This article originally appeared in Water Quality Products magazine February 2020 issue as "Hope for the Future"
Brave Blue World is an engaging new documentary about how humanity is adopting new technologies and innovations to re-think water management. WQP Associate Editor Cristina Tuser asked Brave Blue World Executive Producer Paul O’Callaghan about the inspiration behind the documentary and its implications for water professionals in the industry.
Cristina Tuser: What was the initial intention of this documentary and how did this evolve over time?
Paul O’Callaghan: The idea stemmed from a call I had from the Discovery Channel who were working on a documentary series about new scientific developments. One of the episodes was about wastewater treatment, and they asked me to help. My first thought was “How on earth are they going to make this entertaining?” But I agreed to help. Later, when I saw the episode, it looked incredible, and I realized there was a way of communicating water in a creative way that will inspire hope and optimism.
The next part of the idea came through my travels. You see water problems all around the world, but you also see water solutions. In some places such as Singapore, the Netherlands and Israel, it just clicks.
I realized the common denominator was people. It is easy to focus on our own little world or technologies, but the finance people do not get it, the politicians do not get it, and we are all a bit hampered.
Tuser: How did you go about finding global experts to connect with?
O’Callaghan: I raised the idea with the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the project quickly gained momentum. I raised the idea in March 2018 and three months later, we had at least half the funding needed. Come January , we got a lot of lucky breaks.
Matt Damon’s organization Water.org, a global nonprofit that empowers people through affordable financing, liked what we were doing. Then, as we searched for some of the most innovative technological solutions globally that are addressing solutions to the problem, the project grew.
Thanks to those innovators telling their story, we have been able to create a celebration of the scientific and technological advancements that have been taking place, often behind the scenes, to deliver water services.
Tuser: What is the most common assumption about water?
O’Callaghan: I have only ever seen doom and gloom and apocalyptic tales of water that say we are heading over a cliff. That is a polarised vision and not one that I experienced in my work. You can tell a very different narrative, that would appear futuristic, idealistic, even utopian–but we can say this is actually happening.
Tuser: How can the water industry prepare for an alternative water future?
O’Callaghan: Within our lifetime we can solve these global problems. Brave Blue World is proud to feature a plethora of global experts, but we know there are many more pioneers, unsung heroes and local stories to be told. Collectively, as an industry, we can raise awareness of these issues and help to fast-track potential solutions.
Tuser: How do you anticipate the involvement of Hollywood stars in this documentary will impact its reception?
O’Callaghan: Matt Damon and Jaden Smith are both high-profile water activists, as well as actors. Having them on board has added prestige and credibility. If you want people to take notice, this really helps. We are also thrilled to have Liam Neeson as our official narrator. This endorsement allows us to bring this project to a different audience outside the water community, which was our goal.
Tuser: Moving forward, what are the goals of the Brave Blue World Foundation?
O’Callaghan: The premiere is just the beginning. Local screenings are scheduled to take place all over the world, as well as educational and outreach sessions supported by the not-for-profit Brave Blue World Foundation.
Brave Blue World is not just a documentary. We want it to become a movement and have a ripple effect and the foundation will support this. The first stage of the Brave Blue World journey was the making of it, and the second stage is letting it do what it is meant to do.
*Responses have been edited for clarity