The first time I met Rob Stewart was at an environmental film festival in Barcelona. The program director said I had to meet the other Canadian, the guy from Toronto. I looked around the outdoor table, glanced at the good looking young guy dressed in stylishly casual European clothes, and searched for a Canadian director in black jeans, t-shirt and ball cap. When the guy in the bright Barcelona attire introduced himself, he told me he'd been in Europe for so long with his film Sharkwater that he'd gone native. That was back in 2007, and Stewart has been so busy touring with his film for the last four years that he's barely touched down in Toronto since then.
For Stewart, Sharkwater wasn't a movie so much as a mission. The award-eating documentary, which included his adventures with Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd society, was the perfect excuse to get people talking about saving the sharks, the same way we talk about saving the whales and the wild salmon.
As he toured the world with his documentary, Stewart became a one-man antidote to Steven Spielberg's Jaws: trying to transform our primal fear of the blood-scenting fish with the really sharp teeth into a campaign to protect them from ending up in Chinese soup. The movie contributed to several countries banning the sale of shark fins, and raised awareness about the plight of the species pretty much everywhere.
When we met a few weeks ago in a downtown hotel suite just before his film Revolution premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, the still too-stylish-to-be-from-Toronto filmmaker talked about how saving the sharks led to his new mission -- which is also the title of his just released biography/manifesto written with Evan Rosser -- Save the Humans.
Stewart's mission arrives in Vancouver this week, with the premiere of Revolution at the Empire Granville 7 on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 6:15 p.m. as part of the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival, and a reading from his new book, just released by Random House, at Capilano College in North Vancouver on Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. He'll also speak at The Guild Agency at 9 a.m. at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown as part of the Western Cities Conference.
The film, Revolution, chronicles Stewart's Sharkwater revival tour. It stems from the moment a student at a Hong Kong screening asked him why he was bothering to save the sharks when we were on the verge of losing the oceans. The question hit Stewart harder than Spielberg's infamous Great White. Suddenly he found his focus shifting from saving the sharks to saving the oceans.
The book, Save the Humans, chronicles Stewart's 32 years on the planet. "The book is 32 years of my life, Revolution is four years of my life and (making) Sharkwater is four months of my life," says Stewart. "It covers every crazy pet I've had, every experience."
Those crazy experiences include taking underwater photos from the age of 13 and being certified as a scuba instructor trainer at 18. He met his first shark when he was a kid and it was love at first bite.
"My parents took a vacation in the Caribbean every year and I got to hang out at coral reefs and meet these animals." Asked if seeing his first shark was what turned him green, Stewart smiled. "I think I was passionate from having a goldfish from the time I was zero onwards."
Stewart says Sharkwater inspired the creation of at least a dozen different conservation groups.
"The conservation movement credited it as being one of the big instigators for pushing shark fin bans and getting the community and public involved.... We got Sharkwater seen by 120 million people in China. So, you know, the word's out there for sure. Yao Ming has become an active spokesperson for anti-shark (finning) movements for the past four, five years. It's happening."
Once he shifted his focus from sharks to humans, Stewart connected with environmentalists like University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver who he calls "one of my favourite scientists," and started trying to figure out what was wrong with the planet and how to save it and us.
"I think I'm going to work with Andrew in the future. I think he's going to be involved in our conservation group. I've come up with something called the Collapse Prevention Report, CPR, which I want conservationists to give to every country in the world for their birthday, which will be constantly updating graphical representations of the country's resources. How much of each resource do you have, and what are the current consumption trends and why will your country collapse?
"Canada would collapse for different reasons than Chad would collapse, for example. So from that point on, every citizen can hold their government and corporations accountable for the resources that they have and for the destruction of their life systems. Right now we can't manage what we don't know; all this stuff is getting destroyed without us knowing it. Andrew wants to be involved with that."
Stewart also created an environmental group of his own, United Conservationists, "designed to show people how to change the world, to help try to get humanity back towards sustainability."
As soon as I ask about it, he offers to read me the mandate, which begins: "We're realists, dreamers and revolutionaries. We believe in Earth, life, and that 3.5 million years of evolution humans created a world of unmatched productivity and diversity."
Stewart says he's still figuring out how to make the group work because his original dream was to bring conservation groups together "like a unionization, so we can present a united front to governments and corporations."
He abandoned that mandate after discovering something that won't surprise B.C. environmentalists -- he couldn't get green groups to play well together.
"We were embraced so beautifully with Sharkwater -- finally scientists had a voice and were using it to raise money, this was all great. Then I start a conservation group and all of the sudden everybody was competitive with me. They're not inviting me to their events. It changed overnight, just like that."
Although Stewart's mission has shifted from saving sharks to saving people, he hasn't given up on fighting for his finned friends, and wanted to make sure this story mentioned Vancouver's Claudia Li who runs Fin Free Vancouver -- Shark Truth.
By Mark Leiren-Young, Yesterday, TheTyee.ca
In 2010, China saw the premiere of Toronto-born filmmaker Rob Stewart's debut film, Sharkwater. During a promotional Q&A in Hong Kong — a city whose culture, cuisine, and economy thrive on shark fins — a young woman asked Stewart what the point of saving sharks was if all fish, according to the United Nations, will be depleted by 2048.
Stewart knew that there was no point, unless something changed. In that moment, it seems, Stewart realized the implication not only of humanity's detrimental impact on the Earth's ecosystems, but also of its apathy towards preserving the health of the environment. This realization would lead to his next film – one that is much larger in scope than Sharkwater.
"If I could make a film about the bigger picture, then maybe something bigger would happen," Stewart explained during a recent interview.
Fifteen countries, four years, and hundreds of hours of footage later that film, Revolution, is due to be released in 2013. The film responds to Stewart's previous documentary with a firm statement: before we attempt to save whatever lives under the ocean's surface, we must first look at what's happening on land.
"By the time I was done releasing Sharkwater, it was blaringly evident that there was a much bigger issue afoot," Stewart said. "It wasn't sharks and trees and pandas we needed to be saving. It was us."
Unlike Sharkwater, which benefits from the specificity of its subject matter, Revolution covers a much bigger topic: people.
For starters, there are the people, the film's subjects, who range from impassioned kids to expert ecologists. The most impressive story (and there are many others) focuses on a sixth grade class from Saipan, who, inspired by their teacher's screening of Sharkwater, wrote to their local government, demanding that it put a stop to shark finning. Saipan is now the second authority in the world to completely ban the sale of shark fins, largely thanks to that sixth grade class.
And then there is the collective human race, which Stewart documents by displaying the final, ugly product of its actions. Humans are treated as an off-screen antagonist, whose greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions, among other damaging practices, are contributing to (if not causing) ocean acidification. By destroying coral reefs and effectively killing the millions of sea creatures who live there, we are, in turn, destroying the very ocean life that provides much of our oxygen.
Stewart was laid back and often humble when he spoke about his latest film during our interview last week. It seemed hard to believe that someone so reserved about such a pressing issue could dedicate so much passion to his cause.
