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.
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