Saving the Planet One Story at a Time
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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.


Mary Gorman poses for us in her 100% recycled GreenHeroes t-shirt

Mary Gorman poses for us in her 100% recycled GreenHeroes t-shirt

From left to right: Emily Hunter, John Bessai and Joan Prowse

From left to right: Emily Hunter, John Bessai and Joan Prowse

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.

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March 3 marks the fourth annual Wangari Maathai Day which celebrates the legacy of Green Hero, Professor Wangari Muta Maathai.

Since 2012, Africa’s Environment Day has been celebrated in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day to pay tribute to the late Nobel Laureate’s green legacy.

Please join the Green Belt Movement to honour Wangari’s visionary work by sharing your favorite quotes, stories and photos of Wangari Maathai. ‪#‎WangariMaathaiday2015‬

Below is the photo Green Heroes will share to commemorate the woman whose vision and determination inspired the U.N.’s One Billion Tree project. A story we love to share is how the project came to be named. Back in 2006, the United Nation’s Environment Program launched the project as a response to global warming. Inspired by Wangari’s response to one corporation’s plan to plant one million trees, she said “that’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees!” By 2011 this number was far surpassed with over 12 billion trees being planted worldwide.

Sadly Wangari passed away in September, 2011. However she lives on in the people and the landscape she changed forever.

Wangari with Joan Prowse and Lina Cino in Montreal

Wangari with Joan Prowse and Lina Cino in Montreal

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Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival just launched their Call for Submissions to their annual Festival to be held in Toronto from October 22-25, 2015.

Here is the link to submit. The early-bird deadline is April 1st, 2015 and the standard deadline: May 1st, 2015

Planet in Focus, in its 16th year, is Canada’s leading environmental film organization showcasing and promoting outstanding environmental films and videos in all genres (documentaries, dramatic, experimental, short films, features and animation) by Canadian and international filmmakers.

Green Heroes has been part of  festival line-ups beginning with our Sarah Harmer profile in 2010, Ric O’Barry  in 2011 and  Tzeporah Berman and Rob Stewart profiles used to introduce these Eco-Hero recipients in 2014. Our TV episode, Back to Nature, was an official selection in 2013.

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In the fall of 2009, Green Heroes traveled to Miami to interview Ric O’Barry about his tireless efforts to educate the world about dolphin hunting and captivity. The interview was inspired by the success of Louie Psihoyos’ documentary, “The Cove.”

A photographer by profession, Louie used a guerrilla approach to telling Ric’s story. With covert filmmaking techniques and the latest technology he brought the world’s attention to Ric O’Barry’s previously unheralded efforts to expose the dolphin drive hunting in Taji, Japan. The film went on to win an Academy Award for best documentary.

At the Sundance film festival, Louie premiers his next documentary, “Racing Extinction.” In it, he continues in his pursuit to reveal what human beings are doing wrong to the planet and her species. Similarly portrayed with The Cove’s Bond-like style and intense pace, Louis again uses gadgets and high tech gear to reveal that we humans could be the root cause of another mass extinction, estimated to wipe out 50% of all species,  within 100 years.

A visit to the Racing Extinction website reveals an amazing video installation created by Louie and his OPS (Ocean Preservation Society) team. Projected onto the UN building in New York to coincide with the 2014 climate change talks taking place, the expression on the faces of on-lookers show the powerful impact Louie’s approach has on people and the efforts he’s made to draw attention to a problem we sometimes tend to overlook.

We are pleased to celebrate Louis and Ric’s commitment to the well being of all species living here. In fact, Louis’ philosophy aligns with Green Heroes own goal to profile people taking action, using their own talents and connections, to help save the planet. As he puts it:

Everybody on the OPS team is a little bit odd. They have something going for them in an interesting way, but they’ve been able to adapt their talent to this bigger cause. My feeling is that everybody out there has a special skill like the OPS team.”

Here are a few ways you can get inspired by Louie and follow the film as it builds momentum:





As the year winds up and we begin the holiday season, we at Green Heroes want to wish everyone the time to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of the season and to find the time to reflect and recharge for the year ahead.

With a busy 2015 that includes a federal election in Canada and many challenges to the environment both locally and internationally, we want to take time to thank all of you who watch our shows on TVO, visit our web channel, contribute to our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and belong to the Green Heroes Academy. We believe we are all making a difference, each in our own way.

Shopping for gifts this year, I found how effortlessly I made my decisions based on their social and environmental impact. Much has changed in me since I pitched Green Heroes in December of 2007. Not only do I notice a growing awareness in myself but I see how we are all learning to live more sustainably. I hope you will join me in my resolution to make more decisions based on their environmental, social and community impact in 2015.

The next step in this direction is to develop a new on-line channel for programs, like Green Heroes, that inspire positive social change. Already we are pleased to announce early stage investment in this new endeavor from John Albright’s Relay Ventures.

Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus (ahead of the rest of us) and all the best for the coming year.

Joan Prowse, Producer/Director, Green Heroes

I am so excited to see one of my heroes, Vandana Shiva, this Saturday at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. I admire her so much for so many reasons. For example, she is the pioneer of the non-GMO movement. She’s been fighting for farmer’s rights, seed sovereignty, the environment, our ecosystem and our food supply for longer than I think I’ve been alive! I also think that she’s such an incredible role model for all activists, but especially for girls and women. She is more aware than most people about what a frightening state our world is in, and yet she remains so optimistic and enthusiastic. I am so inspired by everything she does including how she has this compelling, yet gentle way of getting people to stop, and challenge them to think differently. I’ll be going to India very soon and can’t wait to learn more from her on how to make this world a better place. She’s made a huge, positive impact on India’s agriculture by influencing government policy…and that’s what I’m trying to do for Canada by making GMO labeling mandatory.