But Stewart's greatest asset as an environmentalist is his personality, which informs his cinematic method. Rather than simply scare his viewers, Stewart plays on our sentiments by capturing lush coral reefs and exotic sea creatures, and then juxtaposing those images with the grey wasteland of the Alberta tar sands.
The director's humility also motivates and complements his agenda. "I don't really know what sets me apart because I don't really know what everybody else is doing," he admitted. "I know what I'm trying to do: I'm trying to give the public all the information they need to make better decisions.
"The next step is getting Revolution seen by one billion people. The biggest issue facing the planet is awareness. Social media is going to be the tool and kids are going to lead this revolution."
While the content of his documentaries is often bleak, Stewart remains optimistic that his film will not only inform, but also inspire his audiences.
"Sharkwater proved to me that humanity is good, that people, when educated about the issue, will make better decisions and they'd fight for ecosystems and species' survival," he said. "I'm hoping with [Revolution] that people [will] know where they're going."
Stewart's optimistic attitude does not, however, extend towards politicians — particularly the ones responsible for funding the fisheries and the oil and gas industries that are known to have devastating effects on the environment.
"I'm done trying to convince the politicians," he explained during our interview. "The governments are in with the corporations, so the governments are not acting in the best long-term health and happiness of their citizens, but for short-term profit.
"The greatest surprise was learning how terrible Canada is environmentally … especially when the country has this veneer of being green and environmentally-friendly."
In spite of these challenges, Stewart continues to have ambitious dreams, if only because he understands the gravity of ignoring the grave impact that humans are having on the environment.
"We have built a civilization over the last 250 years that is destroying the world we depend on for survival," he said. "It literally consumes our life-support system and our economic growth comes at the cost of life.
"Things would change drastically if the public knew what was going on… We need big risks and big dreams right now. We need to change this world radically. It's not going to take Priuses and recycling.
"It's going to take a revolution."
By: Daniel Horowitz , 17 September 2012, TheVarsity.ca
TORONTO - Toronto eco-warrior Rob Stewart has already warned the world about threats facing sharks and other ocean life.
Now, with his new book and film, he's sounding an ambitious alarm on a much bigger cause: the future of humanity.
"This century we're facing some pretty catastrophic consequences of our actions," an impassioned and fact-filled Stewart, 32, said in a recent interview.
"We're facing a world by 2050 that has no fish, no reefs, no rainforest, and nine billion people on a planet that already can't sustain seven billion people. So it's going to be a really dramatic century unless we do something about it."
Stewart is delivering his grave and urgent message in his recently published memoir, "Save the Humans" (Random House of Canada), and the documentary "Revolution," premiering Wednesday at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The book is chock-full of sobering statistics about the massive depletion of fish populations as well as the wide-reaching threat of ocean acidification.
It also details Stewart's adventure-filled, nature-loving life — from his childhood catching snakes and other creatures, to his time as a global wildlife photographer and his lifelong fascination with sharks that led to his powerful documentary "Sharkwater."
"Sharkwater," which debuted at the Toronto film festival in 2006, put the spotlight on the fast-dwindling population of the world's sharks as well as illegal and recreational fishing, longlinging, finning, climate change and pollution.
It also proved to Stewart's doubters he had conviction, determination and a lot of guts behind his handsome looks.
Stewart and his colleagues even risked their lives for the film, visiting a Costa Rican warehouse that trafficked in illegal shark fin, and confronting poachers on the high seas. His activism has also seen him contracting the bacteria that causes flesh-eating disease and be abandoned in the ocean during a deep-sea dive.
"Sharkwater" became an international hit and prompted people around the world to lobby their governments for bans on shark finning.
But at a 2010 Q&A for the premiere of "Sharkwater" in Hong Hong, Stewart realized it wasn't enough.
"Someone put up their hand and said, 'What's the point of stopping us from eating shark fin soup if all the fish are going to be gone by 2048 anyways?'" said Stewart, noting the statistic came from a study done by Dalhousie University in Halifax.
"That sort of helped ignite this journey, by showing me that there's a bigger issue afoot — that even if we save sharks, then we lose all the fish and we're in a massive problem."
Stewart shot "Revolution" in 15 countries over four years.
Despite the success of "Sharkwater," he had an even tougher time making his second film.
"When I started telling people about what my next movie was about, I'd tell them it's about how humans are going to survive the next 100 years, and the most common reaction I'd get right away would be like, 'Yeah, right, good luck with that,'" said Stewart, who studied a zoology at Western University and has a blood python and an emerald tree boa as pets.
"Saving humanity, it turns out, was almost an even less popular thing to do than saving sharks."
As such, Stewart had a tough time finding funding for the film and getting people to believe in him. Eventually he got support from Telefilm Canada as well as some corporations.
With the advent of social media, Stewart believes the potential for an environmental revolution is greater than ever before.
His biggest advice for those who want to join his cause is to spread awareness about it. He also advises people to cut down on not just their waste but also their consumption.
"Consume less of everything," said Stewart, who runs his home on green electricity, rides his bicycle as often as possible, and hardly eats meat.
"It's not buying something that's sustainable, it's just, don't buy anything.... And if you want to buy something, buy something that's used, buy vintage clothes, buy old stuff.
"The most environmentally friendly car is the car you've got — drive that car into the ground."
It's also important to engage with your government, he added.
"Right now governments are running amok and they're doing whatever they want, despite citizens wanting something different. So you've got to get involved politically, you've got to let the government know that you disapprove of what they're doing and that you want a world that sustains human life and that doesn't emit massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, destroying our very life support system."
Stewart's biggest target for both his book and film is young people.
"Any revolution in the past has been led by people most directly impacted by the atrocity, and when we look at the future what's going to happen it's the youths future that's at stake," he said.
"So they're the ones that are going to bat for this, and they're also not entrenched in the negative side of society and the lives that maybe adults are."
"Revolution" is due to hit theatres across Canada on Earth Day in April 2013.
By: Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press September 13, 2012
When Toronto's Rob Stewart released his groundbreaking documentary "Sharkwater" in 2007, it started a worldwide movement to save the sharks. Will he get the same reaction with his new film, one about saving the human race itself?
In his follow-up documentary, "Revolution," which will make its world premiere at TIFF Wednesday night, Stewart travels to 15 countries over a period of four years and discovers startling information about the state of the planet.
"I hope that people take this and run with it and it sort of becomes a call to action for the next 20 years and the kids coming out of school dedicate their lives to this," Stewart tells CTV.ca during an interview at TIFF. "We need all hands on deck right now because we don't know exactly how to fix this."
Ocean acidification, forest deforestation and species loss are just some of the problems that are occurring because of global warming. One of the main reasons, according to Stewart, is the increased amount of carbon dioxide in the air, which is released with the burning of fossil fuel. He names the Alberta tar sands as the biggest culprit. He also examines how over consumption and the scarcity of food and water could contribute to the end of the human race – and a lot sooner than most people think.
