Rob Stewart: 1979 – 2017
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller
As we know, Rob Stewart disappeared Tuesday evening off the coast of Florida. The outpouring of support and hope that spearheads his search is inspiring. Across social media on Facebook, Twitter and at sharkwater.com you can find updates and opportunities to volunteer or donate. On twitter follow @teamsharkwater and #FindRob.
The fundraising campaign continues to gather funds for air and ground searches including 13 helicopter and teams working non-stop. The outpouring of financial support is heartwarming.
Green Heroes field producer Stephanie Silliker and I met Rob in the summer of 2009 when we interviewed him for the first season of our TV and web series.
I remember Stephanie giving me the Sharkwater DVD telling me it was a “much-see” because Rob was your quintessential Green Hero. He certainly changed my Jaws-jaded view of sharks from man-eater. In less than 5 minutes, I learned that sharks are not to be feared by rather revered for the essential role they play in balancing all life on earth.
I was so impressed at how he was able to convince me of their importance that we did the interview with him right away. He was gracious and generous, even introducing us to his pet python.
He also tipped us off that a new film called The Cove was having its commercial release that night in Toronto and that Ric O’Barry, the film’s hero, would be there to talk about it. Thanks to Rob, we got the scoop on another Green Hero, before his Academy award win, that day.
Stephanie wrote to me upon hearing of Rob’s disappearance. “ I was lucky enough to accompany you to interview one of Canada’s most influential environmentalists and documentarians. His vibrant spirit and zest for open water and the wildlife below are so inspiring. I was shocked and saddened to hear that news that he has gone missing. I am sending positive vibes in the hope he will be rescued safely.”
I join Stephanie and literally millions of others around the world hoping and praying that Rob will be found. Just think of Rob free-diving in the last scene of Sharkwater and you’ll agree with this encouraging message from the Sharkwater website:
“We believe Robbie Stewart is out there waiting for us to find him. We are reaching 72 hours, which is an absolutely feasible timeframe in which to find Robbie. And as we all know, he is strong and resilient and at home in the water.”
The award is presented each year to both a Canadian and an International figure whose body of work has had significant impact on raising awareness on environmental issues. Past recipients include other Green Heroes too!
This year, the festival also celebrates the next-generation of eco-heroes with 10 budding environmentalist discussing how to change the world with David Suzuki, as part of the festival kick off event on Tuesday, October 18. Watch it as the discussion streams live from 1:30 to 3:30 ET at planetinfocus.org.
Later that evening, David Suzuki accepts his award, delivers a keynote speech and answers questions at a sold out event at the Isabel Bader theatre in Toronto.
Sunday, October 23 at the closing night gala the spotlight shines on our country’s oceans and on Alexandra Cousteau as she accept the International Eco-Hero award at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema prior to the screening of the Canadian documentary What Lies Below.
As well as the opening and closing night galas, there are more than 60 films to choose from as well as an industry day for environmental filmmakers to network, pitch their ideas, and learn more about their craft.
And as a special bonus for Green Heroes fans, the first five people to join the Green Heroes Academy or post to the Green Heroes Facebook page which film they’d most like to see at this year’s Planet in Focus are eligible to receive free tickets to a film of their choice.
Planet in Focus is a stellar organization that deserves a wide audience for the festival and the events they host year round. Why not make a donation now to ensure its continued success into 2017.
Today, as Green Heroes.tv celebrates our 6th anniversary, we honour musician and water protector, Gord Downie on tour with his band The Tragically Hip. Media articles and reports cover his musical legacy, but haven’t mentioned his activism and love of the lake. This led to stopping an environmental heavy hitter from burning tires as an alternate fuel source on the shores of Lake Ontario, just down the road from the band’s recording studio in Bath Ontario. Gord joined forces with the local community and the environmental organization, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and became co-applicant on a case that led to changing how permits for potentially unsafe environmental practices are approved in Ontario.
“I feel more a citizen of Lake Ontario than I do of anywhere else.” Gord told us.
His love of the lake came early, growing up in Kingston Ontario, a waterfront city located at the eastern end of the lake near the start of the St. Lawrence River. But “with time and distance” Gord found he had “lost his connection with the lake” until he heard a speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. whose work on the Hudson River spawned the global Waterkeeper Alliance.
Gord said it was an empowering moment when he heard that “the lake belongs to us. It’s in the public trust. In an era when everything is owned and staked out, that really moved me.”
Watch our profile of Gord as he tells what it took to achieve victory against a large multinational and, for a more in-depth look, watch our TV episode, In My Backyard, produced in association with TVO.
