Rob Stewart on the Impact of Youth Taking Action

My husband and I saw Revolution a couple of weeks ago, and we had a lively discussion about the movie during our walk home. The film really emphasized the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s message that everything is interconnected; the effects of pollution and ocean acidification are wreaking havoc on other species, but that means that they’re also having an impact on the Earth’s ability to house us. The movie really resonated with me, because it echoes JGI’s call for  every single one of us to take action to fight for our future…and my husband and I started to think about more actions that we could take ourselves.

A few days later, when I had the chance to talk to Rob Stewart, creator of Revolution and Sharkwater, I was thrilled—albeit quite nervous—and definitely interested to hear what he had to say.

Photo Credit: Revolution, 2013.

Photo Credit: Revolution, 2013.

He emphasized that “everybody changes the world every day through our individual actions and consumption. The actions of seven billion people on a daily basis are the problem, but also the solution. In order for our species to survive with any grace, we need to work together across all borders. It’s not impossible when you think of what could happen with seven billion people working together.” This is exactly what the Roots & Shoots movement is working toward globally, with thousands of active youth in over 130 countries.

“We need to call the best of humanity to the height of their full potential,” says Rob. “We need to rise to the challenge.”

Rob’s goal is to raise awareness and to fuel this worldwide cooperation by getting one billion people to see Revolution. “If people knew what was going on,” he says, “they would want to do something about it.”

His words made one of my favourite quotes from Jane Goodall echo in my head: “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.”

Rob talked about how energized he is by the creative youth-led initiatives that he has discovered since he and his team started working on the film. “With adults, I saw a lot of in-fighting, a lot of pessimism,” he said. “But young people were just ready to tackle the issues. They just seemed to say, ‘We’ve got to do this, so let’s do it.’ It’s really inspiring.”

With all of this enthusiasm brewing amongst young people, teachers and program facilitators have the unique opportunity to harness it by taking students through a meaningful process to create change that fosters critical thinking and consideration of all perspectives. The 12-step action planning process in JGI Canada and Learning for a Sustainable Future’s Protecting Our Sacred Water guide can be used by teachers and program facilitators to encourage students to consider the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental factors when thinking through innovative solutions to community and conservation issues. What does your community need?  What are the roots causes of the issue? What are the social, economic and environmental factors contributing to the issue? What opportunities exist to change systems and create meaningful change? JGI’s action planning process gets students thinking locally and acting globally by understanding their global impacts and the change they can create in their own communities.

“I’m optimistic because I see the opportunity,” Rob says. “Instead of looking at all the things that we’re fighting against, I’m looking at what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for a world that works for all of us. We’re fighting for a world of beauty, an earth that could be a paradise. Imagine what that world could look like…and let’s move our feet toward it.”

Young people, in particular, really do get excited about moving toward that better world. I, for one, love seeing that—and there’s so much that they can do! Students who want to get something going on their own could talk to their teacher about bringing Roots & Shoots into their classroom, and in university, students can get involved in JGI’s upcoming campaigns (like some of the JGI Youth Leadership Council members have done).

And the rest of us non-teachers and non-students? We’re not off the hook. It’s time to get inspired (and I’m partial to movies like Revolution and Jane’s Journey to give myself a boost). It’s time to learn about what each one of us can do in our own communities….and then do it.

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5 responses to “Rob Stewart on the Impact of Youth Taking Action

  1. I think the biggest impact of youth comes from the fact that some of them will take up responsable positions and be the leaders, ceo’s, teachers, ministers and presidents of the near future.
    Meanwhile, fact is that the leaders and organizations of yesterday have implemented structures, taken decisions that are resilient and often resist change. Idem for the leaders of today, they don’t give their power and what they make money with away just like that. Forget it.
    Sven AERTS – former EU youth trainer / Youth Environment Europe, the umbrella organization of most EU youth environmental organizations.

  2. I believe that everyone has the ability to make change in the world, but all sectors of society must play there part. Educators need to adopt an interdisciplinary approach in their teaching and encourage students to broaden their perspectives. Businesses need to re-question who their stakeholders are and technology advancement must be questioned. I agree that all of us can play their own part, little by little while the big guys at the top take note.

    • Hi Anastasia! That’s exactly the idea — with all of us playing our parts, we definitely have reasons for hope. Thanks for your comments!

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