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It is Spring and the world is waking up. Take a walk and listen to the birds sing in the trees and witness the radiant flowers as they come into bloom. These are all hopeful signs amidst the waiting and worry that comes with an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that has stopped the usual hustle and bustle in its tracks.

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day tomorrow we wanted to release this music video. Back in 1970, an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara created a worldwide environment movement that continues today. The question we ask is WHY have we not progressed with the environmental cause as quickly as the women’s and civil rights movement which began at the same time? 

This call to action song is written and performed by Green Heroes’ composer, Chris Birkett. The video was directed, shot and edited by Joan Prowse, co-creator of the TV series Green Heroes. Appearing in the video is Tristan Avakian on Electric Ud, Natalie Wong on Violin, Jeremy Edwardes on Harmonica and Shari Tallon on keys. For the song itself all instruments were played by Chris Birkett except for the Harmonica. Video was shot on location in Montreal and the Gatineau Mountains in Quebec and in downtown Toronto. 

As an anniversary gift to Mother Earth, let’s do what we can to catch the wave of people who are waking up during this global lockdown with thoughts and ideas about changing the way we live to put people and the planet first.

Please share widely and remember there’s never a better time to “wake up and know the truth, this world was made for all”. 

Green Heroes’ composer latest video release carries an important message for all

Preserving the environment is always met with backlash concerning the perceived expense to maintain it, but can you put a price tag on how much we lose by failing to do so? Turns out, we can!

Casey Trees and Davey Tree Expert Co. banded together to create the National Tree Benefit Calculator, a handy tool for determining the approximate yearly value of any street-side tree. By calculating the absorbed stormwater runoff, energy conservation, reduction in air pollution and carbon, and even property value increase, this tool provides easy financial justification for maintaining trees on your property.

Green Heroes used this tool to calculate the value of a very special tree! It was received as a cutting at the memorial service for Greenpeace co-founder Robert Hunter in 2006. Recently, we measured it on its rooftop home in Toronto’s downtown waterfront neighbourhood. Based on how it has grown, it provides $109 annually to the rooftop, adding to Robert Hunter’s already valuable environmental legacy.

Green Heroes intern Jay, taking the tree’s measurements!

CineFocus Canada, producers of Green Heroes, had the opportunity to interview Robert Hunter twice, first for their series Lucky Breaks and again for the documentary Greenpeace: Made in Canada on the Discovery Channel, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the organization. Robert’s daughter Emily Hunter has continued her father’s work and is one of our featured Green Heroes.

We’re wondering if anyone else received a cutting at Robert Hunter’s memorial that has now grown into a tree? Tweet us a photo of it @GreenHeroesTV or post it to our Facebook page, and don’t forget to use the calculator above to find out its value and let us know!

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.

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.

cinefocus_final-logo colourIf 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.

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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.

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.

Spectacular sunsets, walks along the beach and muddy hikes through the woods; these are moments in our lives that open our eyes to the wonderful feelings when being surrounded by nature.

This month, the Green Heroes Campaign focuses on Artist Robert Bateman, one of the world’s most celebrated wildlife artists and naturalist painters. Bateman’s work reflects his commitment and dedication to the preservation of the natural world. Since the early 1960s, he has been an active member of naturalist and conservation organizations. He has used his prints in fund-raising efforts to provide millions of dollars for worthy environmental causes. In 2007, he donated 11 million dollars of artwork towards the Robert Bateman Centre, creating a catalyst for environmental research and study.

Bateman’s efforts towards preserving our world’s ecology, biodiversity, vanishing habitats and endangered species, sends a strong message to his following: We need to challenge the public and society’s leaders to create a new dialogue about our relationship with nature. Bateman tells Green Heroes “We are losing that meaningful connections with nature. Today is all virtual, with people spending their time with video games and technology, we are rolling over an entire generation. I’m concerned about the future and I think it’s a pivotal time to make a change.”

The question remains: “What can I do to live a healthier, more nature-filled lifestyle?”

Take a hike! Your health will benefit as you reduce stress and increase body endurance and strength. While doing so, you can enter Conservation Ontario’s Healthy Hikes Contest, where tracking your hiking hours in conservation areas gets you points to win great prizes. Go take a hike and see the benefits for yourself!

Enter our very own Green Heroes’ recently EXTENDED Fall Contest on until October 31, where taking a photo of your daily commute and uploading it to the Green Heroes Academy can win you an electric bike kit from BionX International. Watch this video to find your how to enter!

Wangari Maathai Photo credit: Devin Lund

CineFocus Producers and Founders Joan Prowse and John Bessai are pleased to receive an award on behalf of GreenHeroes for making a positive impact through their filmmaking at the MINT Film Festival on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 p.m in Toronto. Their GreenHeroes webisode featuring the late Dr. Wangari Maathai, the first environmentalist and African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, will be screened as part of the evening’s festivities.

The February edition of the monthly festival is themed for Black History Month. International motivational speaker and Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Spider Jones will be the host at the Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Avenue, Toronto) and also includes musical performances by Canadian jazz legend Jackie Richardson and a screening of the award winning feature documentary, Prom Night in Mississippi, by filmmakers Paul Saltzman and Patricia Aquinio.

See MINT’s Facebook page event for ticket information and to RSVP.

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