The ocean has always been a source of wonder for Mr. Duane Sharman. When he first swam out to the coral reefs in Maui 30 years ago, he was struck by the incredible biodiversity of life. “From that first contact, I have always enjoyed diving into the richness of the reef environment,” he says. “Coral reefs are often compared to the rainforest, as both are rich in biodiversity and fantastically beautiful.”
But when Mr. Sharman went into the water off Maui in 2014, he noticed bleaching, a phenomena where the coral turns a brilliant white colour. “I knew the reefs were in trouble,” he says. Temperature increases of only one degree Celsius for only four weeks can cause coral to expel the algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn white. But without the algae, which provides up to 90% of the coral’s food and energy, the corals begin to starve. Bleaching can kill coral if it lasts more than a few weeks, and recovery takes decades.
When Mr. Sharman returned to the reef the following year, the bleaching had also returned. “I discovered that this was the first time that bleaching had ever occurred on a reef in two consecutive years,” he says. “Having assembled a video record of these events, I felt compelled to use this footage to explain what was happening.”
After retiring from a successful career as a computer engineer and entrepreneur in the field of wireless software, Mr. Sharman pursued a variety of other passions. As a lifelong musician and multi-instrumentalist playing piano, flute, and guitars, he furthered his studies with Berklee College of Music online and found a new career composing music for films and commercials. Equipped with this experience and moved by the plight of the oceans, Mr. Sharman took on an ambitious new endeavour: the production of his own documentary. The End Game (2016) is about coral bleaching and current efforts to mitigate the looming disaster in the oceans.
Mr. Sharman spent a year and a half travelling to film festivals presenting his award-winning documentary to audiences around the world. “I realized that, although Vancouver has a great variety of film festivals, many good environmental films were not a fit for these existing festivals,” he says. Once again, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. This year, Mr. Sharman and his wife Ms. Maureen Sullivan, also a TCC member, launched the Elements Film Festival. Held in partnership with Science World, the inaugural festival was held this past April featuring 55 films from 11 different countries.
“I consider the film festival to be one of my greatest personal successes,” Mr. Sharman says. “We are all connected on this earth and great work is necessary to effect real change. It is incumbent on each of us to make a contribution in some way to improving the environment and I encourage everyone in their own way to make a difference.”
Mr. Sharman and Ms. Sullivan joined TCC after relocating to Vancouver several years ago. “We were looking for a combined social and fitness club that met our personal needs, and TCC was made to measure. The fitness facilities, and in particular the pool, are well-equipped and maintained, and this was the major draw. Having natural light in the pool makes swimming lengths a pleasure,” he says. “As well as the fitness facilities, we frequent the restaurants. The food is always exemplary, and the atmosphere and staff are first rate! We have attended several wine tasting sessions, and these are fun events. During the Elements Film Festival, the Club hosted an evening VIP event, which came together very easily and was extremely successful. Breakfast meetings at the club are also a pleasure.”
Mr. Sharman and Ms. Sullivan are currently busy filming a new documentary in French Polynesia about the oceans while organizing next year’s Elements Film Festival. “I extend my thanks to Peter and staff for their great work and support of the Elements Festival and invite all TCC members to watch for our event in April 2019. Our goal for the festival is to build it into a world class event.”
Motivation remains strong for Mr. Sharman to educate audiences around the world and inspire them to take action to improve the health of our planet through his documentary filmmaking and the Elements Film Festival. “When we were in Australia, filming the aftermath of the 2016 global bleaching event as it spread to the Great Barrier Reef, we came face to face with the worst devastation that we saw.” he says. On a section of reef that was supposed to be rich with vivid corals and fish, the bleaching had killed virtually all of the coral in a very large area. “There were few fish remaining, and everything was covered in a mass of algae. We were choking back tears when we came out of the water. It was a harsh dose of reality to see what global warming is doing to the planet. When you see something like that, it cuts deeper than graphs and forecasts. It becomes personal.” ■