Save the Fish, Save the Planet
On January 31, 2017 the world lost a good man. Rob Stewart, a 37 year old Ontario Canada native, was off the coast of Florida filming the sequel to his amazing film ‘Sharkwater’. Rob’s dive partner fell unconscious while boarding the dive boat, possibly because he was using a rebreather, which recycles the air you breath and is used mostly for its lack of bubbles which spook the fish. As they were tending to him, Rob vanished. They searched for 3 days and on February 3, his body was discovered 200 meters below the spot from which he was last seen. The film that Rob was shooting was a sequel to Sharkwater, called ‘Sharkwater: Extinction’ and if you know anything about what is going on in our oceans, you know what this film was going to be about.
Rob’s mission was clear. Save sharks…save the planet. Sharks are at the top of the food chain. And being at the top of the food chain, their role is pretty key to the ecosystem. Sharks keep the fish population in check. Specifically weaker fish, which are eaten and in turn the stronger survive. This keeps the oceans in balance and as much as we don’t want to see poor little struggling fish eaten, it is the circle of life and it happens for a reason. Just like in any ecosystem, if you get rid of the apex predator, there is a ripple effect that will change everything within it. What is the saying?…for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and this one would be catastrophic.
Sharks are being hunted for their fins. The shark fin industry is very lucrative and as a result, over 38 million sharks are killed each year. In China, shark fin soup is a status symbol. We westerners walk around with Louis Vuitton bags to flaunt our wealth and the Chinese eat soup made from a fish that is caught, has its fins hacked off and is thrown back into the ocean while still alive, left to suffocate. Maybe one has nothing to do with the other but lets be real….our capitalistic and greedy mentality has rubbed off on most of the world. Our culture has influence into the most remote areas on earth, causing a person in the himalayas who once only cared about family, food, shelter and religion, to now care just as much about getting a Bon Jovi T-shirt or a Michael Jackson hat. It has to have a ripple effect in someway and i’m not saying that this is the reason our oceans are dying. But greed is a factor and this shift in our souls from an old school drive to survive to now prosper financially at all costs is killing our planet in more ways than one. The desire for wealth causes mankind to do things at any expense and the result of this greed is what motivate people like Rob Stewart and Paul Watson so sacrifice their time and in this case, their lives to help make a change to save the world we live in.
In Rob’s most recent documentary, Revolution, a student from Hong Kong asked ‘why work so hard to save sharks when scientists claim that by 2048 there will be no more fish’. Rob didn’t have an answer and i’m sure it was an existential moment for him. Why save sharks when all fish need saving? I’ll be honest….i only just started watching Revolution and i don’t know how it ends, so i’m not going to make assumptions, but if Robs next documentary was going to be called ‘Extinction’ i think its safe to say where his heart is on this one. Look, I know i’m a guy who started a biodegradable plastic company and your probably thinking ‘why is this guy ranting about the fish?’. I rant because its all connected. Whether we are cutting off fins, long lining species out of existence or choking whales with plastic, it is all destructive to an ecosystem that provides life on earth.
I am so frustrated by the mentality of our governments. Why do we have to fight so hard to see something change? And even when we fight and fight, nothing happens until its too late? Our oceans provide the planet with almost 80% of oxygen. Scientists are screaming it from the rooftops. ‘in 30 years our fish are gone. Our oceans will die and our planet will be without oxygen’. And what do we do? We go on eating meat which accounts for 51% of greenhouse gas and is the main cause of deforestation, taking away yet another oxygen source (28% of oxygen is produced by rainforests) and huge amounts of the earths water supply. We continue to eat fish instead of switching to plants which are way more sustainable, and we are paying dearly for it.
I can’t blame the government solely because in the end, the consumer calls the shots. That is the beauty of being the ants in an ‘ants vs the grasshopper’ scenario. One ant can’t beat a grasshopper but when the ants join together, i pity the grasshopper. I’m sorry this will offend a lot of you but we as people are dumb. A person is smart, but people are dumb. One man split the atom and a group of people decided to nuke an island. Smart…dumb. A scientist says the oceans will die in 30 years and the government opens the galapagos islands for fishing. Smart…dumb.
So what in the world are we supposed to do? The more documentaries i watch or books i read, the more depressed i get about the state of humanity and the state of the earth. Our quest for money and profits are so self destructive and it seems like a lost cause. We have ex lobbyists for the sugar industry working for the FDA. We have the birth of the electric car in the 90’s totally squashed by oil companies, GM and eventually the Bush Administration because of the ‘now so popular’ Hydrogen powered car?? Nice work, Bush…. People who speak up regarding the TRUTH about global warming and how it is largely attributed to agriculture and the cattle industry have their lives threatened and in some cases, ended. I get it….i would be nervous to fight it too. But maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. Instead of fighting the giant, why not starve him? We are the ants and they are the grasshoppers. As consumers, why not band together here? If we all agree that this planet is on a crash course, why not divert it by changing our habits? If in 30 years all of our fish are gone, why not appeal to the youth to only eat sustainable fish? The old guys who are stuck in their ways may never stop, but the young people may want to hang around a little longer than 30 years! If we starve the industries that are killing us, those industries will no longer exist. Look at Ivanka Trump. The department stores are dropping her brand because us ants are refusing to buy. This is the true power of the people and we need to take the power back (a little Rage against the Machine for all you gen x’res).
When i started Change Plastic for Good, i didn’t think immediately about the bigger picture. I saw an incredible technology that can help solve a real problem and I love starting businesses so i ran with it. And in running with it, my eyes were quickly opened to some real serious problems and threats to our existence. And as much as i am running a company that will create sustainable products and earn, i won’t be able to sleep at night without knowing I am making a difference. Not just dropping money into a hat or throwing 10k at a charity (nothing pisses me off more than billion dollar companies ‘doubling the 20k for your charity’ like Celebrity Apprentice’. That would be like you or me offering a homeless man a penny than saying ‘actually i’m going to give you a nickel’ and expecting him to kiss you) but actually funding serious programs and projects that are cleaning up our mess.
A martyr is someone who is killed or suffers greatly for a cause or religion and i think Rob falls into this category. If history is any indicator, martyrdom doesn’t stop the cause, it spreads it. I know Rob didn’t die for nothing. His death is going to bring his cause to the forefront and eyes will be opened to what is going on. The next step involves you. What are you going to do to help save the ocean and as a result, our planet?