Save the Bay: Filmmaker Shireen Rahimi

Shireen Rahimi is one of the eminently talented Miami creatives who contributed to Oolite Arts’ Save the Bay campaign. Their PSA is one of the several shorts from the initiative highlighting how locals can do their part to preserve the water quality of Biscayne Bay.

Now through Wednesday, August 11, you can rewatch their short and others (just scroll to the bottom of 👉 this page) and vote for your favorite. The winner will be announced on Friday, August 13, when they’ll receive an honorary People’s Choice Award along with a $1,000 prize.

Read on for our full Q&A with Rahimi. More info on Oolite Arts’ Save the Bay campaign and a roundup of The New Tropic’s interviews with participating filmmakers can be found right here.

Name and pronouns:

Dr. Shireen Rahimi (she/her)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your creative practices, and your ties to Miami-Dade?

Hi, I’m Shireen! I’m a filmmaker, photographer, scientist, freediver, National Geographic Explorer, and water spirit. I came to Miami from my hometown of San Jose, CA six years ago to get my Ph.D. from the University of Miami, where I studied marine anthropology and environmental media. I spent my Ph.D. researching how people relate to, think about, and make their livings off of a changing ocean in places like Cuba, Chile, and The Bahamas. 

After I graduated last year, I founded Lightpalace, a production company that focuses on telling visual stories — both photography and film — about human relationships with the natural world through a poetic lens. Miami is a rich and diverse place for me to tell such stories, as it is a major metropolitan city surrounded by swamplands, oceans, and subtropical forests, and will one day be partially swallowed up by the sea — what an incredible place to be.

What’s your personal connection to Biscayne Bay? Do you have any personal formative memories that took place there?

I live in Miami, so my life revolves around the bay. I go kayaking in the bay; I go running by the bay; I SCUBA dive in Biscayne Bay National Park; I drive over the bay with my windows rolled down, blasting Afrobeat and watching the sunset behind the Miami skyline, awed by this beautiful city and the underwater ecosystems managing to survive at its shores. The bay is one of the many natural environments that cradle metropolitan Miami, supporting its infrastructure and the livelihoods of all of us who live here. I am grateful for the bay and all of the beings living with it.

What can you share with us about your PSA? What were the driving concepts or ideas that informed it?

Our PSA highlights the emotional impact Biscayne Bay has on everyone who lives in Miami. Our lives are deeply intertwined with the bay — we are one and the same. When we make decisions to take care of the bay, we are making decisions that help ourselves, and we all are transformed into environmental heroes. I wanted people to feel this emotional and physical connection: a connection to the Biscayne Bay ecosystem and the role it plays in the story of our lives.

How do you think art can help inspire folks and shape conversations around pressing issues like climate change?

Scientific research has shown that visual media is one of the most powerful tools we have to create social and behavioral change around the environment. But how can we make this media compelling? I believe that every human relationship with the natural world is collectively made up of a series of minute, everyday moments: The moment a fisher kills a fish, watching the life leaves its eyes, or the tender movements of a coral farmer’s hands, cleaning algae off of coral fragments destined to blanket the seafloor. 

Through my work, I have become convinced that it is the repeated visual portrayal of these everyday moments — as tender, complex, beautiful, and tragic as they are — that will gradually reveal the human-nature dichotomy for the myth that [the division between the two] is. And I am convinced that the dissolution of this false dichotomy in the societal consciousness will be what tips the scales in favor of environmental protection over economic profits.

What do you hope viewers take away from your PSA or how they might be inspired by it?

I hope that this PSA awakens a feeling of kinship and proximity with the bay in anyone who views it so that we feel as if our futures and the future of the bay are one and the same. If we come together to transform the bay from its degraded state into a healthy, thriving ecosystem, we will have transformed ourselves.

Whether in the short or long term, what are the most immediate steps people can take to help Save the Bay?

I hope this PSA inspires us all to keep trash, plastic, and cigarette butts out of the water; to refrain from using fertilizer on our lawns (lawns are overrated anyways!); to boycott cruise lines (some of the greatest environmental villains on the planet); to pick up our dog poop; to vote for politicians that care about our environment (as evidenced by their actions, not their words); to advocate for increased regulations on construction near the bay, and to advocate for caring for the bay in our social circles. Change starts from within.