toxic to marine life

Try to reduce your carbon footprint — every little bit helps.

And the biggest impact you can have? Vote for what you care about.

Take the 30 Days No Plastic Pledge to join the movement against plastic bottle consumption and doing your part for a #BetterPlanet. Enjoy 20% off your first purchase with code THEFOLD20.

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