Daughter of Greenpeace co-founder set to visit Sarnia next weekend
Emily Hunter/Handout/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network
(Barbara Simpson/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network/May 27 2016)
Emily Hunter hopes her late father’s powerful tale of eco warriorism will inspire greater activism in a city known for its petrochemical industry.
“I’m thrilled to be coming, personally,” she said of her planned visit to Sarnia next month.
“I feel places like Sarnia, to be frank, are the most in need of an environmental moment – a local environmental movement that’s for the people by the people.”
Hunter will share the story of her late father Robert Hunter – a co-founder and the first president of Greenpeace – by participating in the June 4 Sarnia debut of the documentary How to Change the World.
The South Western International Film Festival will screen the film at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery at 2 p.m. Hunter will be on hand to answer questions following the screening.
The award-winning documentary chronicles the creation of Greenpeace – now the world’s largest environmental organization – at the hands of an eclectic group of hippies who first gathered to stop nuclear bomb tests in Alaska.
In 1971, Robert Hunter – then a Vancouver journalist – sailed into Amchitka Island with fellow journalists and volunteers to protest the nuclear testing.
Out of that cause, the group formed Greenpeace, a non-profit organization now behind a variety of environmental campaigns promoting wildlife conservation, the end of tar sands mining, and solutions to address climate change.
Robert Hunter died in 2005, but his daughter Emily Hunter – now an environmental activist, writer and filmmaker in her own right – continues her father’s work.
She’s been touring with the film How to Change the World across three continents over the last year.
“Overall, I think people were really surprised by the film and how honest it was,” she said.
Director Jerry Rothwell enlisted Hunter’s help for the film. She dug up archival video footage and found appropriate narrations from her father’s writing, as well as made an appearance on screen.
Near the end of the film, Hunter is filmed spreading her late father’s ashes off an iceberg at the site of an anti-whaling campaign in Antarctica.
“It was one of his last campaigns and it was one of my first campaigns,” she said.
Despite growing up in the Greenpeace movement, Hunter never thought she’d follow in her parents’ footsteps.
Her mother Bobbi was an environmental activist in her own right, becoming the first woman to save a whale by blocking a harpoonist at sea.
But just around the time her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Hunter’s interest in environmental activism grew out of her own life experiences.
Her father ultimately paid for a one-way ticket for her to join a Sea Shepherd campaign to save endangered marine wildlife.
“That was a moment that changed my life, and so he really opened that door for me to step into activism,” she said.
She’s pleased with the film chronicling her father’s work because it’s a “very human, humble, honest story” that addresses misconceptions around Greenpeace.
“As a daughter knowing a lot of this history, it’s been really exciting to engage with the younger audience who knew about some of these things or don’t know about some of these things,” she said.
She hopes the film will inspire people to stand up and be counted for causes close to their hearts.
“We need to be active and not be afraid of words such as activist,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean being my father or [Sea Shepherd founder] Paul Watson or Elizabeth May.
“I’m not saying we all need to be heroes, but I’m saying we all need to be a little more courageous and more participatory in what’s happening in Canada.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Screening of How to Change the World, followed by Q&A with Emily Hunter
WHEN: June 4, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery, 147 Lochiel St.