Dr. Michael Tobias has traveled all around the world filming what he considers interesting issues needing in-depth coverage and advocating animal rights.
His most recent stop is as a guest lecturer for the Environmental Studies Dept., where he shows his award-winning films in class, or brings in guest speakers like William Shatner, who starred in one of Tobias’ films called “William Shatner – At Home in the Universe.”
However, Tobias’ students do not take midterms or write papers, but instead must earn their grades by completing two hours of community service a week. Tobias said he wants to show his students how to make a difference instead of memorizing and repeating information.
“Every individual remakes the world,” he said. “Evolution does not condemn us or liberate us – only our individual choices can do that. The power of the individual is awesome. If directed wisely, firmly, lovingly, that power is truly without borders or limits.”
Despite filming over 44 films for the Discovery Channel, ABC and PBS and authoring approximately 29 books, Tobias said he does not feel overwhelmed with environmental problems, nor have any students he has taught.
“Curiously, I have never met a student who feels overwhelmed or insignificant. They may momentarily give vent to frustrations, but at their heart they are champions, warriors, fighters for justice and love,” he said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t show up to class, or at the university. They would drop out and disappear and become truly meaningless and anonymous. I don’t see that happening.”
To decide what to film, Tobias said he answers to a calling and devotes himself to the filming project.
“I think about the possibilities, in a hard-boiled media universe, of what will work, what can be seen, what can be financed, what can be told faithfully,” he said. “I consider the ramifications: Will it end up in a drawer, unwatched, uncompleted? … And – most important – is there not somebody else who can do this better than I? If so, there is absolutely no reason for me to spend a minute on it.”
He listed Ghandi, Jane Goodall, Mozart, Buddha and the current Dalai Lama as some people he would consider true environmentalists.
“I would say that some of the qualities that have most impressed me about those many individuals I admire is their willingness to expose their deepest feelings to a brute species with whom we share this fragile bit of turf, the Earth,” he said.