Rob Stewart made saving sharks his full-time job, but then realized humans were in desperate need of saving too
While shooting a movie about the extinction of sharks, filmmaker Rob Stewart made a lot of shocking discoveries. The most shocking however, was that humans have it just as bad.
While travelling around to promote and discuss his first documentary, Sharkwater (which won 31 international awards), Rob quickly discovered his film only touched on one part of a global crisis. “When I was running around producing Sharkwater, I got to go to some of the biggest environmental conferences in the world and meet some of the best activists and scientists,” says Rob. “They said, ‘What you’re doing with sharks is cool, but you’re missing the point. We’re going to lose everything.’”
This realization shifted his focus to making his second movie, Revolution, which came out in April of 2013. Revolution looks at the current environmental crisis and asks: how did this happen? And what will it take to change the course that humanity has set itself on?
Rob was born in Toronto and started taking underwater photographs when he was 13. By his 20s, he was one of the world’s top photojournalists and his camera was in high demand from organizations like the Canadian Wildlife Federation, BBC Wildlife and Discovery Channel.
At the age of 22, Rob left his photography career behind to shoot a movie in order to expose the environmental injustices surrounding the declining shark population—a movie that he says he wasn’t quali ed to make. “My girlfriend at the time bought me two books on how to make movies. And I read those on the plane on the way there. I had [the movies] Snatch and Amélie on my
laptop computer. I watched those every time I got into trouble because they were some of my favourite movies at the time,” says Rob, “That was my entire film education.”
Having to learn everything on his own, Rob says, keeps things interesting. “I’ve never had a typical work day,” he says. “Some days I’ll get to spend all day underwater filming. Some days I will spend all day talking to press. Some days I’m on an airplane all day. Some days I’m doing movie premieres and I’m at parties.”
But the problem of how to save the human race is a huge one to undertake, even if it is your full-time job. Rob says the first step is getting information to the right people: everyone.
“The most important thing is education. Educate everyone you know. When everyone you know knows everything in this movie, then you can take it to the next stage,” says Rob.
You may not like the second step: we all need to stop buying stuff. Rob feels that our culture of consumerism has to stop. “We don’t need to build anything else. We’ve got enough buildings for everybody. We’ve got enough televisions, we’ve got enough phones. We need to stop making stuff. We need to end our population growth. We do not need nine billion people on a planet that can’t feed seven billion,” says Rob, referencing experts who say our population will grow by two billion people in a mere 30 years.
Oddly enough, Rob isn’t an activist who wants to overthrow our government, and he doesn’t blame them for the current environmental mess. Instead, Rob says we need to do a better job of telling the government that the environment matters to us. “Governments work. The governments are our servants. They’re employees of the people,” he says. “We think that we’re being ruled by these people and that they’re emperors or dictators. But they’re not. They’re there to do our work. We just need to tell them what to do.”
On a local level, Rob believes everyone can make a difference—particularly the young people. “The people that are changing the world the most right now, in a positive direction, are kids,” says Rob. “There’s no reason they can’t do what I did or something bigger or better. They just haven’t tried yet.”