WaterBear is a free streaming site offering content that focuses on the environment and aims to build a community of people who want to help
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Spotted: The documentary producer and filmmaker Ellen Windemuth got tired of production companies and streaming services telling her what type of films she could and couldn’t make. In response, she decided to form her own streaming service – one dedicated to a new type of storytelling about the planet. The service, WaterBear, launched in January 2021 and offers users on-demand environmental programming for free.
WaterBear features programmes that emphasise the effects of environmental change on real people, rather than purely the voices of experts or a focus on facts over emotion. The stories are all based on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and on turning the goals into real values.
Windemuth Off the Fence production company was responsible for making the widely popular documentary feature My Octopus Teacher, about a South African man who forges a deep bond with an octopus in the waters near his home. The movie was driven by what Windemuth calls “emotional ecology”, and after seeing its success, she realised that powerful storytelling can be much more effective at convincing people to effect change than dry facts and figures.
WaterBear partners with more than 100 nongovernmental organisations to create content. Viewers are also offered the opportunity through the streaming service to connect to these institutions to donate, volunteer, purchase sustainable products, find eco-travel options, or connect over social media, creating a community rather than just a place to watch videos. Windemuth describes it as “a community that is action-oriented, rather than just leaning back and watching content.”
Educating people on the damage that is being done to the environment is only one part of the story – people must also be motivated to do something about it. For that, it is necessary to work as a community. We have seen this approach taken to projects as diverse as building a sustainable town and a fintech app that encourages circular economic choices.
Written By: Lisa Magloff