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Saving the Planet One Story at a Time
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Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 with an impassioned speech by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson who, at the height of protests against the war in Vietnam, asked whether money might be better spent on solving environmental problems instead. Response to the challenge was swift with the launch of the Environmental Protection and Clean Energy Acts in the U.S. and the founding of Pollution Probe and Greenpeace in Canada.

But as quickly as the environmental movement was born subsequent decades have laid claim to environmental disasters from wars to nuclear explosions, chemical spills, toxic gas leaks, and oil spills.  Questions remains such as why, 50 years after the first Earth Day, has so little headway been made to protect our precious planet? 

Furthermore, why was our early activism replaced by complacency that led to weakened environmental laws, extreme weather conditions and environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Where have we failed?  Where have we succeeded? While international awareness led to innovation and campaigns to protect the planet, there remains an enormous gap of indifference from political leaders down to everyday people about the fragility of our planet’s future.

CineFocus Canada is tackling these questions in a new documentary and interactive experience, Hindsight in 2020. By taking a chronological approach to telling the story of the modern environmental movement viewers will see how world events and public policy have supported or challenged individual efforts over time and learn that there is still time to turn things around if we adopt solutions that are available to each one of us.

The onset: In 1970 municipal recycling did not exist in Ontario before a small women’s group from Burlington initiated the idea of a recycling experiment. Their major aim — once they had completed the initial research with just over 250 families — was to propose that the City of Burlington offer municipal recycling for its citizens.

The group of housewives was known as Citizens Committee for Pollution Control (CCPC) and their door to door campaign to collect bottles and cans led to the province’s first recycling program. In 1981, Burlington was the first city in Ontario to begin municipal recycling with curbside pickup of “separated at source” household waste.

The original group has undergone a recent revival under the banner “Recycling Revisited.” The goal of Recycling Revisited is to preserve the memory of an amazing citizen action, led by up to 1,000 people at a time, to inspire those who are concerned about other environmental issues to gather with like-minded others in order to implement some positive change.

Mid-point: This environmental story illustrates the David and Goliath challenge facing environmentalists around the world who want to protect natural resources, such as old growth forest, against consumer demand.  To do this we turn to Green Hero, Tzeporah Berman and her experience at Clayoquot Sound 25 years ago.

Prior to coordinating the historic blockades in 1993, Tzeporah Berman had never been to a protest in her life. She was among one thousand people arrested, marking the largest civil disobedience action in Canada’s history. She was acquitted of the 850 criminal charges she faced, marking a real tipping point in Canada on environmental issues.

In a recent Globe and Mail editorial, she writes of her experience on the blockades 25 years ago and its relationship to the the Kinder Morgan pipeline protests today.

Present Day: Each year, Earth Day creates themed events leading to the 2020 challenge to engage citizens from across the globe in action actions to save the planet. In 2018 the Earth Day campaign to end plastic pollution had significant results raising awareness and participation around the world. In 2019, Earth Day Canada is teaming up with Kamik Footwear to celebrate Earth Day by inviting families to #FreeYourPlay and make a commitment to step outside and connect with the environment through play.

According to UN research, children in Canada are losing their connection to nature due to a sharp decrease in the amount of time they spend outside. Our Green Hero Ta’Kaiya Blaney, featured in the TVO episode, Back to Nature, tells us why more young people like herself should take to the great outdoors.

For more information about the campaign and upcoming events, including resources for how to bring outdoor, unstructured play into your own community and family, visit Kamik.com/FreeYourPlay or EarthPlay.ca.

What can we do this year to make a difference? Start by heeding some sage advice from Dr. Jane Goodall – this month’s Green Hero.

What every person can do is spend a little bit of time every day learning about and thinking about the consequences of all the little choices we make each day. What we buy. What we wear. What we eat. How we get from A to B. How we interact with other people. How we interact with animals and the environment. If we all start making little changes the cumulative effect will be the kind of thing we need to change the world and put it back on track.

You can watch the webisode where she speaks these words or catch the entire Green Heroes TV episode featuring Dr. Goodall along with other animal champions including Dolphin Protector Ric O’Barry, Shark enthusiast Rob Stewart, and Papa Goose, Richard Lishman on Amazon Prime

Also as a special treat this month- the multi-award winning documentary National Geographic documentary about Jane Goodall’s life with the chimps airs on TVO Monday, January 7 at 9 p.m. as part of their Biography Mondays series. The documentary also gives a seldom seen look at footage filmed by Dutch wildlife photographer Hugo van Lawick who later became Jane’s husband. It’s an intimate portrait of their life and love that will capture your heart.

Now that’s a great way to start the New Year! Happy 2019 to all our Green Heroes and their many fans and supporters. May 2019 bring a greener and cleaner future for all and remember:

Everyone of us makes a difference every single day.

Dr. Jane Goodall
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Green Hero, Rob Stewart’s latest film, “Sharkwater Extinction”, opened across Canada on October 19th. It premiered with a special screening at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7th and is featured at this year’s Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival on Sunday October 28th at 1:30 p.m. at the Innis Town Hall on the University of Toronto Campus.

Thanks to Rob’s 2006 first film, “Sharkwater”, and his tireless campaigning, shark-finning is banned throughout the world. Yet, as Rob tells us in the opening lines to his latest movie, sharks continue to die in record numbers. “Sharkwater Extinction” follows Rob’s on his renewed quest to find out why this is happening.

“Sharkwater Extinction” takes us to West Africa, Spain, Panama, Costa Rica, Florida and Los Angeles to expose this multi-billion dollar industry. As you can imagine the quest is not without risk.

Sadly Rob Stewart drowned on a dive off the coast of Florida while making this film. However, the film does not dwell on his death. Instead it inspires us with a message of hope to follow his lead and become heroes ourselves.

Regina Domingo appears in “Sharkwater Extinction” with Rob. Originally from Barcelona, she now lives in Mexico, where she continues Rob’s work to find out what is happening to sharks.

She is also an inspiration to others as the founder and Director of the Nakawe Project, a non-profit organization that dedicates its time and efforts to the protection and conservation of marine life around the globe.

Here is a podcast from Friday, Sept. 7th, with Green Heroes producer, Joan Prowse, and Regina Domingo discussing the late Rob Stewart’s film, “Sharkwater Extinction” on CHHA Radio.

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.

On Earth Day, and all year long,  fill your desire for great environmental stories by tuning into TVO, for Green Heroes TV shows and other environmental documentaries.

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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Green Heroes got a major boost after a successful pitch by co-founder Joan Prowse to investors at the 2014 Imagination Catalyst competition on May 15. The judges (among them former Dragon Den investor Bruce Croxon) were impressed by the content of the pitch and CineFocus’ own commitment to helping develop a node of creativity and excellence using Green Heroes as a prototype for others to learn from.

 Imagination Catalyst is the Ontario College of Art and Design’s entrepreneurship and commercialization hub. Its mission is to help entrepreneurs launch new enterprises and commercialize their designs, products and services. The win gives CineFocus and Green Heroes access to office space, mentors, visiting academics and the talent base of OCAD’s students for one year.

Petra Kassun-Mutch, Executive Director of Imagination Catalyst, put the value of OCAD’s contribution at $20,000 and noted that already the hub has raised $12 million in investments for companies and projects previously selected for their incubator/accelerator program.

Green Heroes is a good fit with OCAD’s vision to focus the power of the cultural industries, creativity, scholarship and smart entrepreneurship to solve the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time.

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