Filmmaker Rob Stewart comes from Toronto, Canada, and began filming underwater at age 13 and training scuba instructors at age 18. He has spent years traveling the remote corners of the world and filming life in the underwater depths as the chief photographer for the Canadian Wildlife Federation magazines and as a freelancer for everyone from BBC Wildlife to the Discovery Channel. When Stewart encountered indiscriminate shark killing due to illegal long lining while on assignment to photograph sharks in the Galapagos Islands, he left his photography career at age 22 to film the dramatic documentary Sharkwater. Four years and 15 countries later, Stewart's film has arrived, giving viewers a visually stunning beneath-the-water look at the brutal trade in shark parts and what can be done to stop it.
E Magazine: What is the most pressing environmental issue in 2007?
Rob Stewart: The most pressing environmental issue of 2007 is over consumption. The ever increasing population currently sitting at more than 6 billion people have a huge ecological impact on the planet, which in itself is a living system. Currently we would need more than 6 planet Earths to sustain life based on the resources we use in the western world. Ninety percent of the ocean's large predators are gone. Every fishery is expected to have entirely collapsed by 2048. We waste an estimated 54 billion pounds of fish each year, while 8 million people die of starvation. Our relationship with the natural world isn't working, and it needs to be re-vamped.
What is your greatest environmental fear and why?
My greatest environmental fear is that the oceans will continue to be ignored until it's too late. There are 2.5 billion years of evolution in the oceans, and a mere 500 million or so on land. When life evolved in the ocean, the atmosphere was very hot, full of carbon dioxide. Plants in the ocean evolved, and started sequestering carbon, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen, and the planet began to cool. Over hundreds of millions of years, much of the carbon that was removed from the atmosphere was stored as oil and natural gas reserves in the Earth's crust. Now we're bringing that carbon out again and releasing it back into the atmosphere. We have made great jumps in our awareness regarding global warming, but we haven't acknowledged the ocean's role in global climate. The oceans are the greatest regulators of climate on the earth...