The CBC carries the Hip’s hometown show in Kingston, Ont., live on its television, radio and online platforms on Aug. 20 starting at 8:30 p.m. ET. While it will be a moving event, we’ll remember Gord best for literally putting his name on the line to achieve environmental justice for the lake he loves so much.
Spring is a busy time for Green Heroes everywhere! With the celebration of the United Nation’s World Water Day on March 22nd and Green Hero David Suzuki’s 80th birthday on April 4, organizations are now revving up for Earth Day festivities this Friday, April 22nd.
A global network of Earth Day organizations is kicking off an ambitious campaign to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person on the planet, by 2020. Canada’s contribution to this worldwide goal is 35 million trees. Join Earth Day Canada’s #Rooting4Trees campaign which is committed to planting 25,000 legacy trees for Earth Day’s 25th Anniversary in 2016.
Every year, tens of thousands of Canadians participate in the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean up presented by WWF and Loblaw Companies Limited. It is one of the largest direct action direct action environmental programs in Canada and the third largest cleanup in the world. To find out how you can get involved, go to: http://www.shorelinecleanup.ca/en/take-action/get-involved
Gala events bring people together to celebrate environmental acts and heroes and to fundraise for future activities. The 5th Annual Waterkeeper Gala will be held on April 21st at the Canadian Broadcast Centre in Toronto. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper was created by Green Hero, Matt Mattson and Krystyn Tully, with the support of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his global Waterkeeper network. Although the April 21st gala is sold out, Earth Day Canada’s Earth Ball still has tickets available. This annual event, held each Earth Day, hosts more than 400 business and environmental leaders and is held at the Mill Street Brewery in Toronto’s Distillery District.
Also for Earth Day, For Our Grandchildren (4RG) invited Toronto high school students to creatively envision a healthier environment on earth by designing projects for reducing climate change and lowering carbon emissions, leading to a non-carbon future. Team projects will be presented at an event called: Speak Up For The Planet, at the Ontario Science Centre, on Friday April 22nd from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. More information about For Our Grandchildren and its programs is available @ www.forourgrandchildren.ca
It’s good to see retailers taking part in Earth Day events too. If you missed the 10th anniversary of The Green Living Show at the Metro Convention Centre Toronto April 15-17, you can still visit and learn more about exhibitor’s green products and services from the Green Living website.
Planet in Focus, Canada’s longest running environmental film festival, screened some of their festival favourites at the Green Living show and is now accepting submissions and planning for their 17th annual environmental film festival to be held in Toronto from October 19th to October 23rd. With school field trips and world premieres, it’s a not-to-be missed event for both film-lovers and tree-huggers alike.
If not for the creation of CineFocus Canada 25 years ago today, Green Heroes would not exist today, along with numerous other titles that have made a difference and raised awareness on key issues since the company’s formation in 1991.
When founding members John Bessai, Carl Bessai, David MacDonald and Joan Prowse released their first video they didn’t expect it to become a national discussion piece or be the genesis of a company that’s gone on to create more than 50 videos and 20 hours of documentaries and TV programming for a host of environmental, labour and social justice clients and broadcasters around the world.
Highlights and friendships are too numerous to name in a short post so check out the company’s news page that chronicles some of the highlights over the years.
CineFocus has so many people to thank, who have helped to build the company and its incredible catalogue of programs that aims to tell Canadian stories worldwide and make a positive impact on people’s lives and causes here at home and abroad.
Twenty five years later, CineFocus continues to make inspiring and insightful videos, documentaries and TV shows and to evolve the platforms where they can be seen. Watch for a new web site and on-line channel in June, and for their urban renewal documentary set in Lawrence Heights, now in production. Also in June CineFocus is celebrating winners of the Transformative Change award, with a series of video profiles they are producing for their original and long-standing client, the Association of Ontario Health Centres.
For more on the company’s history and projects, check out a feature article on founder Joan Prowse in the new on-line publication Liisbeth starting February 22.
Join in CineFocus’ on-line celebration by posting a memory on Face Book or tweet out at #CineFocus25. We’ll add you to the invite list for our 25th anniversary celebration this year!
Dr. Vandana Shiva says the disappearance of oak forests near her hometown in India was her wake up call! Back in 1991, she founded Navdanya to protect and promote biodiversity. They work at multiple levels to promote and protect small farmers whose sustainable practices can be applied on a global scale. As of now there are over 500,000 farmers who are part of the Navdanya family.
Dr.Shiva has dedicated over 40 years of her life to raising awareness for movements such as sustainable farming, anti-globalization and social justice. She advises governments worldwide and is currently working with the government of Bhutan to make the country 100% organic. Due to her tireless work, in 2010 Forbes listed her as one of the 7 Most Important Women in the World.