"I was super surprised at what I was finding out and more surprised by the fact that this stuff's happening and everybody doesn't know about it. Like why isn't everybody running around going, 'Oh my God, we've got to change everything.'"
Even though Stewart had never made a film before, "Sharkwater" broke box office records and won 35 international awards. Since its release, more than 100 countries have banned shark finning. But Stewart soon realized that his fight was just beginning when the threats facing the ecosystem could trump everything he worked so hard for. And that's what led him on the path to making his new film.
To further investigate and to try and find some solutions, Stewart attended an environmental conference in Mexico.
"All that stuff has gone into the atmosphere and if we go and put that life back and we restore ecosystems and we restore forests the planet will be a much more hospitable place for us and all the other species."
Stewart learned that changing government policies – and people's perceptions – is not going to be an easy task. But he became encouraged after seeing all of the passionate youth ready to take on the fight.
"It makes total sense, every revolution in the past, it's been the people most directly impacted by the atrocity that hit the streets," explains Stewart. "It was women for women's rights, it was black people for racial inequality and it's kids (now) because it's their future."
The film highlights many of these inspiring children, whom Stewart is confident are going to be able to make a difference.
"We're going to be able to change this and turn it around and we're going to do it in our lifetime. We have the opportunity. We have no other option," he says.
"I think it's just an awareness gap. As soon as everybody knows what's going on, then the few corporations and governments that are running around destroying everything, they're going to be viewed as radical. What won't be radical . . . will be the preservation of our life support system and mother earth."
So what happens now?
Stewart, whose new book "Save the Humans" goes even deeper into the topics brought up in "Revolution," doesn't claim to have all the answers.
"I'm still figuring this out. I don't exactly know what's going on or what's going to happen with the movie but . . . if everyone's educated, we can't be ignorant in bliss any longer, we'll make the decisions that we feel good about that support human life and life on earth . . . instead of the ones that are going to destroy everything."
By:Sheri Block, September 12, 2012
Rob Stewart's 2007 debut documentary Sharkwater had the largest opening weekend of any Canadian documentary film of all time. Naturally, the director thought financing his next film, Revolution, about the environmental problems plaguing the world, would be easier to produce.
It almost was.
"At one point, we had $5-million and were shooting in 3D and I had 11 people travelling with me, but then I spray-painted myself green at the biggest environmental rally in the history of Canada and told the press, 'We don't need environmental policy, we need revolution,' and all of our money fell away," says Stewart, 32, an underwater photographer and author, who released his first book, Save the Humans, last month. "Overnight our budget dropped from $5-million to $150,000 and I had to fire everyone working with me, buy some plane tickets and two cameras, and I left for a year and came back with my film."
According to Stewart, investors grew nervous about the film's radical environmental message: that human beings are killing the forests and oceans at a pace that would define the time we live in as the fifth great extinction period in the 3.5 million-year history of the world.
"After Ottawa, lots of news stories said, 'Sharkwater guy says we need a revolution on Parliament Hill,' and that scared away investors," Stewart says. "It ended up being a good thing for the movie, though, because I learned a lot more of my film school education. It's good to be able to churn these movies out for less cash."
The film, which takes on the tar sands, deforestation, pollution and food scarcity, was filmed across 15 countries and calls out the names, specifically in government, of the people who Stewart sees as enemies of the natural world. The director, who also writes, produces and stars in his films, says he would prefer to simply photograph sharks, his first love, but that he's learned too much about what's happening to the environment to not get involved on the front lines.
"I'd go back to photography in a second, but it's the burden of knowing, knowing that I can do something and spread this message to the world," he says. "There's nothing new in this movie, but I have to make the information a digestible story that will hit young people because young people are the ones most directly impacted by this atrocity — it's their future that's at stake."
Stewart, who was born and still lives in Toronto, believes that making Revolution, and making it for half the price of his previous film, signifies a new step in his career. The filmmaker has never been to film school and isn't interested in an Oscar; what he wants to do is open up people's eyes.
"I'm not a film nut, I'm an animal nut, and if we could make these movies for cheaper, faster and churn them out every year, that would be amazing," he says. "Everyone knows what's going on and we can turn this thing around, but only if we hold each other morally responsible to make better decisions. Revolution is about human survival — we have to act now and turn things around if we hope to survive this extinction."
By:Ben Kaplan, Sep 12, 2012
Source: National Post
Revolution is a film about changing the world. The true-life adventure of Rob Stewart, this follow-up to his acclaimed SHARKWATER documentary continues his remarkable journey; one that will take him through 15 countries over four years, and where he'll discover that it's not only sharks that are in grave danger – it's humanity itself.
In an effort to uncover the truth and find the secret to saving the ecosystems we depend on for survival, Stewart embarks on a life-threatening adventure. From the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea and deforestation in Madagascar to the largest and most destructive environmental project in history in Alberta, Canada, he reveals that all of our actions are interconnected and that environmental degradation, species loss, ocean acidification, pollution and food/water scarcity are reducing the Earth's ability to house humans. How did this happen, and what will it take to change the course that humanity has set itself on?
By:Debra Ross, Sep 12, 2012
The reaction to Sharkwater, a debut film by Rob Stewart, made the Toronto documentary maker into an optimist.
Made at great personal cost including a lost relationship, a stint in prison and a mountain of debt, Sharkwater became one of the highest-grossing Canadian documentaries ever made.
But more important to Stewart, who has loved fish ever since he was a child, it inspired hundreds of shark conservation groups and led to bans on shark fin soup around the world.
On Wednesday, Stewart talked to Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC's Q current affairs show, about his newest projects – the documentary Revolution that will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival and the memoir Save the Humans, released last week.
This time the Canadian conservationist is trying to use his higher profile to save nothing less than humanity itself.
Stewart told Q he began thinking of saving more than just the sharks after attending environmental film festival and conservation conventions in support of Sharkwater.
"At the time I thought saving sharks was the most important issue on the planet -- we can't undermine a form of life that's 40 million years old," he said.
"But I met all these scientists and conservationists who said 'What you're doing with sharks is great, but you're missing the point. We're going to lose everything and if we lose everything we won't have any sharks left. By the middle of this century we could have no fish in the sea, no coral reefs, no rainforests and a planet that can't sustain many forms of life.'"
Stewart believes that if he can educate people about their impact on the planet, and what they stand to lose, they'll make the personal changes needed to save humankind from itself.
With Revolution, Stewart says he wants to infuse others with his own love of the sea and its wonders – and point out the long-term effects of both climate change and human consumption of fish on marine ecosystems.
His memoir, Save the Humans, talks about the making of Sharkwater and how he became so interested in life under the sea, but goes one step further – pointing out that we will not be able to feed ourselves soon unless we change our patterns of consumption.
He's confident that message will get through, he tells Q, despite Canadian government policies that disregard the environment.
"Studies have shown that the thing that's going to change our behaviour the most is the actions of our peers. Until our peers start recycling everything, we are not going to start recycling, By educating everybody and letting everybody know what's going on, our actions are going to change," he said.
Aug 29, 2012
Source: CBC News
Rob Stewart has moved on.
