Q: Which film or book was a wake-up call and made you truly aware of an issue?
DB: I am a firm believer that all of the creative arts and media that children are exposed to during childhood can plant seeds of inspiration and ultimately have an impact on one's path. The film that made a lasting impression on me during those pivotal years was Gorillas in the Mist, the real-life story of Dr. Dian Fossey and her struggle to save the last endangered mountain gorillas of Rwanda's Virunga National Park from extinction due to illegal poaching, which ultimately resulted in her tragic murder.
While some may consider the content a bit heavy for an 11-year-old, it not only opened my eyes to how intelligent and gentle these fellow inhabitants of the Earth are, it also told the story of a passionate woman who was courageous enough to stand up for her innocent and powerless friends.
The film also introduced me to the concept of human-caused extinction, and to be honest, I am as uncomfortable with that notion today as I was 20 years ago! This film is a wonderful tribute to Dr. Fossey's mission, and I would certainly encourage activists of all ages to see it or read the book Woman in the Mists: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa, written by the great Canadian environmentalist Farley Mowat.
Q: Which film or book inspired you to take action and get involved in an issue?
DB: Shannon Keith's latest film, Skin Trade, really lifted the veil for me on how much suffering still exists today for something so unnecessary and narcissistic as fur! As a long-time campaigner against the Canadian seal hunt and a vegetarian for over 20 years, I was quite shocked about how little I knew about the barbaric industry as a whole, and what other animals still fall victim to its brutality.
Although the subject matter and imagery is difficult to stomach at times, through undercover investigation by Keith and other dedicated activists, the film diligently illustrates how misleading this industry is to the consumer public. The very next day I found myself on the phone with the president of the Fur Council of Canada engaged in a debate over the government-sponsored "Fur is Green" campaign which is also brought to attention in the film.
Joe Berlinger's Crude is also a must-see documentary that investigates the toxic legacy left by Chevron in the heart of the Ecuadorian rainforest. Given the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, now, more than ever, everyone should make it a point to see this film that exposes the devastation that indigenous groups in the Amazon have been dealing with for over 30 years due to blatant oil contamination caused by corporate negligence.
Q: Is there a book or film out right now that particularly inspires you?
DB: This year's Oscar-winning documentary film The Cove. Brilliantly directed by Louie Psihoyos, the film covers the complex issues of the annual dolphin slaughters that take place each year in the coastal waters of Japan. I feel a very intimate connection to this particular documentary as I participated in the 2007 surfing paddle-out ceremony in the notorious "killing cove" of Taiji in order to oppose the brutal killings—a scene that would later become part of the film.
During this time, I met former Flipper trainer turned dolphin warrior, Ric O'Barry, and the OPS crew who were covertly on location filming and acquiring the footage that would ultimately lead to the exposure of this town's bloody secret and also reveal the serious dangers surrounding mercury poisoning.
Q: What is your favorite escape and guilty pleasure?
DB: Favorite escape: Without wishing to come off as overly "new age," I find the best escape is nothing more than becoming completely present in the moment, and nothing gets me into that zone better than a good surf session. When I am in the ocean, all thoughts seem to melt away and I am left contently connected with my immediate surroundings. It's even better when whales, dolphins and sea turtles present themselves. That is when I feel my ultimate bliss!
Of course, a deep yoga session is also a direct way for me to access that place of pure inner peace. Intimate connection with one's own breath is perhaps the most powerful tool that humans have and yet many people pass their entire lives without ever experiencing it. Lately I've been experimenting with "Tibetan Bowl" meditations here in Bali and that takes it to the next level! I would highly encourage everyone try it at least once in their lives.
Guilty Pleasure: American Idol and my love for really bad '80s music, the more obscure the better.