With a pandemic to survive, global warming, a looming US election happening south of the border that could potentially end Oreo cookie production and result in a mass American migration to Canada, it’s getting much harder to laugh these days. How do you make jokes when Mother earth is going through menopause? It’s a delicate dance when everyone else is sitting… so crank up the music and take away their chairs – so we can all be involved.
Laughter is necessary in times of crisis because crying face isn’t a good look for everyone. I saw my neighbour crying in the hallway last month. I hardly recognized her because her make-up was smudged and her facial muscles were all distorted. Once I realized it was her… I asked if she could return my umbrella. It might’ve been bad timing, but I heard it was suppose to rain later that day and I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be out.
Okay, so clearly I’m no comedian but I do recognize the power of laughter in a time when we need it most. Award winning documentary filmmaker Scott Renyard, of Juggernaut Pictures also knows this. Scott is not just another filmmaker, he also holds 2 degrees in science. Scott is best known for his Award-winning documentary, The Pristine Coast, Who Killed Miracle?, Trial of An Iconic Species, The Unofficial Trial of Alexandra Morton and now, his most recent project, Save the Planet Already! With 13 producing credits, Scott knows that film is a great megaphone for social issues. Save the Planet Already! is a film showcasing stand-up comedians, Harris Anderson, Stuart Jones, KC Novak, Patrick Maliha (Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story), Simon King (Tooth Fairy), Allanah Brittany and Megan Milton for an environmentally themed comedy night – hosted by comic Steve Allen.
Save the Planet Already! premiered on The Green Channel on October 7th and I’ve been lucky enough to preview it. You wouldn’t think that environment comedy could be funny but it’s gut-splitting hilarious. The Green Channel is a subscription-based online streaming platform with a mission to highlight beautiful, untold stories of those coming together to better our planet. Scott Renyard founded the channel after dedicating the last twenty years to TV and film projects focused on environmental issues. The channel is a collection of films and projects dedicated to bringing awareness to global climate issues and he decided to create Save the Planet Already! to deliver the same message, but with a bit of laughter.
At The Green Channel (TGC), they believe the first step to solving an environmental problem is knowing about it. Awareness drives change – therefore, their goal is to be the voice of living things. By watching and supporting their channel, YOU move humanity closer to solving these environmental challenges. The Green Channel is currently streaming around the globe in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia, Scandinavia, Iceland and many more. They are also currently live on Apple. If you are a filmmaker that’s passionate about climate change And have made a film about it… then The Green Channel is it’s best chance for exposure. Please visit the channel and website to get involved!
I was privileged and grateful to speak with Scott Renyard about Save the Planet Already! and his contributions to environmental film. It was an education.
“What prompted you to start The Green Channel and how did the comedy special come about?”
“I’m an environmental filmmaker and I made a documentary film called The Pristine Coast, which looks at the fish farm industry. Initially I was going to focus on the farms and what impacts it was having on salmon, but then Alexandra Morton showed me a photograph of a bleeding herring. After seeing the photo, my 2 science degrees kicked in – so I asked, which other species were being affected. After some research, I realized that all fin fish are being affected by viruses being spread from farms. One particular virus I was focusing on was called Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) that affects every fin fish out there and is collapsing fish populations around the world. After I finished that film, it began to get more difficult to place any environmental content with traditional broadcasting anywhere. I thought I should start going directly to my customers and after netting a couple people, I decided to start a streaming service focused on the environment. I’m on the board of Moving Images distribution and we have a tech guy that suggested we could probably start a streaming service and that’s where it started.”
“What did the process look like upon launching it?”
“This was my first dive into it, because I’ve never considered becoming my own broadcaster. The name – The Green Channel popped into my head and I approached a lawyer to find out that the name was available Canada wide. I applied for a trademark and managed to get it… that’s how we got the ball rolling. I launched it in July of 2017.”
“I think the comedy program is a very novel idea. Will you be making the environmentally comedy show a regular addition to the channel?”
“It was a bit of a test to see how they would handle it. When I first suggested that we stick to the theme, they all kind of looked at me a little strange (laughing). It actually turned out really well and the comedy is quite varied. They all had a different approach and it did give me the idea that this could be an ongoing series of specials. We’re planning a second one that we’re hoping to shoot in 2021.”
