Inspirational distillation of the life, thoughts and legacy of famed Canadian…
A Fierce Green Fire
A FIERCE GREEN FIRE: The Battle For a Living Planet is the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement - grassroots and global activism spanning fifty years from conservation to climate change. From halting dams in the Grand Canyon to battling 20,000 tons of toxic waste at Love Canal; from Greenpeace saving the whales to Chico Mendes and the rubbertappers saving the Amazon; from climate change to the promise of transforming our civilization... the film tells vivid stories about people fighting - and succeeding - against enormous odds.
The film is divided into five 'acts'.
Act 1 focuses on the conservation movement of the `60s, David Brower and the Sierra Club's battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon. Narrated by Robert Redford.
Act 2 looks at the new environmental movement of the `70s with its emphasis on pollution, focusing on the battle led by Lois Gibbs over Love Canal. Narrated by Ashley Judd.
Act 3 is about alternative ecology strands and the main story is Greenpeace's campaign to save the whales. Narrated by Van Jones.
Act 4 explores global resource issues and crises of the `80s, focusing on the struggle to save the Amazon led by Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers. Narrated by Isabel Allende.
Act 5 concerns climate change. Narrated by Meryl Streep.
'This visually stunning, comprehensive overview is sophisticated yet accessible. The complex roles that science, religion, gender, race, economics, and politics play in environmental attitudes and reforms are presented clearly and compellingly. Disturbing and inspiring, A Fierce Green Fire seeks to educate rather than preach. In the tradition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, this documentary will create informed environmental awareness and foster activism.' Nancy Unger, Associate Professor of History, Santa Clara University, Author, Beyond Nature's Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History
'A Fierce Green Fire is the most thorough, expansive, and inclusive documentary film on the rise of modern environmentalism that I have seen. More than that, though, it is a vivid and compelling visual tour of the postwar movement in all its great variety.' Paul Sutter, Associate Professor of History, Environmental Studies Core Faculty, University of Colorado at Boulder, Author, Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement
'A visually stunning survey of the history of the environmental movement, from its early battles to save American wilderness to the international campaign to save the health of human societies and the biosphere. Broad in scope and fast moving, A Fierce Green Fire introduces many of the leaders (both famous and little-known) who have shaped the struggle. This film is worthy of admiration, and has obviously been a major effort by the filmmakers. It will orient students quickly and powerfully, and inspire the next generation of activists.' Dr. Richard Tucker, Adjunct Professor of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Author, Insatiable Appetite: The United States and Ecological Degradation of the Tropical World
'Kudos to Bullfrog Films---they've done it again! Add A Fierce Green Fire to their list of excellent DVD's on topics so important to the social and environmental history of the United States and the rest of the world. Using hundreds of rare photos and video clips, and extremely useful interviews, A Fierce Green Fire delves deep into the development of the environmental movement from the 1960s to the present... Professors and teachers at many levels and for many different subjects will want to use this film for years.' Sterling Evans, Professor of History, University of Oklahoma, Author, Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains
'A Fierce Green Fire should be enthusiastically adopted as an educational tool for students and newcomers to the fields of environmental politics and modern social movements. Reflecting the most up-to date scholarship, it presents the modern environmental movement as crossing class, gender, racial, and international boundaries. Though born of impulses to protect endangered creatures and landscapes for their own sake, the movement has been fundamentally shaped by activists in the United States and around the world who insist that human welfare requires ecological welfare. Now presented with the challenge of climate change, we would do well to heed such well-chosen messages of universality and participation.' Sarah T. Phillips, Associate Professor of History, Boston University, Author, This Land, This Nation: Conservation, Rural America, and the New Deal
'We had close to 1500 students see parts of the film on Earth Day, and they really enjoyed it. My AP Environmental Science students found the film very interesting and thought provoking. It covered many of the topics that we cover in AP Environmental Science.' Dr. Robert Borowski, AP Environmental Science teacher, Patchogue Medford High School
