February 19, 2014

Water Brothers make a splash at Erin schools

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Water Brothers don’t have time for the doom and gloom that often surrounds discussion of climate change and water problems. They’re too busy having fun, trying to do something positive about the situation.

Director / videographer Tyler Mifflin, 28, has teamed up with his little brother, writer / researcher Alex Mifflin, 26 to create a TV Ontario eco-adventure series, travelling the world to tackle water issues.

“There are some big, daunting challenges out there, and it can get a little overwhelming, but were are trying to have fun and find solutions,” said Tyler. “Water is the defining issue of our lifetimes – it is the foundation of life on earth.”

“If we demand the changes we need, we will see the changes we need for a healthier planet,” said Alex. “Water is what connects us all, so we have to think about water globally.”

As part of an effort to reach out to young people and build up their fan base, they were in at Erin Public and Brisbane schools last week, with other students brought in from St. John Brebeuf and Ross R. Mackay. They were welcomed by Andrea Cuthbert of Transition Erin and Liz Armstrong of the Climate Change Action Group of Erin. The Brothers visit was made possible with proceeds from their Fast Forward Eco Film Festival.

Erin is fertile ground for the Water Brothers’ messages, with many environmental initiatives in local schools. Teacher Cathryn Dykstra and her grade six class at Erin Public proudly wore their Water Rockers T-shirts (the logo says, “Erin: Our local water rocks”). They got a State Farm grant last year that also paid for special water bottles, backing their campaign to get downtown businesses involved in the Blue W program, providing free water refills for customers.

The Water Brothers have been to 25 countries to research and film episodes for their TV series, with their third season now in production. They remind us that hundreds of millions of people throughout the world lack decent water and sanitation systems, and that many Ontario communities also lack access to clean water.

“We take water for granted. We are big water wasters in Canada,” said Tyler.

“We are setting a bad example, and pollution is a huge issue,” said Alex. “Canada has so much water that we think we can do whatever we want, and that leads to a lot of waste.”

Only about 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, and 70% of that is frozen in the polar regions and glaciers. The Brothers are working on an episode that includes Israel’s research on desalination, the state of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, and the role of water in international relations.

More information is available at thewaterbrothers.ca, with streaming episodes of their first season, including catchy titles like Carpageddon (about the Asian Carp invasion), Reefer Madness (about threats to coral reefs) and Bottlegate, which has an Erin connection due to the Nestlé well in Hillsburgh, including an interview with Mike Nagy of Wellington Water Watchers.

The Water Brothers are also promoting their free mobile app called Quench, which enables users to easily locate the nearest water bottle refill location. The study of water has enabled the pair to educate themselves and their viewers about a wide range of energy, food and social issues.

They point out that it takes 17 million barrels of oil annually to produce the world supply of bottled water. They show how some of the plastic we discard makes its way into oceans, breaking down into tiny pieces that attract contaminants, and then are eaten by fish that humans want to catch and sell in the grocery store.

“We want to inspire kids to keep learning,” said Alex. “They don’t have the biases. They are inheriting all these problems, and they are going to have to solve them.”

Tyler studied film production in university, while Alex was in environmental studies. Before creating their own series, they were involved in projects with their parents at SK Films, a major company in the giant screen (Imax) industry which has produced films like Flight of the Butterflies, Journey to Mecca and Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure.

The Water Brothers series has become one of SK’s high-profile products, with the brothers appearing on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet, Breakfast Television, CBC Metro Morning and Global TV’s morning show. They also have a blog with Huffington Post Canada and are hoping to soon be able to distribute their episodes in DVD format.