With his forceful debut 2007 documentary Sharkwater, the Toronto-born marine adventurer, environmental activist and filmmaker alerted the world to the industrial-scale slaughter of the ocean's essential high-end predators, and helped enact worldwide bans on the sale of shark fin soup, a Chinese culinary delicacy.
Now he wants to save the human race.
Stewart's education under the world's leading eco-warriors and scientists has progressed exponentially in the four years since Sharkwater was completed, and as he prepares to drop his second enviro-doc, Revolution, at TIFF in September, the 32-year-old campaigner and narrative voice of the just published memoir/call-to-arms, Save the Humans, is both frightened and armed for battle.
You won't know how frightened till you get to the end of his book, co-authored with ghost writer Evan Rosser, when Stewart unloads a ton of startling data about the oceans turning acid, protective coral reefs dying before our eyes and the likely extinction of ocean fish sometime around 2070.
This is catastrophic information that also presages the imminent doom of the human species, the slight, spiky haired activist said calmly earlier this week.
"Because they can no longer absorb and convert the hydrocarbons humans are producing, our oceans are 30 per cent more acidic than they were 100 years ago. Forty per cent of phytoplankton, which gives us half the oxygen we breathe, is gone.
"Four of the last five major extinctions that wiped most life off the planet were caused by ocean acidification — and we're facing extinction now."
These are messages veteran eco-activists like David Suzuki have been delivering for 50 years, and now lay like sediment at the bottom of a global consciousness preoccupied with maintaining growth, civilization and material abundance.
Stewart, raised safe and wealthy — his parents run the movie/wildlife multi-media outfit Tribute Entertainment Media Group — redirects the old warnings with the ferocity of the newly converted. His quiet conviction is formidable, impressive.
Fortified by his Sharkwater success — the movie has been seen by 120 million people, he said — by and his youthful faith in the power of the Internet and social media, Stewart believes he and a few friends can save us all.
In his lifetime, no less.
"I want this book to say the revolution to save humanity is upon us," he said. "And once people become aware of how radical the changes have to be, the revolution will happen very quickly."
Such brazen confidence invites scorn. Stewart is used to it. He felt ambushed by critics who dismissed Sharkwater as flagrant self-promotion and ignored its message, he said.
Is he naïve, disingenuous, blind to the innate self-interest of human beings, or does he have access to humanity's all but undetectable better instincts?
"I never had faith in humanity," Stewart confessed. "I love animals, and I hate what humans do to them. That's why I made Sharkwater. But watching people go into battle to save sharks as a result of seeing my movie has turned me around. I believe enlightened humanity can make a difference."
He doesn't have much of a plan, he admits in the book, other than releasing another movie. Revolution is a chronicle of Stewart's deepening commitment to and advocacy of environmental activism, scheduled to premiere at TIFF in September, followed by a theatrical release in North America and free screenings and downloads for the rest of the world.
He has also founded Untied Conservationists, a "radical" NGO comprising environmental scientists and activists using multi-media platforms to spread information and "provide clear paths of … direct action," according to their web site ( http://unitedconservationists.org), and signed on with the creators of the soon-to-be-released Collapse Prevention Report, monitoring the eroding condition of the planet in spectacular detail.
"If a billion people see this movie and half of them get to know what I know now about the problems we're facing, the shift will happen," said Stewart, who spent time in the waters off Costa Rica with renegade Canadian eco-activist Paul Watson, during a run-in with shark pirates that resulted in attempted murder charges being laid against the legendary marine life defender, and his subsequent arrest in Germany and flight to parts unknown in July.
Stewart said he has not been in touch with Watson since he made Sharkwater.
"But he's safe, at sea. The publicity over his arrest raised enough money to keep him afloat. He has some new, big and very fast boats. Paul never has to make port again. He can stay at sea forever.
"In the future better governments will make better decisions about the people who are ruining our life-support system for profit."
Part of Stewart's solution is a global one-child program to reduce and stabilize the population.
"In 200 years we'd have about 2 billion people, instead of the 7 billion we have now, or 9 billion in a few years time," he said. "We can't sustain that. Population control is a necessity, absolutely.
"I know nothing about politics, but I believe an educated public will push politicians in the right direction.
"Because we have communications tools and networks humans have never had before, we can be made aware of these issues, regardless of what governments and corporations want."
Idealistic and ambitious as Rob Stewart is, he doesn't sound like a fool. An in-demand speaker at international gatherings of policy influencers and environmentalists, the filmmaker is all too aware of the walls of cynicism he has to scale before his ideas hit their mark.
"A hero's only as strong as his villain," Stewart said. "It's going to take the most ambitious of us to the pinnacle of who we can be to achieve what needs to be achieved.
"But it will be done."
by: Greg Quill, Aug 25, 2012
The same filmmaker who changed the way we viewed the most feared creatures in aquatic life is bringing his environmental message to Sudbury.
Rob Stewart's debut award-winning documentary Sharkwater explored the role sharks have in our delicate ecosystem, their exploitation and potential extinction.
His latest documentary Revolution generated a lot of hype when it premiered at TIFF last week.
Stewart is in Sudbury today for a special 11 a.m. screening of Revolution for local students. His documentary screens again 1:30 p.m. Saturday as part of Cinefest's regular lineup.
"Right now, only a fraction of the planet knows what's going on," Stewart said in a phone interview from Toronto, "that our life support system is in jeopardy, that the very life that has allowed us to survive on this plant is systematically being destroyed."
"Until ever yone knows what's going on, we need to push governments and corporations for the change we need." Revolution begins with the release of Sharkwater and Stewart's realization that despite his six-year effort to save sharks, their future is in jeopardy. When looking at the bigger picture, it's not just sharks, but oceans and ultimately mankind who will eventually follow the same fate.
Stewart's mission is to get one billion people to watch Revolution, youth being the prima ry demographic. After bringing it to audiences around the world, he wants to post it online for free.
"It's their future at stake," Stewart said about his goal to primarily reach youth.
"We're hoping kids will take this up as their issue and their cause. The whole experience in releasing Sharkwater is that kids took that issue to heart and did whatever possible to change the world."
The first step youth can do it educate their friends and family.
"The kind of change we need is pretty substantial and not just about changing light bulbs and recycling," said Stewart.
"We need everyone to know what's going on so we can usher in this kind of change. "
Stewart spent four years travelling to make the documentary, during which time he visited 15 countries and learned how easy it really was to evoke change.
"Kids are changing the world all over the place," he said. "Governments are changing; there are more than one million NGOs and conservation groups around the world that are actually achieving something."
The public has the misconception that changing corporate and government practices is difficult, but it's not said Stewart.
The film will affect the way you see the world but also how you see Canada.
"Canada has a sort of veneer on the outside and the generally impression is that Canada is a good country, environmentally," said Stewart.
"We're the country that started Greenpeace and the environmental movement, but on the global stage and at all these environmental conferences we've been in the last five years around the world, the general impression is that Canada is probably the worst country on environmental policy right now."