We know who we’re fighting against. We’re the David and they’re the Goliath. The only way our movement will be a success is if we all work together as one big, global team, which is exactly what Vandana is all about. Our organisation, Kids Right To Know is driven by two basic principles: transparency and freedom of choice. We all work so hard as a team, to educate Canadians about GMOs so that they’re made aware that when it comes to our food, things aren’t transparent, which means our freedom to choose has been taken away. But to get that back means GMO labeling must become a law. Otherwise, soon, we’ll all need PhDs to be able to detect which food is GMO and which is not. This is what we’re fighting so hard for – so that we can make clear, informed decisions about what we eat.

GMOs are the hottest topic right now when it comes to food in Canada and the United States. Polls have been consistently showing that about 90% of Canadians who do know what GMOs are want them labeled. Wherever and whenever any of us finds the opportunity to raise awareness and can influence change, we must take action and just go for it! The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is a beautiful and inspiring celebration of this kind of thinking. Let’s not be afraid to go against the grain and challenge the status quo…and better yet, challenge the big bullies!

Rachel Parent, Founder of Kids Right To Know



Canada’s oldest environmental film festival (celebrating its 15th anniversary) opens Thursday, November 6 with Sturla Gunnarsson’s latest film, Monsoon, at the Bell TIFF Lightbox and wraps on Sunday, November 9.

Packed into four days are industry events, foodie delights, screenings (at the AGO, Rainbow Cinemas and York University) and awards for filmmaking and activism.

Two Green Heroes’ videos introduce this year’s Eco-Heroes award recipients: Sharkwater director Rob Stewart and Clayquot Sound activist Tzeporah Berman. Congratulations to you both!

The award ceremony kicks off at the Bloor Hot Docs! Theatre at 6:30 on Sunday, November 9th followed by the premiere of The Dark Side of the Chew, the latest film by Garbage: The Revolution director, Andrew Nisker.

You can check out the full schedule and buy tickets right here! piff_eco heroes_3piff_eco heroes_2


Olivia Chow is our featured Green Hero this month because she is running to be Mayor of Toronto. She’s a Green Hero who might just make a good leader of a great city in this time of climate crisis. Why? Because she’s done almost everything she can to reduce her own ecological footprint and is therefore an unusual politician because she actually leads by example. Instead of just talking about what other people should do, she quietly does those very things herself. In other words, she gets her own house in order. She practices what she preaches.

While we know her as politician, she was an artist and teacher before her election as a city councilor in 1991. She had her own sculpture studio in the years before her political career and created art pieces for clients. Anybody who works in the arts knows how hard it is gain the trust of clients, make sales and commissions and run a small business all at the same time. She also taught at George Brown College – meaning she had to deal with the challenge of inspiring students. Listening to them and realizing that in order to be a teacher you have to listen and try and give feedback to your audience. But you also have to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

Beginning as a school trustee in 1985, and as Toronto a city councilor and then Member of Parliament, Olivia’s politics have addressed homelessness, public transit, and many other urban issues. She was also an early advocate of people changing their lifestyles to better suit the planet. What was so impressive was that although so many folks talked about change and dreamed about what could be done, Olivia had this practical side that was just about getting the job done.

She and her late husband Jack Layton turned their downtown Toronto home into a showpiece of environmental stewardship. She even made a little video to demonstrate how the green home improvements worked. I was so inspired by this video that I used it when I first pitched Green Heroes in 2006 to a large but skeptical audience at a media conference. I used a clip of the tour Olivia gave to illustrate how stories about people active in environmental change could motivate others to share them via the Web and inspire further action in their own homes and communities.

So Olivia was one of the first “Green Heroes” not because of anything too remarkable – she put her money where her mouth was. She fixed her home so that it wasn’t part of the problem, but part of the solution – all at her own expense. I wish more people would be like her. When people asked how she could afford the renovations, she said she had the income to support that sort of thing. Even though it did mean some investment and sacrifice, there was a payoff in lower costs down the road. She just recommended that people with similar middle class incomes do the same.

She has also, on principle, been skeptical about too much expansion at Toronto Island Airport. Recognizing that the natural wonder of the Toronto islands is for all Canadians to enjoy and experience the natural world. That it is senseless to have this treasure be overrun, as it would be, by a busy commercial airport. Now there is even talk of exposing the island paradise to jet traffic. Olivia also always went to work – rain or shine, sleet or snow, on her trademark bicycle, decorated with flowers and bright colours, Then in, 2006, she won the Trinity—Spadina seat for the NDP. In the federal election her house remained a monument to a sustainable future. A reflection of how we can make our homes and our urban centres sustainable, and beat the climate change crisis down with our own efforts. Even though we need political leadership, we also need people to start practicing a sustainable, affordable lifestyle, at home, just like Olivia. If she wins the leadership of Toronto it will be interesting to see if the city will become a place where the world can see people leading by example on climate change.

Olivia Chow1 - credit, Justin Arjune