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Documentary to inspire revolution

Rob Stewart on a set for his film Revolution - Photo courtesy of Revolution

Rob Stewart on a set for his film Revolution – Photo courtesy of Revolution

Revolution, the documentary that sounds the alarm about humanity’s present self-destructing trajectory, will open in Vancouver theaters April 12, during Earth Day celebrations.

It is the second movie of its kind churned by environmental crusader Rob Stewart, the 32-year biologist, photographer and film director who created Sharkwater. However, his new goal is “much bigger than Sharkwater”, as he writes in his memoirs Save the Humans, published last year. Then, Stewart aimed to save the sharks from the humans, now he is set to save humans from ourselves.

His vision is “To change the public’s perception of the natural world so profoundly the resulting revolution saves humanity, and creates paradise on earth for us and millions of other species.”

Both book and documentary warn about our impending extinction driven by our behavior: consumerism, overpopulation, depletion of natural resources, pollution. “90 per cent of the fish is gone, 75 per cent of the forest is gone. Our system will not sustain nine billion people,” says Stewart. “We are destroying our system, the very ocean life that gives us most of our oxygen. Electric cars and recycling were not enough. A revolution was needed,” he said during a phone interview from his native Toronto.

Fish populations are threatened by fishing, global warming and pollution - Photo courtesy of Revolution

Fish populations are threatened by fishing, global warming and pollution – Photo courtesy of Revolution

The topics

“The movie documents important trends like there are less of the larger life forms [reefs, large fish],” says Dr. Boris Worm, professor of Marine Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The topic is familiar to Worm, who has predicted the extinction of many large fish by 2048. The forecast was based on a comprehensive study of over 55 years worth of data on fishing practices published in the journal Science in 2006. It involved him and members of other international research centres such as Stanford University in the US, Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK and Dalhousie University.

“The ocean is compromised in its productivity and health because it is becoming warmer and more acidic. Both warming and acidification are linked to fossil fuel combustion. The movie deals with that in some detail,” explains Worm.

The format

The documentary has “a different approach,” says Worm. “[Stewart] is not trying to lecture but [to] show his personal experiences, and to share them. It is left to the viewers to decide how this relates to them,” he says.

“I read a lot of scientific papers but I don’t go in the ocean,” says Dr. Andrew Weaver, professor at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria. “There is a lot of gloom and doom, but [Stewart] makes it uplifting. He brings the change that we read about in the newspapers to the screen and makes it real,” says Weaver.

The message and the audience

Fifteen countries, 4 years and one million dollars later, the final cut of Revolution takes viewers on a journey from the pristine waters of the South Pacific Ocean, to the barren Alberta tar sands. Here, Stewart says he found the “greatest environmental atrocities,” but also “the biggest [environmental] defenders: young people fighting for government policy changes.” Young people are his most important audience because “they have historically being involved, and are the ones most greatly impacted by the destruction of the environment,” he said.

According to Weaver “[youth] are the ones that will live with the decisions we are making today.” However, he explains that only “30 to 40 percent” vote. “We have a democracy, let’s use it,” says Weaver, who is a candidate in the upcoming provincial election in Victoria.

Stewart is confident his call-to-action will work, citing history and his previous success as evidence; Sharkwater raised public awareness about shark finning, and effected government policy to ban the practice in over 100 countries.

“When 124 million people saw Sharkwater, government policies changed,” says Stewart.

“When Martin Luther King fought for equality in America, one million people joined the demonstrations. I want everybody to fight,” he says.