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Toronto filmmaker tells the tale of a new wave of environmental activism

A 22,000 name petition was presented to legislature calling on government to protect old growth forests in British Columbia recently. On March 16, 2013, over a 1,000 people rallied together and marched from Centennial Square through downtown Victoria to the Legislative grounds to have their voices heard.

Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

For Emily Hunter, environmental activism is in the blood.

Her father, the late Robert Hunter, helped found Greenpeace in Vancouver and he was among the protesters who captured the world's imagination, in 1971, when they tried to stop U.S. nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka Island, Alaska.

Now Ms. Hunter is setting out to make waves of her own.

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Based in Toronto, the young Canadian writer and filmmaker is embarking on an ambitious project that over the next year will take her around the world to document the work of new kinds of environmentalism.

"Filmmaking is my activism and art," said Ms. Hunter, who will be trailed by a film crew as she goes behind the scenes and visits the front lines where the new movements are unfolding.

"Basically Activist 2.0 is looking at the next generation of environmental activists. It takes the position that there are environmental crises happening in the world and yet we are not quite winning the battles. The same old tactics from the 1960s and 70s aren't working any more," said Ms. Hunter.

The new environmentalists go beyond protests and direct action to harness the power of social media, use high-tech cameras and engage in financial leveraging to achieve their goals.

"This new generation is rising up but that's a story that isn't really being told," she said.

Some of the individual campaigns she plans to follow include Global Power Shift, directed by the non-profit group, which is using the power of online mobilization to fight climate change.

This spring, 500 organizers are gathering in Istanbul for workshops geared to launching a new Global Power Shift campaign they hope will sweep the world.

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"So the greatest mass communication we've ever had is being used at a level where they are trying to create a global network of activists fighting climate change," she said.

Ms. Hunter (whose sister Justine Hunter is a political correspondent with The Globe and Mail in British Columbia) will also be riding with The Black Fish, a group of self-styled eco-pirates who are engaged in campaigns to protect the oceans.

"They were born out of Sea Shepherd, but instead of just doing confrontations at sea, they are using emerging technology such as aerial cameras to track and document the illegal activities happening in the oceans, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea. They are willing to do confrontations if they need to but they are trying to get technology on their side," she said.

This summer The Black Fish are targeting an illegal driftnet fishery that each year is blamed for killing 10,000 whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea.

Closer to home, Ms. Hunter will be examining the "divestment movement," which was started by university students in the U.S. and spread to Canada.

"It's this campus-based movement that's already got 320 campuses across North America involved, and they are asking that their institutions stop investing in unethical businesses, particularly the fossil-fuel industry. This tactic was used in social-justice fights in South Africa against the apartheid government, it was an economic means to break the back of that apartheid government, but it's never been used in environmental circles before," said Ms. Hunter. "Environmentalism isn't normally political and we look at kind of building enough pressure to cause top down change, but this is very different. This is using a grassroots economic means to directly target the institutions that are affecting the future of this generation."

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Ms. Hunter said for young people, environmentalism is more than just a passing concern, it's about fighting for their future.

"I really believe that there is a generational call for 20-somethings," she wrote recently in a blog. "[They] have a responsibility to tackle the great crises of our time."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More


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