Many countries are making great strides to reduce emissions but Canada's emissions are escalating at a higher rate than anywhere else, said Stewart.
But there is hope.
"I think this is an opportunity and that's why I made a movie about it. We have the opportunity in averting potentially the greatest catastrophe in history."
For TIFF 2012, we sponsored the thought-provoking documentary Revolution by Torontonian Rob Stewart. We donated several hundred aura cases for the iPhone 4/S with the Revolution logo engraved on them, but don't think we're just going to stop there!
Revolution takes a look at our survival on planet Earth in the next century. With the decline of ocean life, rainforests, and natural resources supporting the steady increase of our population, Revolution paints a grim future...that is, unless we take action. At iSkin, we believe there is no stronger cause than this and we are fiercely proud to be apart of it. By sharing Revolution with our fanbase, we hope to overcome one of the strongest hurdles: apathy.
While the documentary doesn't hit theatres until April 2013, we will hopefully make it more accessible globally so we, as a collective, can help jumpstart the healing process.Expect to hear more on this from us and in the meantime, here are a couple of pics from TIFF.
Rob Stewart is not a man who tries to keep his head above water. In fact, the filmmaker and environmental activist behind Sharkwater can trace his recent success to those times when he had a camera in his hand and a scuba tank on his back. In the six years since its release, Sharkwater has been seen by some 124 million people and has led several cities, including Calgary, to ban the distribution and sale of shark fins. (Calgary's city council voted in favour of the ban in July; the bylaw is expected to come before council for approval later this fall.) Bruce Weir spoke with Stewart about the advocate's new book, Save the Humans, and his new film, Revolution.
Would you rather be swimming with sharks than doing a book tour?
I'd way rather be swimming with sharks than on a book tour. I'd rather be hanging out in nature, photographing animals and fish, but the burden of knowing what I know means I have the power to help change things.
With the new book and movie, you have a lot on the go. How do you keep it all straight?
It's all the same to me. It's all the same message. It's all the same reasons behind it. It's just different ways of trying to convey the same story and bring people on the journey that I went on that made me realize we have to save the humans.
In the case of the book, Save the Humans, part of the journey you went on was the PR tour for Sharkwater.
Can you tell me about the epiphany you had along the way?
I spent 10 years of my life trying to save sharks, thinking that was the pinnacle of what I was capable of. But my world came tumbling down on the PR tour for Sharkwater. I kept meeting scientists who would say, 'What you're doing for sharks is awesome but what about this? Or these animals? Or ocean acidification? It became glaringly evident for me that it's not just sharks we need to save, it's everything.
That message forms the heart of your book and your movie. How has the reaction been?
When I tell people that I'm making a movie about how humans are going to survive the next 100 years, a lot of the responses are "Yeah, right" or "Good luck with that." It kind of represents a lack of hope in the fact that we are going to turn this around.
So how do you stay positive about the task you're facing?
I look at the plus side of what's going on. There are over a million non-governmental organizations that are working for the betterment of humanity and the protection of ecosystems. We've got everyone connected on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, so as we figure out what to do—who to bring down and who to support—everyone can know about it. I think we have an enormous opportunity with this to get things right.
Canadian director Rob Stewart was at a screening in Hong Kong three years ago to promote his award-winning film Sharkwater when a student asked him an earnest question that left him speechless.
"What's the point of stopping shark finning if all the fish are going to be gone by 2048?" she asked, referencing a prediction published in the journal Science in 2006 that the world will run out of wild-caught seafood by then if prevailing trends continue.
He didn't know what to say.
"This was the first time where it was pointed out to me that everything I'd done didn't mean anything in the face of this bigger adversary," Stewart said Thursday.
The Toronto native is on a swing through Vancouver this week promoting the film that question inspired, Revolution, at VIFF, as well as his new book, Save the Humans.
Shot in stunning locations around the globe from the Great Barrier Reef to Papua New Guinea, the $1-million documentary paints a dramatic picture of climate change's "evil twin": ocean acidification. As carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, the film explains, it dissolves into rivers, lakes and oceans, and the consequence is that reef and other marine ecosystems everywhere are collapsing at astounding rates.
The film features appearance by a couple of B.C. locals: Renowned University of Victoria climate scientist and B.C. Green Party candidate Andrew Weaver, as well as former Vancouver city councillor and UN sustainability delegate David Cadman.
While Revolution doesn't offer a lot in the way of original, detailed solutions, it does its best to inspire action and innovation, and Stewart says he remains optimistic about humanity's potential for change.
With bans on shark fins now having spread to about 100 countries thanks to mounting public pressure, he has at least some reason to be.
"I think Sharkwater sort of taught me that humanity's good, in a way," he said, "and that if we are just educated about the issue we'll do something different."
Revolution premiered last month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be released in theatres on Earth Day, 2013.
With his last feature, 2007's Sharkwater, marine biologist Rob Stewart managed to help save the world, one shark fin at a time. He is now back with a new documentary, Revolution, aimed at saving a different species - humans.
Revolution takes a step back from a single issue and focuses instead on the greater environmental crisis that binds the fate of every living creature on Earth together. The "revolutionary" thesis Stewart puts forward involves the need for humans to think beyond our current understanding of capitalism, the disastrous implications of links between governments and corporate entities and ultimately suggests an economic growth fueled less by expansion and more by the kind of innovation required to ensure the survival of the species.
Sharks are a resilient species and have managed to survive five major extinctions throughout the course of their evolution. The question remains as to whether humans have the capacity to make it through one.
Twitch: What makes a "good" environmental documentary? Because every time I watch one I think, "Well... this doesn't look good." They're inherently depressing.
Rob Stewart: I don't really like environmental documentaries, to be honest. Documentaries aren't my favourite either. I like them for their content, but I don't like the way they're structured and I don't really like the emotional journey they take you on.
I feel like we've got so little time on this planet and if I want to be entertained, I want to go somewhere, I want to be taken on a journey somewhere I've never seen. I feel like with a lot of them it's finger pointing, it's negative, and depressing and I'm not transported from the world that I live in into somewhere else.
But... you make environmental documentaries? Can we say that?
Oh yeah, they're environmental docs.
So wait a minute -
I don't like most of them. I really like mine. [Laughs]
I think the way that I make them is different. I try to make them like feature films, that have a narrative and follow a traditional story structure. I still want to have them influence people into making better decisions, changing their lives and changing the world, but I want them to be a great journey. An escape, entertainment.
In either the worlds of the environmental or the broader "social movement" documentary or feature films, are there any that have influenced you in a positive way as a filmmaker?
Sure. The Power of One, Blood Diamond, Winged Migration. And Avatar.
Mmm hmm. BBC documentaries and nature movies are all pretty awesome, too.
The first turning point of your latest film, REVOLUTION, occurs when a young woman at a screening of SHARKWATER in Hong Kong seems to stump you with her question, which is basically, "If all of these studies are pointing to the end of the world as we know it, then what does it matter if sharks are hunted or not?"