'A clear and well-crafted overview of environmental activism...One important aspect of the film, especially for younger viewers, is that many of the stories show real people who became activists to fight serious threats to their health and livelihood...As an educational tool, it would be equally good for civics/history class or science class...An excellent documentary on melding science and politics to reach solutions to the environmental problems we face on our planet.' Martha Scholl, U.S. Geological Survey, Science Books and Films
'A very valuable documentary for anyone seeking a solid grounding in many of the landmark events in the environmental movement - leading up to the present controversies and debates surrounding global warming. Highly Recommended' Andrew Jenks, California State University, Educational Media Reviews Online
'One subject addressed here that is seldom touched upon in similar docs is the idea of 'environmental racism' - the location of toxic dumps and incinerators in black and disenfranchised American communities. Highly recommended.' Video Librarian
'Ambitious_One comes away with a feeling of hope, as Kitchell leaves us with as optimistic tone about the future despite the damage we are doing to our environment across the globe.' Jennifer Schwab, Huffington Post
'The message that one takes away from the film is inspiration. One hopes these stories may stoke a fierce green fire in all of us.' Sacha Vignier, Science Magazine
'The material is vast, and it's an incredibly dynamic film. It's shaping up to be the documentary of record on the environmental movement. I think it'll be hugely successful.' Cara Mertes, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
'Mark Kitchell winningly spans the broad scope of environmental history in this comprehensive doc, connecting its origins with the variety of issues still challenging society today.' Justin Lowe, Film Journal International
'[Earth] week seems like a perfect time to look at ways of increasing student knowledge and engagement in learning focused on our environment...[A Fierce Green Fire is] a powerful film...An excellent resource for teachers...It's presented as five acts, each of which could serve as the focus for a unit in a social studies or science class. In many ways the film is perfectly designed for classroom use.' Mark Phillips, Edutopia
'May be poised to become a classic...The documentary captures pivotal moments in the environmental movement, from awakening to dangers of dioxins to deniers of global warming.' Roberta Cruger, TreeHugger
'Mark Kitchell didn't want to make your standard here's-a-really-important-issue, be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world, bleeding-heart environmental documentary...What Kitchell ended up producing was a kind of greatest hits of the environmental movement from its early days fighting over the building of dams in the West, to Love Canal, the first Earth Day, and the birth of Greenpeace, to the mother of all environmental issues--and maybe all issues, period--climate change.' Joanna Foster, Grist
'An excellent documentary...Provides a sweeping history of the environmental movement...If you or your children want to learn how the environment became a central issue and the passion behind it, this is the film for you.' New Paradigm Digest
'A stunning, inspiring new documentary film...Highest recommendation.' Tom Turner, unEARTHED, The Earthjustice Blog
'Uplifting...Chronicles a medley of fascinating true stories of people fighting to preserve the planet upon which their children will live...A choice pick for high school homeroom viewing or DVD libraries.' The Midwest Book Review
'Mark Kitchell winningly spans the broad scope of environmental history in this comprehensive doc, connecting its origins with the variety of issues still challenging society today.' Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter
'Rarely do environmental-themed films come with the ambitious scope of A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet, which aims at nothing less than the history of environmentalism itself...By moving from the origins of environmentalism to its present, [the filmmaker] hopes to point audiences toward its future as well.' Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
'The film left me emotionally drained and profoundly hopeful.' Bruce Barcott, OnEarth Magazine
'The portrayal of each movement is especially fascinating as Kitchell captures the process by which everyday people become agitators for their cause...The film is not simply about outcomes, but rather shows how individuals developed evolving strategies over time to fight back.' Bridgette Bates, Sundance Film Festival blog
'Ardently passionate and naturally provocative, the eco-chronicle A Fierce Green Fire has the informality of an Occupy encampment, the militancy of anti-whaler Paul Watson and a genuine sense of history.' Paul Anderson, Variety
'While it sounds like a tall order to encompass more than half a century of environmental activism history in one film, Kitchell somehow manages to do so in a way that feels comprehensive and vibrant enough to inspire new converts.' Basil Tsiokos, what (not) to doc blog
'Brilliant. Should be assigned viewing for all of us, especially those political leaders currently manning the helm of spaceship earth.' Jay Meehan, Park Record
