The Evolution of the GreenRights / Defenders of the Dawn Project

 by Silver Donald Cameron

In 2009, I established a subscription-based website called The Green Interview, dedicated to long, thoughtful interviews with green thought leaders from around the world. Chris Beckett joined me as producer and director, and I assembled a small freelance support team. Six years later, with 75 interviews on the site, The Green Interview has created a real niche for itself.

For us, "green" is a very inclusive term. We have interviewed green giants like Paul Watson, Farley Mowat, Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall. We've talked with James Lovelock, author of the Gaia theory; Sir Tim Smit, creator of The Eden Project;and Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence, who once walked from India to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington to protest nuclear weapons. We've also interviewed painters and poets and pranksters. We've talked to a man who's reinventing the car industry and a man who lives without money. We've visited the former Prime Minister of Bhutan, whose government pursued Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. We interviewed a classical composer who provided us with a full-length orchestral concert; an 84-year-old great-grandmother who spent three years in prison for tree-hugging in the British Columbia rain forest; and a couple who live sustainably on a 35-foot boat.

We post short teasers on YouTube, and full-length interviews at  www.TheGreenInterview.com, in audio, video and transcript forms. They're also distributed to thousands of academic institutions and libraries worldwide through the online services of Gale Cengage Learning, Films on Demand, Kanopy Streaming and Bibliolabs. These four distributors make them available to global audiences numbering in the tens of millions.

Various initiatives and spin-offs have grown out of The Green Interview project.

Salmon Wars, for instance, (www.SalmonWars.com), is a feature documentary created for use as an informational tool in community halls, Legions,  local theatres, on cable TV and so forth. The film was funded entirely by citizens opposed to the reckless expansion of net-cage aquaculture on the east coast. It was – and is – distributed without charge on DVD and by download or streaming from its own web site. It has also been broadcast on two Nova Scotia cable television networks

That form of distribution has proven to be remarkably influential and far-reaching. Salmon Wars was included in the global online Green Unplugged Festival, one of a series of festivals that since 2008 have been visited by more than 60 million people from 39,000-odd cities across more than 231 countries and territories. The film has been screened in theatres in Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Tasmania  -- and also aboard the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Vancouver.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS: THE GREENRIGHTS PROJECT

 

Soon after Salmon Warswas released, The Green Interviewhosted Dr. David Boyd, author of two authoritative books on environmental rights. (The interview is here: http://www.thegreeninterview.com/interviews/david-boyd)  That conversation – and Dr. Boyd's book The Environmental Rights Revolution rocked us with the realization that environmental rights represent an incredibly powerful tool that can apply to a huge range of issues. The human right to a healthy environment, and Mother Earth's right to respect and security, are concepts so comprehensive and powerful that they can re-shape and re-define almost every separate environmental issue: pollution of the air and water, climate change, biodiversity, loss of soil, security of food and energy, and so forth.

What's more, if we respect the rights of Mother Earth, we soon find ourselves sharing the outlook of the First Nations: that all living things – including human beings -- are integral parts of the whole web of life. Furthermore, for the First Nations, human law derives from the relationships found in the natural world – an idea explained by another interviewee, Dr. John Borrows, the brilliant Anishinaabek legal scholar whose book, Canada's Indigenous Constitution, challenges and enriches the very concept of Canada.  Both Dr. Boyd and Dr. Borrows have provided essential advice to the GreenRights project.

However, although environmental rights are embedded in the legal systems of 177 member nations of the UN,  16 countries, including Canada and the United States, don't recognize these rights. A growing movement in both countries seeks to change that. And that struggle is the heart of our ambition to make a feature-length film. We want to support that struggle by bringing  the inspiring stories from other countries to Canadian audiences.

GreenRights uses the business model that worked so well with Salmon Wars: raise the money needed for the production, and then distribute the film online, in theatres, in festivals through community groups, churches and NGOs, and by broadcast or cable where possible. We're not out to make money. We want to spark discussion and foster change.

We're making several shorter videos on the same theme. We've produced a 10-minute short sample for use by the David Suzuki Blue Dot initiative, and we intend to produce a series of very short excerpts designed to be shared on social media. I've also done some writing on the theme – for instance, an article on the Philippine lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr at http://constitution.ca/2014/11/. And 19 major interviews on the subject have been posted on The Green Interview site. 

The first extended production from the GreenRights project is Defenders of the Dawn: Green Rights in the Maritimes, a one-hour TV spin-off commissioned by CBC Atlantic. As David Boyd says, rights often emerge from wrongs, and this program tells several dramatic stories about environmental wrongs inflicted on citizens – in Harrietsfield, Pictou, Inverness, Fredericton and Elsipogtog – who are fighting back and asserting the rights that we believe all Canadians should have. It also introduces the remarkable environmental-rights lawyers who have made dramatic use of the courts in Argentina, Ecuador and the Philippines.

Defenders of the Dawn was broadcast September 5, 2015 on the CBC-TV Maritimes network. The trailer for the film is here:https://youtu.be/3SvdCehamY0. Canadian viewers can stream the show here:http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Absolutely+Canadian/ Viewers outside Canada can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xdkoCFdeHE

With Defenders of the Dawn completed, the team now turns its full attention to the feature-length documentary, aiming to have it completed by mid-2016. 

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