It was a turning point for me, yeah. I'd spent the last ten years thinking I was changing the world, but not really tackling the issues in any way that could possibly really address the bigger problem. It made me realize that what I had done with Sharkwater, albeit teaching me how to change the world and teaching kids about how they can do things to save the planet, was just practice for doing something on a bigger stage. It made me realize I had to do something a lot bigger.
The scope and implications of the environmental issues presented in your documentary are overwhelming. Can we actually do something to harness effective change?
Yeah. Not only can we, but we will.
The rules of the road right now point towards disaster. If we fix some of those - say, take the government subsidies that are subsidizing the Alberta tar sands - and started subsidizing things that were good for the planet instead, we would have massive innovation. You'd unleash genius for coming up with new solutions for solar panels for energy, for redesigning our economy so that it's not built on growth.
In every revolution in the past we've had people aware of change -- they knew we needed equality racially, culturally, and for gender issues. Right now, only a fraction of the planet has any idea what's really going on. So the push for the kind of change we need - it's not light bulbs and Priuses - it's our system of economy. It's our corporations. And I think that if we got some of that correct, we would be there. The biggest impediment to getting something there is that government and corporations are a little too tightly intertwined. Sharkwater taught us that changing the world isn't actually that difficult; if you try, the world will change.
Is there any specific environmental issue over the past 20, 30 years that we can point to and say, "See? We did it. We made a change that made a significant difference."
Yes. The hole in the ozone layer and the moratorium on whaling. We nailed those.
You pointed out major obstacles in our modern way of life that are hard to get away from. Your own carbon footprint as both a Canadian and a filmmaker who flew around the world just to make REVOLUTION, is enormous. People have to drive to work in the morning. What's the compromise? Can we find one in this age that we live in?
If you actualize the cost of oil, petroleum, and fossil fuels on the world they would be enormously expensive; if you took into account the societal costs and the environmental costs, it would be prohibitively expensive, so that only people with an enormous amount of money could fly or drive. They would do that regularly or irregularly, if at all.
If we got some of these incentives in place we could perhaps be driving around with solar powered cars or cars that were powered on batteries powered by wind farms. Right now, we still are subsidizing the bad stuff. And as long as we're subsidizing the bad stuff, we have this system that's fucked and driving us towards disaster. The economy is still built on growth: We want more people, money, cars, and buildings. That fundamentally has to change before we change our light bulbs and our cars.
I was struck by a "factoid" in your film, which is that the government of China no longer serves shark fin at its functions. Currently, the Greater Vancouver Regional District is also attempting to ban their sale but they seem stymied by how to make it work in several different municipalities. Surely, if the government of China can make this happen so can the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. Is there something you might offer, as the de facto poster boy for shark conservation, to encourage them to make a similar commitment?
I think the GVRD can do it and I think Canada can do it as well.
Right now there's a petition on the Humane Society's website and it goes towards banning the importation of shark fin into Canada, effectively making it illegal. Canada can be a leader on this. The fact that we've got it banned in many other countries...
Isn't it banned in the greater Toronto area?
It is, yes.
We started a conservation group called United Conservationists and have a campaign called Fin Free, which is now an open source conservation group. Many groups, including ones in Vancouver, are using this to help get shark fin banned.
Another aspect of your films which is so impressive is, of course, the actual nature photography that you do. There's something transformative for a viewer about seeing living coral up close on the big screen, or even a dead zone - I had never even heard of those before! There are certain creatures you seem to especially enjoy filming.
To take some of these animals whose evolutionary biology I know about, and portray them in a beautiful way through imagery is my favourite thing in the world.
Do you have a favourite? A creature-camera crush?
In Revolution, it's the flamboyant cuttlefish. That animal is amazing. I followed it around Malaysia for three weeks, photographing it every day, watching it laying its eggs.
A school of hammerhead sharks is my favourite thing in the world to film, and I would do that everyday if I could.
We've got two movies we're developing, one's called Under Pressure, which is a film about misfit life in the ocean, from hundreds of millions of years ago that couldn't compete and got pushed into the deep dark trenches, but because they got pushed away they escaped major extinctions and survived, with their grotesque adaptations...
That's interesting casting, having to find elusive beasts in the ocean's depths.
They're hard to find. There's not a lot of life down there.
We're also doing a film called Dragon Reef. It's a pygmy seahorse love story. We follow a baby seahorse from the time its born, swept into the open ocean, avoiding getting eaten by whale sharks and manta rays and boarding the night migration plankton until it finally hits ground, trying to find its way back through the muck, back to the coral that it can't live without. Then when it gets there they mate for life and the guy gets pregnant.
That in and of itself is revolutionary! I've always maintained that impregnating males would be the ultimate female superpower.
It's pretty amazing, and part of the reason seahorses have managed to survive is because the guy chips in. Evolutionarily, what would happen is the female would lay eggs and deposit them in the ground, and the guy would care for them a little bit, then pick them up a little bit. Eventually they grew a pouch for this and then eventually, the female just started putting eggs in the dude's pouch. Because of that, more baby seahorses survived. The guy chipping in has made this species last.
Maybe feminists need to co-opt the seahorse as some sort of evolutionary mascot.
Speaking of evolution, have you considered adding narrative features as a part of your filmmaking career?
It's not my filmmaking career that I'm worried about. I know too much to not try to have the most profound influence I can on the planet. I'll do whatever I think will change the world the most. I've been thinking lately about what to do next; they are pretty big and they would seem radical from a capitalist or modern societal perspective, but I think they are absolutely what needs to be done.
If I design a fictional feature film around young people attacking civilization, trying to execute these ideas, then I can maybe plant that seed in society: For us to fix this, then here it is in a silver platter. This is how you do it.
I am trying to imagine this as your typical mainstream feature or as an exploitative genre flick...
What's an exploitative genre flick?
Oh, you know, think Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino but framed as an environmental shoot-em-up.
I don't know what style it would take. I have to think about it. But I would go as mainstream as possible, something that would make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. It would mean a lot of people would see the message and a lot of people would have that idea planted in their head about what kind of change they need to help usher in.
Everything that we're talking about here - it's so intense, so heady, so emotionally draining. What do you do to lighten your emotional load? Just now you said, "I know things." That's so ominous! I am sure being in your position you know horribly frightening and depressing things that have yet to be distilled in such a way so that laymen, such as myself, could even begin comprehending. How do you find balance required to maintain the level of optimism required to persevere?
In two ways: First, I treat this like we're at war, which we are. We've got to dedicate our lives to it so there's no point in wallowing in despair.
The other side of it is that I am really inspired, and I do think we're gonna do this and I do think that we're gonna have a great deal of fun doing it. It's going to be nothing but good for the planet, for other species, for humans, for evolution. For us to tackle this we've got to come together.
We have to grow, we have to love each other, and give a shit about other species, other ecosystems, and other people - even if we haven't seen them yet. We have to usher these things and it could be paradise, here on earth, for us and millions of other species. If we get this right we could go to the rivers and the lakes for fish instead of salmon farms, we could have food growing on all our roofs. This could be amazing.