For being one of the greatest activists of our time, Planet in Focus will be honouring her with the Eco-Hero award during the 16th Annual Film Festival. She will be accepting the award in person as well as debuting a film from her new Living Farms series that focus on sustainable farming.
The series of films is produced by Navdanya with the support of Fred Foundation and they showcase testimonies of farmers, seed savers, agronomist and scientists from across India, as well as from indigenous farming cultures abroad.
So why not join us for “An Evening with Dr. Vandana Shiva” on Wednesday, October 21st at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto and meet the driving force behind biodiversity and sustainability. Tickets can be purchased here.
By Joan Prowse, Green Heroes co-founder
Five years ago today, in the midst of creating our first season of TV documentaries for TVO and building our Green Heroes web channel, my co-producer, John Bessai, received this text from our web developer:
Green Heroes.tv is now live!
It was an incredible feeling – after two years of development and pre-production, Green Heroes was no longer merely an idea, it was a reality. Since then we’ve gone on to tell stories and promote campaigns of 45 remarkable individuals who faced real challenges on the road to environmental success.
One of our goals was to include our audience in the conversation, at a time when social media was and crowd-sourcing was in its infancy. For example, in our first season we ran a “nominate a Green Hero” contest asking fans to upload videos and stories about someone who had made a difference in their community. The winner was Mary Gorman, a journalist and fisherman’s wife who successfully stopped oil and gas development on the shores of her Nova Scotia home. She embodies the energy, drive and commitment to change that can inspire us all.
Watch her story here and look for her as our featured hero and campaign later this month.
In the meantime, why not take a moment and share our logo on your social media sites and let others know what Green Heroes has meant to you?
Or just wish us a Happy Birthday as we celebrate five years of saving the planet, one story at a time.
Green Heroes producers, John Bessai and Joan Prowse, and Green Hero, Emily Hunter, were selected to join 600+ Canadians for climate action training by Nobel Prize winner and An Inconvenient Truth author, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore in Toronto on July 9 and 10.
While the doom and gloom of the 2007 Academy award winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, woke people up to the problem of climate change, Gore’s latest message is one of encouragement as he asked his newest recruits to spread a message of optimism and hope.
“We need to change laws, not just light bulbs. There are more people working in Green Energy than in the tar sands, but we need to get that message out.”
Gore was referring to the surprising number of Canadians polled recently (54%) who mistakenly believed half of Canada’s revenue came from tar sands development, when, in fact, the number of direct jobs created by the clean-tech sector (solar and wind are two examples) is equal to the number of jobs created by the tar sands.
Joan Prowse was impressed by the breadth of people selected to be part of the growing ranks of presenters. “I’m really honoured to have gained new insight from Al Gore, along with some amazing slides and well-researched facts I can use to help spread the word that climate change is real”, she said.
John Bessai said he “learned a surprising amount about how climate change is intensifying and how the facts we were shown correlate with news report about climate disasters – like the recent fires and drought in western Canada – that come at a great personal and economic cost.”
As Canadians head toward a federal election in October and the Paris Climate talks in December, Gore’s parting words ring true:
“We’re going to win this one – but we’ve got to speed it up.”
Time to get moving…
It’s an amazing line-up of movies this year. With so many to choose from, it was hard decide which to see and which to wait until their theatrical or Netflix release. I did count myself lucky to be among one of two packed audiences at the Bloor Hot Docs theatre to see the Canadian premiere of the Greenpeace bio pic How to Change the World.
Having worked on several stories about Greenpeace and its co-founder Robert Hunter, it was particularly rewarding to see (and hear) how British director, Jerry Rothwell, used the narrative from Hunter’s eight books to bring the Greenpeace story to the big screen.
Casting Hunter as the reluctant leader of an eclectic band of early Greenpeace co-founders, the film follows these unlikely heroes through three key campaigns: The initial voyage to stop nuclear testing on the island of Amchitka, the campaign to save the whales from Russian whalers off the coast of California, and the controversial campaign to stop the annual seal hunt in Newfoundland. The documentary uses these three chapters as acts to show the inspiration and pluck, struggle and success, and eventual breakup of the founding team.
CineFocus Canada’s own film Greenpeace, A Canadian Discovery was produced in 1996 for the Discovery Channel to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary. Be sure to check out Green Heroes’ short video profile and the half hour TV episode for more inside stories of Greenpeace from Hunter’s daughter, Emily and his wife Bobbi.
More than 40 years later, it is still incredibly moving to hear the passion of the original founders and see their exploits come to life in footage of their fantastic and inspired voyages. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Watch How to Change the World when it airs on CTV in December 2015 or look for it at an upcoming film festival.