“Was it difficult to find comedians that were up to the challenge?”
“It was fairly easy – Steve Allen owns the Kino Cafe and is a veteran stand-up comedian that started the café as a venue for up and comers to practice their craft. When we met with Steve and his assistant Laura, he told me he might be able to find 8-10 people that would be interested in doing it. That’s how we found them.”
“How did you finance the channel?”
“I financed the channel myself. I also own an equipment company in the film business. I used some of my funds from there as well as applying for grants and other sources. We’re independent and ad free, I’d like to keep it that way and instead have it supported by the public; I believe it’s very much a public service that we’re providing. I want the content to dig deep into the issues while giving our leaders and politicians access to content that could bring them up to speed on an issue fairly quickly. It could help support them if they suddenly become minister and have little experience.”
“Your channel covers ocean pollution to air pollution. Would that be accurate?”
“It covers every environmental issue possible. I see the channel expanding to not just documentaries but more comedies about the environment, reality shows, news, dramas and series. When people tune in, I want them to have fun and not overwhelmed with heavy content, that way they have a mix of fun and serious content to choose from.”
“Is The Green Channel associated in anyway with Green Peace?”
“No, it’s not associated with Green Peace or The Green Party either, it’s completely independent. As an after-thought, I realized I should’ve had another name to separate myself apart – but it seemed like such a natural name for a channel that was going to feature environmental content.”
“How long would you say you’ve been a climate activist?”
“My dad said that I was thinking about plants and the environment since I was five years old. He kept telling me that I’m eventually going to have to go to university to answer those questions because he didn’t know (laughing). He kept prodding me as a kid to go to university because I kept asking such complicated questions. I now have 2 degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Botany from UBC and a Masters in Resource Planning and Regional Planning from the Planning School at UBC. I was always interested in fisheries and was a sports fisherman as a kid. When I had seen that the fish populations on the Vedder River (a.k.a. Chilliwack River) were collapsing a number of years ago, as well as hearing Alex Morton talking about it – I remember asking her if she thought the disease could be as far down as Vancouver from The Broughton. After we discussed it further, we realized the fish floating down the Vedder belly up and bright silver, weren’t dying from the mishandling of fisherman, it was disease that was killing them.”
“Is that disease a result of the fish farms?”
“What happens with fish farms, is they amplify the sea-lice population that are naturally in the environment. Sea-lice are the tics of the sea that carry viruses and bacteria from fish to fish. When you have an open net and you have millions, if not billions of sea-lice exploding off these farms – anything that’s there is going to get amplified. Another unfortunate thing is, they move salmon eggs from all over the world to these farms, which can bring disease to all of the fish farms in a short period of time. My interest was always been viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) but the sockeye population in the Fraser has been dropping dramatically and they think its from a different virus that’s been spread. The only way to contain these diseases is by going to closed containment and separate the wild fish from the farm. We have a very serious issue and a lot of populations are collapsing to the point of going extinct.”
“How are you going to create enough content to tackle every environmental issue?”
“We acquire films from around the world, like other traditional broadcasters. We’re also an outlet for filmmakers searching for more revenue for films they may have sold elsewhere, even if it’s an old classic. We remastered an old film, Rainbow Warriors – which is about Green Peace. We’re currently launching 1 title per week, 4 per month as acquisitions and I want to produce 4 original projects per year. As the subscriber base grows, the goal is to produce more original content and also to commission filmmakers to produce something original for the channel. The long-term goal is to have content from every issue that’s affecting the planet, as well as featuring all the different species, especially the endangered. We could feature each species in an episode or TV program to watch and see where the trouble lies and to try and support that species somehow, so we can get it off the endangered list.”
“When you receive films from around the world, do you find that their climate issues differ from Canada/North American climate issues?”
“It’s interesting, sometimes the perspectives are quite different and sometimes they’re the same. The goal of the channel is to one day have 30 films on climate change and researchers can watch them and can see different approaches in other countries as well as letting the public see if we’re on the same page or not.”