Rob Stewart blew into world consciousness with his award-winning indie film "Sharkwater". Sharkwater was one of the biggest selling Canadian films ever. It ricocheted all around the world. We start with the latest developments in saving the sharks.
As a result of that movie, and Stewart's unrelenting campaign, over a hundred countries and many more cities have banned shark fin soup - the alleged delicacy wiping out the ocean's top predator. Shark fin soup is banned at all Chinese government functions.
Now Stewart is back for a much bigger fight, the fight of our lives: how to steer a death-wish civilization in a better direction. His new movie, four years in the making, was released at the Toronto International Film Festival and again at the Vancouver Film Festival. It's called "Revolution".
The film has experts saying coral reefs could be mostly dead in 40 years or less. I've just seen a You tube lecture by Professor Alexander Tudhope, a geoscientist and climatologist from the University of Edinburgh. He seemed less certain of the coral fate, suggesting they could die off, but it's still possible they may adapt enough to survive.
Stewart cites Charlie Veron, aka John Veron, a heavily awarded Australian scientist who warns on current path, the Great Barrier Reef will be dead in 20 years... and Katharina Fabricius, lead scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences.
These scientists are also part of the "Coral Triangle Initiative"
WHY SAVE SHARKS IF THE OCEAN IS DYING?
A key moment in the movie is when Stewart should have been celebrating his moment of triumph. Sharkwater was finally being showed in China, in Hong Kong, where shark fin soup is served. Its possible 100 million Chinese people will see it. But an audience question stumped him, almost invaliding his years of work: why struggle to save the sharks, if scientists say most big fish in the world could become extinct as early as 2048.
That extraordinary prediction is published science coming from a team led by Dr. Boris Worms at Dalhousie University in Eastern Canada. Radio Ecoshock covered that in 2006. Find my blog and the audio here.
Outfield Productions from Pakistan turned it into a You tube video found here.
Stewart was tossed into the much larger problems which threaten the world's oceans. The largest of all, not just for the great coral reefs (nurseries of the sea), but for all creatures which form either shells or skeletons, is ocean acidification. He sets out on a journey to find out more.
The need for "revolution" comes from the inability of world governments to do anything at all to save the oceans. Only a major change to the system, Stewart concludes, can save the oceans, and us. The only group he can find that isn't invested in the present system is youth and children. They are the best hope.
There is a hugely moving scene with Felix Finkbeiner, age 13, founder of the group Plant for the Planet. Finkbeiner is organizing youth to plant hundreds of millions of trees.
In some ways Stewart needed the same underground film techniques so successful in "Sharkwater". Why do we still need to slink around without permits, to document the greatest threat to humanity and all species?
Toronto native Rob Stewart talks about his documentary films Sharkwater, Revolution, and his new book, Saving Humanity.
OTTAWA—A deep sea diver, underwater photographer, environmentalist, biologist, documentary filmmaker, and now author, Rob Stewart, 32, tried to save sharks by exposing the illegal long-line fishing of them in the Galapagos Islands and shark-finning in Costa Rica through his documentary film, Sharkwater, released in 2007. The film took four years to make and became an international sensation. The Toronto native says he is now trying to help save humanity. On Earth Day in April 2013, his new documentary film, Revolution, will be shown free to one billion people around the world. He also just released his book, Save the Humans, published by Random House.
Unflappably optimistic, Mr. Stewart says once the mass public is educated about the catastrophic environmental threat facing the world, people will do whatever it takes to stop it.
Sharkwater exposed the illegal hunt of sharks killed for their fins. Costa Rica banned all foreign landings of sharks because of your film. You've been described as "the world champion for sharks." Did Sharkwaterhave any wider influence than in Costa Rica?
"We got Sharkwater seen by 124 million people and when I released Sharkwater there were 16 countries that had banned shark-finning. Now there's more than 100 countries that have banned shark-finning and at least 25 territories that have banned shark fin; where you can't own it, possess it, or sell it, including Toronto, which happened last year, and the government of China just came out and banned shark fin soup at all government functions. So I think we're going towards a world-wide ban on all shark fin, where you can't own it or have it at all."
But doesn't it still go on? It's a trillion-dollar-a-year business and 100 million sharks are killed every year?
"It's close, yeah. It's a huge, huge industry and despite the shark populations that were dropped 90 per cent, the greatest amount of pressure on fishing for them is happening now because they're worth even more money than they were before. So the exact opposite reaction you would hope is happening because they're scarce. I was at a four-storey shark fin super mall in China that just sold shark fin soup and the most expensive shark fins were the ones that got listed as endangered."
Your new book, Save The Humans, and your new documentary, Revolution, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, are international rallying cries about how humanity can survive the next century. How will humanity survive the next century?
"The biggest thing we've got to do is educate everybody. As soon as the public's educated, then our individual actions, our governments, and our corporations—that are now running amok and destroying the world that we now depend on for survival—would be frowned upon. We would feel bad about engaging in those activities and behaviours in governments and corporations and feel good about the ones that are for the human survival and the survival of other species.
"So it's not just about changing light bulbs and hugging trees, we've got to change our government, we've got to change our system of economy, and we've got to change almost everything about what it is to be a civilized human so we're not destroying the world that we depend on for survival. We can get there once we educate everybody and I'm hoping that kids, particularly, young people, who can see the world in 2048 and we're looking at some of the numbers scientists have predicted and understand what that's going to be like and then taking steps to do something about it."
But specifically, besides educating people and the films and your book, you're asking for something that's pretty big. There have been all kinds of environmentalists and environmental groups and you even talk about how there are so many of them and that they should be coming together. Besides education, what has to be done?
"What has to be done is massive changes in how we're creating civilizations. Right now we've got an economic model that's built on growth and a finance system and we need to change that. I think we need laws to change and that prohibit pollution of any form. If you want to manufacture something, you should manufacture it from waste instead of extracting it from the natural world. We need caps on growth, caps on waste, caps on population. I mean the changes are going to be pretty big.
"We're facing the fundamental flaw of what we've designed here and it's happening all within the next 50 years, which is a blink of an eye. And we're right at the point on the exponential curve where the rate of progress is 20 times what it was in the Industrial Revolution, so we've got to turn the tide fast."
Is that what your Revolution documentary does?
"The documentary takes you on the evolution of life, 3.5 billion years in the making, through five major extinctions, showing you some of the coolest, most charismatic creatures on the planet and showing you how they've survived and the strategies they've taken and how some of them haven't survived and it culminates in humans in the midst of a revolution to save ourselves. So it sort of follows me on an adventure, like Sharkwater did, where I go through 15 countries getting into a bunch of trouble, trying to figure out how we're going to survive this extinction and, with youth groups and environmental activists, to try to do something about it and sort of coming to the same conclusions that I have previously mentioned and that it's a lot bigger than hugging trees and saving pandas. We've got to save ourselves."
You had a hard time getting funding for the film but finally got Telefilm Canada and some corporations to fund it. How long did it take to make the documentary and how much did it cost?
"Revolution took four years and cost $1-million."