'Sweeping and timely...The film makes a persuasive case that environmentalism is still very much alive, though muddled in the face of its most daunting challenge yet: giving voice to the global threat of climate change.' Judy Fahys, Salt Lake Tribune
'What ultimately emerges is a retrospective of the movers and shakers who've paved the way for environmental activists of the future...and their collective conviction is inspiring.' Mina Hochberg, Outside Magazine
'Historically significant.' Naomi Wolf, The Guardian
'Effectively summarize[s] the evolution of environmental awareness from a largely localized phenomenon - people concerned about a city's perpetual smog or polluted river - to an international one.' Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
'A worthy reminder of how much has been done to help heal our planet's ecological woes as well as how much remains to be done.' Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
'Offers a valuable overview of a movement that's remained determined for decades, even as governments and corporations do their best to stomp it out.' Cheryl Eddy, San Francisco Bay Guardian
'Intelligent and dramatically compelling...Although I have followed the movement closely since the late 80s, much of the film came as a revelation, especially the story of how ideological and strategic differences within the movement led to the formation of new groups.' Louis Proyect, The Unrepentant Marxist
'Excels at evoking both the initial optimism and the enduring passion of the Green movement's first 50 years...Serves as a touchstone and a reminder that many of the Earth's people still harbor some sanity. Once again, we're faced with another bloody chapter in the ancient contest between The Many and The Few - The Givers and The Takers. Only this time, there's a world to lose.' Gar Smith, The Berkeley Daily Planet
'Takes viewers on a thought provoking journey...Kitchell has succeeded brilliantly. The film unfolds in five acts of issues central to the story, the people and places that have made a difference, bringing us closer to comprehending the incomprehensible...These eloquent voices, among others, provide the kinds of information we all need to embrace.' Sandra Bertrand, Highbrow Magazine
'Anyone who wants to find out more about the makings of the modern environmental movement should be sure to see A Fierce Green Fire.' EarthTalk, E/The Environmental Magazine
Kitchell, Mark (Producer)
Kitchell, Mark (Director)
Kitchell, Mark (Screenwriter)
Redford, Robert (Narrator)
Judd, Ashley (Narrator)
Jones, Van (Narrator)
Allende, Isabel (Narrator)
Streep, Meryl (Narrator)
Cinematographer, Vicente Franco; editors, Ken Schneider, Veronica Selver, Jonathan Beckhardt.
Distributor subjectsActivism; American Democracy; American Studies; Anthropology; Biodiversity; Citizenship and Civics; Climate Change/Global Warming; Conservation; Earth Science; Endangered Species; Environment; Environmental Ethics; Environmental Justice; Geography; Global Issues; History; Indigenous Peoples; International Studies; Law; Natural Resources; Oceans and Coasts; Outdoor Education; Political Science; Pollution; Population; Renewable Energy; Science, Technology, Society; Social Justice; Sustainability; Toxic Chemicals; Water; Western US; Wetlands; Wildlife
A Fierce Green Fire
[00:00:13.92] (MUSIC - THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS "TIME HAS COME TODAY")
[00:00:38.77] Do you know what it's like to lose a child? Do you?
[00:00:44.24] I'm the one that's got to breathe that stuff at night.
[00:00:50.50] We are going to shed blood because of our lands. We will.
[00:00:56.46] Stop blasting our homes.
[00:00:58.95] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[00:01:32.24] They can't stop us. They gassed us yesterday. They shot us yesterday. They had us cornered off on the street. And still today, I mean, there's more people out than there were yesterday.
[00:01:42.12] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[00:02:00.64] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[00:02:15.12] The environmental movement is about nature versus humanity. It arose at a time when our industrial civilization has grown so powerful it threatens the natural world on which we depend for survival. It has become the battle for a living planet. But at the beginning, you could say it started with ladies' hats. The Audubon Society was founded by Boston socialites trying to save plume birds.
[00:02:48.10] The first Americans to pay attention to nature as something to preserve was hunters, hunters like Theodore Roosevelt. Indeed in 1948 or so, I was giving my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country, its air, soil, and minerals, its forests, waters, and wildlife. And this was from Outdoor Life, which is a hunting and fishing magazine.
[00:03:19.17] For a young forest ranger named Aldo Leopold, the awakening was seeing a fierce green fire in the eyes of the wolf he had just shot.
[00:03:29.24] The fierce green fire he saw in her eyes was a real turning point for him in terms of understanding that life isn't a part, a piece. He had a personal realization of what it means to chew away, to take away a part of the web of life. And so if you look at the manifestation of environmentalism in the world it's because people, one by one by one, have had that experience.