“Do you have other creative ideas in store going forward as an accomplished filmmaker?”
“We have another film coming out this month entitled Food and Fuel – A Story of Resilience. We hired David Lavallee as the director and he was trying to make a film that explored what it might be like to have no fossil fuels to produce food. He used the example from Cuba, when they didn’t have access to fossil fuels for a period of time – it was called ‘the special period.’ He compared that to a woman living on the Sunshine Coast, trying to live a fossil free life. We’re also working on a series called The Fire Keepers, that features some very well-known environmental activists. Jane Goodall is in the pilot and that’s a seven-part series. I’m doing 2 more feature docs – one is a sequel to Pristine Coast, where I felt like I needed to talk about the collapse of the wild fish populations on such a grand scale, that it’s a major contributor to climate change. I think disease has caused this collapse, which has broken the food chain. That film will expand on the findings I presented in 2014. I’m also doing a film on herring, which is the lifeblood/middle of the food web; they are spawning on creosote pilings.”
“What would you consider to be the biggest threat to the current climate?”
“My feeling is our industrializing of the ocean and how we’ve put these fish farms in place – it’s not just about the disease they’re spreading but also the inputs of enormous amounts of marine bio-mass they’re catching, to feed the fish farms. I know we’re very focused on fossil fuels and that they are key to the balancing of the carbon cycle but I believe the biggest threat to climate change is likely what’s happening in the ocean.”
“Would you say that you can use the plankton population as a measuring stick for global warming?”
“Yes, I think so. NOAA, the National Organization of Atmospheric Administration in the US actually measures plankton from space. They feel that our phytoplankton is down by 40 percent. NOAA feels that our climate is controlled by the interplay between the atmosphere and the oceans. If that breaks down, that’s our biggest problem.”
Scott had an enormous amount of scientific data to back-up the claims – that the health of the ocean’s will determine the global warming outcome and that its current condition is the biggest contributor to it. Please go to The Green Channel for more helpful information. Knowledge is powerful.
“Do you believe that the lack of ocean traffic (since covid) has enabled the ocean/plankton to replenish/heal?”
“I would say no. If you’re a multi-national agriculture company that’s buying and selling live eggs and moving them from farm to farm… the natural populations that are migrating past the farms will carry it far and wide throughout the range of those fish. If you can imagine a fish coming out of the Fraser River, passes by a farm and goes onto Alaska; that entire area becomes contaminated because those fish have carried that virus with them. When those fish populations are infected and they die, they are not there to prey on zooplankton which increase in numbers and overgraze phytoplankton. That’s called a trophic cascade. If it’s out of balance you end up with a lower phytoplankton population. If the fish farms aren’t moving stuff around as much, it may be slowing it down.”
Scott continued to tell me that these diseases have been around for 30-40 years and it seems to be getting worse. He had gone into the Adams River, which is where the big run is for sockeye salmon… and he couldn’t see 1 single sockeye.
“What would it take for you to have hope that global warming is slowing and that we have begun to clean up the oceans/heal the planet?”
“It would be a very complicated issue at this point because aquaculture is a prominent industry around the world. What would give me hope is – if at the World Climate Conference, it became a topic where they understood the exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere. It’s not an emissions problem alone, it’s an eco-system problem and we have to protect the marine environment and marine life to ensure the eco-system is functioning properly.”
I’ve included a couple of environmentally friendly comedy examples from Save the Planet Already! for your reading pleasure.
“Very devious. Very devious.
Uh, I’m doing my part to uh fight greenhouse gases yeah yesterday I destroyed four greenhouses.”
“No’ all this uh climate change stuff, it makes me worried about um you know like, like having kids of my own, right? Like, I don’t know if I want to have kids. How am I going to talk to them about the birds and the bees? I’m going to have to sit them down and go, “there used to be these things called birds and bees, back when we could live on the surface.”
A big laugh.
“And women know how to destroy just like nature. Have you noticed that every hurricane that was the deadliest in history was named after a woman? Katrina, Sandy, Diane, it’s like the boy ones aren’t woman enough to do the job! It happened last week with tropical storm Barry. he was, yeah, a hurricane for a second. He couldn’t keep it up.”