Rob zooming in on a humpback whale (Photo by Rob Barrel)

Rob zooming in on a humpback whale (Photo by Rob Barrel)

 

As people and organizations around the world remember and reflect on the life of Rob Stewart, A\J would like to share a piece in appreciation of the incredible work Rob achieved in his too short life.

Photo by Terra Mack

Born in Toronto, Stewart grew up with the ocean in his blood; he began underwater photography when he was 13 and grew up to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, with his studies taking him to three countries.  He started working on the groundbreaking documentary Sharkwater (http://www.sharkwater.com/) in 2003, travelling the world and uncovering the story behind the global killing of sharks to meet the high demand of shark products. This documentary has sparked awareness and action that has created much of today’s shark conservation movements, resulting in policy changes and the creation of many conservation groups, spreading information and tools for global change.

“Take what they’re best at and what they love the most and slam them together into a life of meaning that’s radically different from the lives of those who have come before us.”

Stewart’s second film, Revolution (http://therevolutionmovie.com/) looks at the problem of climate change on a more broad scale, touching on the human relationship that exists between us and all of the species we live with on this planet. These two films have won over 50 awards and educated audiences across borders, urging them to action and empowering them with the important message that we need to work hard to make a change in our cultures and actions that have caused so much destruction of the natural world already. With the impressive ability to balance positivity and hard facts, Revolution was the highest grossing Canadian documentary in 2013, connecting with audiences at film festivals around the world.

Along with these films, Stewart has written two books- Sharkwater: An Odyssey to Save the Planet  and Save the Humans.  These books have won awards in their own rights and continued the message that Stewart, an environmental hero, never stopped bringing to the public. He was always deeply positive in believing in the goodness of people, sure that if they only knew more about these environmental problems, they would do something about it. He was on the board of multiple conservation groups himself, working tirelessly to protect the species he knew are vital for human survival.

Rob in the environment he cherished most: in the ocean, surrounded by sea life (Photo by Veruschka Matchett)

A\J had the honor of connecting with Stewart in 2013 when his film Revolution was just coming out on DVD.

On A\J’s podcast (http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/node/2157), our then web editor, Emily Slofstra had the chance to talk with Stewart about his career, how he got there, his environmental heroes, and his advice for the everyday and future environmentalist. When discussing his environmental heroes, he named both David Suzuki and Paul Watson, men he has had the pleasure of meeting and even working with. The David Suzuki Foundation, in the wake of his death (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2017/02/rob-stewart/), cited Stewart as “one of the truest and most influential advocates for the oceans and for the Earth”. His death has been felt strongly across all environmental groups, and much more deeply in those where he worked personally, spreading his infectious positivity and light.

In the conversation with Slofstra, when asked what environmental science students should look for in career, Stewart responded that they should, “take what they’re best at and what they love the most and slam them together into a life of meaning that’s radically different from the lives of those who have come before us.” He understood that the past has not laid the path we must follow in the future, as it was the path that led us to the destruction of the planet we are experiencing now. Education is what he saw as the key to change, as well as always remaining positive: “try to imagine a brighter future” he said, acknowledging that the solutions of tomorrow have to be invented by those who can imagine a sustainable world unlike the one we are living in today.

The loss of Stewart will be felt for many months and years to come, though the most important thing we can do as environmentalists is to continue the work he started, and never ever forget to believe that we can change the world, as Rob knew we could. To pledge your support, join the movement, or donate to the foundation he created, visit Finfree.org and learn more about the important movement to stop the mass killing of sharks worldwide.

 

Carina Steficek is a student at Bennington College studying Environmental Science Communications. She is a publishing intern at A\J and aspires to run a CSA in tiny house community.

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