[00:04:06.39] Saving the land, nature wild and pure, was the main thrust of conservation. And the pivotal battles were over dams. The first was Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. San Francisco proposed to build a reservoir. It turned into the defining struggle of the conservation movement, a clash of two pioneers.
[00:04:28.90] John Muir, preservationist, wanted to preserve nature understanding that the flow of wildness came from the very beginning of life, that we're part of this great scheme of wilderness. And we should preserve it for its sake and also for our own sake.
[00:04:48.00] Well, the other side of this argument was a fellow name Gifford Pinchot, who was made the first head of the Forest Service. Pinchot's philosophy was that conservation meant the wise use of resources for the greatest number of people for the longest time. And then if you had two Yosemites, it was OK to use one of them for water supply.
[00:05:11.49] Muir railed against what he called the "temple destroyers" and fought on for 12 long years. But in the end, Hetch Hetchy was drowned. Muir died soon after, some say of a broken heart.
[00:05:29.47] The Sierra Club was wounded, battered, but they regrouped. And they said, we may have lost but we weren't wrong. And we are going to keep pushing to preserve wild places, natural places, to oppose dams in the wrong places until the Sierra Club's view of protecting nature and beautiful wild places was the prevalent view.
[00:05:57.58] But it was not until the postwar onslaught of development that attitudes begin to shift. Prosperity brought with it a desire to save nature before it was all gone. In the West, massive schemes were dreamed up to bring water to burgeoning cities and suburbs. The Colorado River Storage Project proposed 15 dams stairstepping all the way from Wyoming to Mexico. It meant another dam in another national park, Dinosaur National Monument.
[00:06:38.80] The Sierra Club at this point decided this was the chance to go on the offensive. And they said, no damn it. We're going to stop them. And they hired David Brower, a guy who crackled with ideas, and made him executive director.
[00:06:52.85] When he asked me to join the Sierra Club I said, I don't see that the Sierra Club's going to do anything. It doesn't do anything. He says, well, it's going to do things. I'm in charge now.
[00:07:03.81] Brower transformed the Sierra Club into a fighting organization, deployed everything from books, and ads, to getting people out on the river and testifying in Congress. It took seven years, but they stopped the dams this time.
[00:07:19.05] They won. But there was a terrible price. The Sierra Club agreed not to oppose a dam further down the Colorado River system at Glen Canyon.
[00:07:35.35] Nobody from the Sierra Club had seen Glen Canyon. And once they began looking and seeing what was there, they realized what a terrible, terrible mistake had been made. But it was too late. Glen Canyon was lost. Dave, in particular, blamed himself.
[00:07:57.31] I had heard from people that Glen Canyon was beautiful. But it was not part of the National Park System. And I was willing and able, at that time, to make the horrible mistake of being willing to sacrifice Glen Canyon in order to save Dinosaur at Echo Park, simply because I didn't know what was in Glen Canyon. And that was one of the bitterest lessons I ever had.
[00:08:25.91] But Brower's chance at redemption would come soon and proved to be a turning point. In 1965, the Bureau of Reclamation announced plans to build two power dams and a tunnel to connect them through the heart of the Grand Canyon. It would have killed the river that carved the canyon, and it led to the pivotal battle against the dam builders.
[00:08:52.48] Here you have the river coming along. And Marble Dam is going to stop it. It's going to divert it through a tunnel that's going to go way downstream.
[00:09:02.33] They were going to take the water out of the river. All of it, except for 1,000 cubic feet per second, you know? There would be no water in the river.
[00:09:13.88] I was appalled at the idea that there would be development in the Grand Canyon, there would be a dam, and it was acceptable. No. My attitude was always be unreasonable. Let's not be nice. I mean, if you don't have any hatred in your heart, what are you living on?
[00:09:34.24] The dams in the Grand Canyon, that was going to be a fight to the death. You can't build half a dam. They weren't going to accept a little dam or a shorter dam. It was, we aren't going to allow dams to be built in a national park.
[00:09:51.38] The attitude in that time was we can't stop progress. We've got to consider the needs of society. No. We've got to consider the needs of the Earth. Let society come second, or let society drop dead. That was our attitude.