That's pretty good.
"It should have been a $4-million or $5-million movie, but we leaned on every possible friend we have to make it work, so it looks a lot more expensive than it is."
Is that right that when it's released next April on Earth Day it will released free to reach one billion people?
"Our aim is to reach one billion people. You have to pay for it in Canada. For Canadians, it's going to come out in movie theatres on Earth Day, then television, and downloading, but the rest of the world, we're aiming to give it away for free and we want to hit one billion people."
What is the most important environmental issue? Ocean acidification?
"Yeah, it's sort of a convergence of all of them at the same time. Individually, ocean acidification is the biggest thing because if the oceans go down you know it's going to be very tough for the rest of life on Earth and the oceans are already more than 30 per cent acidic than they were 100 years ago, and I think this is a particular problem right now, considering Canada's environmental policy. We know that the pollution of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere gets absorbed by the oceans and if current emission trends continue, we're going to lose coral reefs and many things we depend on in the ocean, somewhere between 2050 and 2070, and to continue emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide and once we are educated about this and once we already know that this is enormously destructive, I think is irresponsible."
You also say that traditional activism can't fight the scale of the problem today and that the world needs to fight for 100 per cent sustainability. How realistic is that? One hundred per cent sustainability?
"It's 100 per cent realistic. It's absolutely realistic. Anything less is ridiculous, I think. If you're not sustainable, you're stealing from the future to feed yourself in the present and that's ridiculous. For us to live on this planet in harmony, we've got to sustainable and there's no other way around that.
"We can steal from another country, we can steal from another person, another species, and that doesn't work and we know that these species co-inhabit this planet with us, we depend on for survival. We've been to a world that they created. We're a couple of hundred thousand years old. Sharks are 450 million years old. Phytoplankton in the ocean gives us more than half the oxygen in the air that we breathe and it's dropped 40 per cent in 50 years. So we need this life a lot more than that life needs us and I think part of the reason why we love it and think it's cool and we have this emotional reaction to it is because of its importance and so I think we should be fighting for 100 per cent sustainability. We shouldn't be arguing over how much pollution we can put into the atmosphere. There should be none and if we design this properly, this planet could be paradise for us and millions of other species. We just need to get the design right and right now we're letting the design of pre-Industrial civilization take us right up against the wall."
Do you feel like it's a David and Goliath situation, the environmental movement fighting against the almighty dollar, profit, big corporations?
"No. We'll have control soon. There's more than one million NGOs and charities around the world and they're all working for good. And that's a force. No government can battle one million groups, all independent, funded independently and fighting their own fights and I think we have a lot more power than we think and governments are the employees of the people; they're there to do our bidding. We just need to bid them in the right way and we haven't been doing that lately. We've been viewing government as this big, all-powerful thing that we have no control over and we can take the control back and we can do that with an educated population. And once people are educated, the individual actions of governments, corporations, and ourselves that are destroying things will be considered radical and we would be taking radically different situations and going in a radically different direction than we would now."
Do you think Canada's federal lawmakers should read your book and see your movie?
"Yes, I do, but I'm not really focused on politicians that much. I don't know politics that well and I don't think we need to focus on the politicians that much. I think we need to focus on the public. An educated public would create a new government and create new corporations that are working for sustainability and the betterment of humanity. Knowing the situation that we're in and that we're so close to the edge on virtually every environmental issue, to have a corporation or a government that's not working to make the world a better place is crazy and I think the young people would see it that way and they're going to be in power soon."
But how do you do it without the governments on side?
"You push them onto your side."
You mentioned earlier that you tried to get Cabinet minister John Baird who was Canada's federal environment minister at the time to help do something to save the sharks. What happened?
"I was introduced to him by a friend who worked at a members club in Toronto called The Spoke Club and me, him, and John Baird went and saw Sharkwater in the movie theatre, watched it, and then John came out and said, 'Yes, we're going to champion sharks, we're going to make this our issue,' and then proceeded to do nothing. I was even emailing him to say, 'Hey, we've got an opportunity here. Most of the world thinks the Porbeagle Shark and Spiny Dogfish should be listed as endangered species, the only thing is Canada needs to do is sign on,' and Canada did nothing and continues to support those fishing industries. It was absolutely shocking for me. That was sort of my first foray into politics and the first politician I ever really met was John Baird and I thought, 'Yeah, we're going to do something and how could he not want to save sharks?'"
What do you think of Canada's efforts right now to fight climate change?
"Canada is the worst country on climate change and environmentally. Actually, at the climate conference in Cancun in 2010 which we filmed for Revolution, I received an award on behalf of 450 different non-governmental organizations called the Fossil Award for the country that did the most to impede the climate negotiations at the conference and Canada won the Fossil of the Year voted on by 450 various NGOs and charities five years running for being the country that has done the most to stop climate negotiations from happening. So, not only is Canada increasing emissions when the whole world sentiment and the public sentiment in Canada thinks that we should be decreasing emissions, they're also impeding the world from coming to an agreement to have a safe and sustainable future."
Is that right that when you made Sharkwater you had run-ins with illegal shark-finning operators, you were charged with attempted murder, and were chased by some coast guards with machine guns?
"Yes, and chased by the Taiwanese Mafia in Costa Rica all because of how much money there was in shark fins."
Who inspires you?
"Young people because they hear about these environmental issues and they don't rationalize anything. They'll just say, 'Okay, we've got to save it. Let's do it.' And there's no worry about saving the environment, no worry about, 'Can we do it and keep the economy growing?' They don't care about any of that. The most important thing is, 'What are we going to do to save our life support system? Let's do it.' And that's super inspiring."
Save The Humans, by Rob Stewart, Random House, pp. 281, $29.95.
Source: The Hill Times
Revolution is the documentary sequel to director Rob Stewart's first film, Sharkwater. While Stewart was on the junket for the film, he was asked by an audience member, if all marine life in the ocean will be dead by 2048, why we should focus on saving sharks. He realized the correctness of that statement and set out to make a film about it. Revolution is the result of that effort, and it details the impact we are having on ocean and marine life, and what happens when that is all gone.
As I'm writing this review, I feel you should know that I passionately hate environmental documentaries. I find them to be preachy, uninformative and holier-than-thou. So when the opportunity came up to see this film, the sequel to a film I have not seen, I didn't want it. But another member of our team couldn't make it to the interview with the director and so I took one for the team.
And I am so glad I did.
This is a great movie, from beginning to end. Rob Stewart may actually be the perfect guy to front the movement to save the planet. Not only is he not preachy, but he would rather educate – and bring you along for the ride – than employ scare tactics to brow beat you into separating your cans from your glass and putting them out on the curb to be recycled. The film is exactly the right length, details the issues and talks about potential solutions, all the while leaving you hopeful.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, I think Rob Stewart might actually be able to save the planet.
Is Revolution Essential TIFF Viewing?
Yup. Get to a theatre immediately. It's not only a great movie, but one you should see because you're a human being who lives on this planet. Take it from me, you'll like this movie.
Source: Toronto Film Scene