CASUAL COUNTRY: Sailing away with Restoration Planet

Robert and Vanessa Moberg in Ecuador. (Supplied photo)Robert and Vanessa Moberg in Ecuador. (Supplied photo)
Jean William (centre) from the Williams Lake First Nation held a send off for the Mobergs when they started their journey for Restoration Planet. (Submitted photo)Jean William (centre) from the Williams Lake First Nation held a send off for the Mobergs when they started their journey for Restoration Planet. (Submitted photo)
Robert and Vanessa Moberg on their sailboat the Paragon where they have been living for the past couple of years. (Submitted photo)Robert and Vanessa Moberg on their sailboat the Paragon where they have been living for the past couple of years. (Submitted photo)

Eco documentary filmmakers Robert and Vanessa Moberg are walking the talk when it comes to sustainable living.

From aboard their boat Paragon, anchored in the waters near Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, the Mobergs spoke about their project Restoration Planet – a two-season web series filmed across Canada, South America, Europe and the Balkans. They are hoping to film the third season in Africa.

“The idea [of the docu-series] came to us a couple of years ago and we saw that there’s a lot of doom and gloom with documentaries about climate change and we sort of feel helpless listening to it and we thought we wanted to use our skill sets to bring stories that are more hopeful so that people are more inspired to actually do something,” said Robert.

The couple then went and found people from all over the world, doing “amazing efforts” to save the planet and produced 17 episodes. In fact the very first episode was shot in Robert’s hometown of Williams Lake, B.C.

It documents Jean Williams and Kristy Palmantier from the Williams Lake First Nation holding a ceremonial blessing for the couple on the fire-ravaged lands of the Secwepemc people before they set out. The Mobergs also thank former Xatsull First Nation Chief Bev Sellars inthe credits.

Venturing into environmental documentaries and conversation is not something new for the couple who have previously worked with non-profits such as the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

In his film making career spanning over two decades Robert has also produced award-winning feature films shot in B.C. such Giants Among Us, Turbidity and Bighorns at the Junction.

So searching and bringing forward impactful stories is something he has always wanted to do.

“Well, for my part, I always wanted to find the people doing good work, and amplify their stories,” he said, adding, “Environmental education is certainly a big piece of who we are and what we enjoy.”

They are also working with educational institutions to distribute their work. By doing so, the Mobergs want to showcase solutions that have been successfully implemented in different parts of the world.

As an example, Vanessa talks about one of her favourite episodes set in France.

“We featured a restaurant that used, almost exclusively, produce that was destined for the landfill. So basically, food waste from local markets to cook all of their meals.”

The Mobergs volunteered with the restaurant and went out and helped them gather all this produce from these markets.

“We worked in their kitchen, and served the meals and they offer all of the meals at a kind of what you can pay price, so people who are needy can also eat there,” she said.

That is sort of the direction they want to go, Robert added.

“We want to spread the good word, like it is possible for all of us, working together to heal this planet, to restore it. That’s why it’s called Restoration Planet,” he said.

Likewise for them, living on a sailboat has become a way of life.

“We like it, it is a great way to live sustainably and it is very low impact,” said Vanessa.

The Mobergs don’t own a house anymore. During summers they spend time on the boat and winters they travel to work on the series.

Although you start getting used to very small spaces, the lifestyle they chose is not without its challenges, says Vanessa.

Some days there are tears, but what she likes the most about it is that when the basics of life are in short supply – limited amount of freshwater, solar power, etc – it teaches one to be absolutely grateful for these things.

“Tea tastes divine in the evenings because you kind of had to work for it and I absolutely love the automatic gratitude that this life provides,” Vanessa said.

The Mobergs say despite living on the boat for a couple of years now, they are still getting used to it and keep implementing new technology to reduce their carbon footprint.

They’ve installed solar panels, new lithium ion batteries and so on.

Sailing is a lot of work but it’s very gratifying to be completely self sufficient when you have solar panels and wind turbines and satellite going, says Robert.

And while the Paragon is a sturdy ocean vessel – built in Canada in 1988 – they have yet to take it out of B.C. waters.

Next year, they plan to take the boat up to the Broughton area and the Great Bear Rainforest, said Robert and added, they are always looking for stories to add to Restoration Planet.

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