April announces the start of spring, a season of rebirth, and the reminder of the fragility of the planet. Each spring I stalk my garden-which trees came back to life? Is the ground soggy and damp like it should be, or did another warm winter mean less water for the bulbs to bloom? Digging deeper into the causes and learning that every single piece of plastic ever made still exists on Earth today, it’s a stark reminder of the absolute necessity for change, and an inner soul search on how we can all be a part of it.
In conversation with The Water Brothers, who’s popular show on TVO is now on season four, I discovered the burning issues that they’ve been globetrotting to spotlight, and explore how to actually make a difference, without wearing a granola sack as a jumper or swearing off showers completely.
The Water Brothers-What keeps us motivated and focused is knowing how high the stakes are if we maintain the status quo. Whether it is growing water scarcity, the rapid loss of biodiversity, climate change, pollution or overfishing, if we continue down the path we are on, this planet is not going to be a very nice place to live and we don’t want future generations asking us why we didn’t do enough at such a critical time in human history. Corporate interests, government inaction and personal greed have always slowed environmental progress and will continue to do so. Almost every major success in environmental protection has been achieved against huge odds and the oppressive and sometimes violent attacks from more powerful corporate and corrupt government interests. In 2015 alone, 185 environmental activists in 16 different countries were murdered for defending land, forests and rivers. That’s an average of three people per week and that rate has remained fairly steady through 2016 and into 2017. What keeps us motivated is knowing that there are people out there who are actually putting their lives on the line to protect the land, animals and rivers that do not have a voice. Knowing that we can play a small part in bringing more awareness to these issues is more than enough motivation. We only have one Earth and we won’t necessarily have a second chance to fix all the problems we are creating.
LR-What are the simplest ways a consumer can make a difference?
WB-There are a lot of simple actions people can take in their daily lives that can have a big impact on protecting water and the environment. Agriculture is the biggest water user and polluter on the planet, so changing your diet in small ways can drastically cut down your water and carbon footprint. Eating less meat, reducing food waste in your home, buying organic produce, using a sustainable seafood guide or smartphone app and supporting farmers who grow crops or raise livestock in a sustainable manner are all powerful actions. Another simple change people can take is to buy less single use disposable plastic. Bring reusable bags to the store, avoid using any cosmetic products or soaps with plastic microbeads in them and never flush any plastic down the drain or toilet. That includes the so called “flushable” sanitary and baby wipes that are absolutely not supposed to be flushed and are clogging pipes and ending up in lakes and rivers across the country. Avoiding straws, plastic cutlery and unnecessary plastic packaging are all helpful too. Another important change you can make to your routine is to ditch bottled water for tap water in a reusable bottle. Even if you prefer sparkling water you can easily make it at home with a device like SodaStream and bring sparkling water with you on the go while reducing the amount of plastic waste you create. There really isn’t any excuse anymore to buy bottled water if you live in a city or town with clean tap water.
LR-What are the best ways to inspire environmentalism to younger generations? As a mom myself, I’m always reminding them that water is a privilege, and lakes that I once drank out of as a child likely won’t be clean and safe for them. How do I encourage them without scaring them?
WB-I think one of the best ways to inspire environmentalism in younger generations is to get them outside as much as possible interacting with nature. If children remain inside stuck to their screens all day then it will be more difficult to inspire them to protect nature if they can’t recognize its value. Get children acquainted with their local watershed and searching for wildlife. Make an effort as a family to go camping, hiking, canoeing, fishing or taking pictures of wildlife. Most people who fight to protect nature have memories of these kinds of childhood activities. If future generations cannot generate these kinds of memories it will be more difficult to get them to recognize what is being lost and to care about losing wild, pristine places and animals later in their life.
LR-Was there once conclusive moment that made you decide to follow this career path?
WB-I don’t think there was a conclusive moment that made us follow this career path but rather a confluence of events. Many of our family members are very passionate about nature and the environment or they work in the film and television industry, so combining filmmaking and environmental issues has always been something we were interested in. We never thought we would ever have our own TV show, simply because being around the film and TV industry growing up we knew how difficult and exhausting this business can be. But when we suddenly had an opportunity to film a pilot episode we jumped at the chance because we have always been inspired by the power of documentaries to foster action on important issues and hoped that one day we could do the same with our own documentaries.
LR-What has been the most memorable moment since starting this journey?
WB-Choosing memorable moments is difficult because we get to meet such amazing people and do something unique and special in every episode we film. But two events definitely stick out to us. During our first season we got to go on a submarine dive 2200 feet to the bottom of the ocean off Roatan, Honduras. Going on a deep sea submersible is like entering another world and everywhere you look you are seeing creatures you have never seen before. 95% of the ocean is still unexplored and getting a chance to view the deep sea first hand is a unique experience we will never forget. Another memorable moment came in 2013 in Allahabad, India at the Maha Kumbh Mela festival. The Maha Kumbh Mela is a mass pilgrimage where Hindus gather to bathe at the confluence of the Yamuna and Ganges rivers. There are several similar festivals in India, but the Maha Kumbh only happens once every twelve years and is the biggest of them all. Over 120 million visited Allahabad over the two month festival and over 30 million gathered to bathe on a single day, setting a record for the largest gathering of people ever on Earth. To be a part of such an important and spiritual event and to be part of a crowd almost as big as the entire population of Canada was incredible and really emphasized to us how important it is to protect rivers like the Ganges and Yamuna that support so many people. Large bathing festivals occur every year on the Ganges, but the next Maha Kumbh Mela isn’t until 2025 so it really is a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity!
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