Our survival on Earth ‘is in jeopardy,’ filmmaker says
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To hear filmmaker Rob Stewart tell it, global events like today’s Earth Day should be viewed more as grim reminders of the tough path ahead than as a celebration.
“We’re in a really delicate situation right now where our survival is in jeopardy,” says the director. “We’ve got to do something fast.”
The dire straits Stewart describes take centre stage in the Toronto native’s latest film, Revolution, which lays groundwork of humanity’s survival plan for the next 100 years. “We follow life as a character through 3.5 billion years of evolution,” he says. “Five mass extinctions almost wiped life off the face of the planet culminating with humans in the midst of another one of these extinctions.” Escapist cinema this is not.
Stewart, a wildlife photographer turned environmental activist, recognizes that fear mongering isn’t the way to draw people to your cause — appealing to their humanity is. “We’ve got to get an emotional reaction out of the public so that they care about it,” he says. “We thought that following me around as a character would be a good way to do that.”
The film opens with Stewart on press junkets promoting Sharkwater, his debut film about shark finning. During this period he realized that all his efforts to save sharks would be in vain if their entire eco-system were to collapse. From there he details the effects of ocean acidification as a result of over-consumption. By the time the credits roll, Stewart is knee-deep in the fervent activist movement coalescing around efforts to stop the destruction of the environment.
Never a fan of politics, Stewart nevertheless sees activism as the place where average Joes can make a difference. “If this was a spectator sport, we would have won already. But it’s not. We’re going down the tubes fast.”
The list of problems facing our planet — climate change, ocean-acidification — and the factors that created this situation, roll off Stewart’s tongue with ease. But he’s not all doom and gloom; his optimistic outlook is palpable, making him an ideal spokesperson for the cause. Yet it’s the younger generation who he’s banking on.
“There’s an opportunity for kids to become heroes for the eco-systems that we love. And I think this generation is going to make more heroes than ever before because we’re engaging in the biggest battle humanity’s ever been in,” he says.
“It’s going to be wicked to see what happens and it’s going to call the best in humanity to the height of their potential.”