Posts Tagged ‘documentaries’

Paul Watson’s life purpose was crystallized when he looked into the eye of a dying whale. Founder and leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and one of the original founders of Greenpeace, he is regarded as a radical environmentalist. Some even call him a terrorist. He is a doer, a man of action, and in the film, Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson, he compares his life and mission to Homer’s Odyssey. He certainly does seem to resemble the leaders in ancient mythologies, which explains his dismissal of Greenpeace’s “Avon lady” tactics. For Paul Watson the battle to protect whales from short-term profits requires direct action and interference. For him, it is about the whales; however, he does point out that without oceans and marine life there can be no human life.

Trish Dolman’s documentary is a remarkable story of the man and his quest. We learn much about Paul Watson and his crusade. The film is interspersed with older footage and photographs and interviews and comments with current and former colleagues, supporters and family members. Amid the blood and slaughter we also witness great beauty.

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Vespa-like electric scooter from Echodrive Technology Group’s website


Every now and again owning a vehicle enters into my stream of consciousness.  A scooter to be more precise.

Last summer, while still living in Guelph, I saw scooters as a transportation solution to jobs on the outskirts or outside of the city. I found it would be a less costly and more convenient alternative to intercity buses and still be useful should I end up relocating to one of the nearby cities. The summer before that, I lived in Orangeville, which was even more challenging to get around. I had Vespas on the brain. Why a Vespa? It was the only brand I knew by name. I wasn’t thinking electric versus gas, just economical transportation. Images of scooters in Bolivia and Uruguay were still fresh in my mind and I liked their quietness.

I’ve not felt the need to own a car for some time. However, I was in the library yesterday and noticed a DVD of a film I’d wanted to see and had never gotten around to it – Who Killed the Electric Car? – so I signed it out.

Electric cars

Writer/director Chris Paine explores the plight of the electric car. These EVs (electric vehicles) were introduced in California in 1996 but had all but vanished by 2006. Several car companies produced a limited number of vehicles – GM EV1, Ford iThink, Toyota Rav4 EV, and Honda EV Plus – but they were all discontinued and most were rounded up, crushed and shredded. The film identifies a number of contributing culprits – consumers, car companies, oil companies, government, hydrogen fuel cells, and the California Air Resources Board. Battery technology is not deemed to be at fault.

The simple and unfulfilled scooter dreams of a woman who hasn’t owned a vehicle since 2005 probably altered my perception of this documentary somewhat. An electric car is not something that I would be able to afford. Still, green technologies align with my pragmatic idealism and I found the film quite interesting.

Things have changed in the five years since the film was released and I’m hoping to see the filmmaker’s latest doc, Revenge of the Electric Car. According to a story in the weekly EMC Ottawa West, a limited number of a new wave of EV’s should be appearing in Ottawa soon – the Nissan Leaf and the GM Volt.

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I could see myself being a beekeeper, perhaps, although, aside from other constraints, my fascination is tempered by a fear of bees. I sat in on a workshop at the Local Food Fest last summer and it struck me that beekeeping is a natural extension of backyard or community gardening. Beekeepers and their bees can be found in many surprising places such as rooftops in New York City and London.

Bees are essential to the ecosystem, we have a deep connection to them, and they are under threat. That’s the message filmmakers Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz communicate in their wonderful documentary “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” The film weaves a story around the disappearance of bees and their importance to humans, agriculture and the larger ecosystem through a cast of devoted beekeepers, scientists, and prominent food security writers/speakers.

Bees are pollinators and they’re responsible for approximately 40% of all agricultural food crops. The disappearance of honey bees, most notable in the U.S. but also observed in Europe, is a serious issue. Colony Collapse Disorder may be the result of a number of different stressors, which include migration (bees are trucked around the country to pollinate mono crops), pesticides, poor nutrition, weakened immune systems, and pests.

The film and its website list a number of things you can do to help save the bees such as planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden, putting a bowl of fresh water outside for the bees to drink, buying local raw honey, and learning to be a sustainable beekeeper.

I highly recommend the film. It’s an important story, told in a visually appealing, accessible and engaging way.

Alison Van Alten’s bee yard at Ignatius Jesuit Centre, Guelph ON

FYI: Here are a couple sites that discuss colony collapse disorder.



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