[00:10:08.36] Brower was a man on fire. Fueled by the bitter lesson of Glen Canyon, he rallied the Sierra Club to fight the dams in the Grand Canyon. However, aligned against him was Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall.
[00:10:21.66] The dams had already been passed in Congress. The deal was done. Udall was celebrating a great victory of these dams that were going to go in. And everybody on that side of the story was confident they had won the struggle.
[00:10:37.94] And Brower was desperate. And he said, we need something new. We need something to explode this story. He had decided he wanted to do advertising. We did a headline, "only you can stop the Grand Canyon from being flooded for profit."
[00:10:55.52] The ads were so successful and caused such a controversy. They had coupons saying, "keep your hands off the Grand Canyon."
[00:11:06.03] That first ad got a gigantic response, 8,000 or 10,000 pieces of mail. Stewart Udall said he had never had a response like that.
[00:11:20.29] The day after one of these ads ran, a little gray man in a little gray suit with a little gray briefcase showed up at the door of the Sierra Club with a hand delivered letter saying, the Internal Revenue Service can no longer guarantee that contributions to the Sierra Club will be deductible from taxes. This was big news in itself. Here the IRS is going after the poor little Sierra Club for trying to protect the Grand Canyon. I mean, how crazy is that?
[00:11:48.15] That was one of the high points of the Sierra Club's existence in terms of credibility and nobility was that we said, go to hell. I mean, we don't want it. And they didn't expect that. That really shook up Washington. This little outfit is going to stop our dams.
[00:12:11.79] People in the public may not have known what they thought about the Sierra Club, but they sure knew what they thought about the Internal Revenue Service. And sympathy for the Sierra Club just boiled over. And people joined in droves.
[00:12:26.74] We did an ad called, "should we flood the Sistine Chapel so tourists can get nearer the ceiling?" That was in reaction to the statement that the public was going to love these dams because it would bring the people closer to nature's glories.
[00:12:45.82] If you drown a wild river under a reservoir, it kills the natural story of that river and its canyon and the life that lives there. It's an all or nothing.
[00:13:30.03] The public rallied to the idea of saving the Grand Canyon. Opposition to the dams grew fast and furious. Pressure grew so strong that it turned the tide.
[00:13:41.15] Congress and Secretary Udall were forced to abandon the dams. Finally, Congress prohibited dams anywhere in the Grand Canyon and expanded the national park. It was a complete victory for Brower and the Sierra Club.
[00:13:59.71] Every now and then, some issue arises that is elevated into a sort of stratospheric focus of public attention. It becomes more than the issue itself. It becomes symbolic, and the rallying cry for a whole generation of activists.
[00:14:21.01] (MUSIC - "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL")
[00:14:31.56] (VOICE OF LADY BIRD JOHNSON) I think all of us here are a fellowship of people who love nature, and who revere these great trees. For us, this ceremony is the crowning moment of a crusade which has lasted two generations.
[00:14:50.45] The '60s brought the flowering of conservation. New national parks were created. There was a race against loggers to save the last redwoods.
[00:14:58.83] And a wilderness wrested from the Forest Service in the north Cascades. National seashores and recreation areas were established from the coast to the Great Lakes. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act kept more than 100 rivers running free.
[00:15:12.87] The National Trails Bill added a network of historic and scenic trails. More than a million acres were declared wild by law. Never was so much saved.
[00:15:34.01] However, the man who had done more than any other to advance the cause, David Brower, was forced out of the Sierra Club. It was a bitter split between friends fueled by Brower pushing against the limits of conservation. He no longer wanted just to save beautiful places, he wanted to make the whole Earth a national park.
[00:15:55.87] When he tried to do the Earth National Park Campaign that's when he lost his job. That's when they canned him. He really wanted to go after big concepts.
[00:16:05.27] He wanted to broaden our understanding. He wanted to speak about the whole Earth as an ecological unit. He wanted to be able to talk about the role of human beings on the planet.
[00:16:20.08] I haven't given up the fight. But I moved out of the Sierra Club. Not out as a member, but into another sphere of activity that I hope will augment what the Sierra Club is doing and will carry on things that the Sierra Club is not willing or able yet to do.
[00:16:34.81] Dubbed the archdruid, Brower resurrected himself by founding Friends of the Earth, the first international environmental group. He fought and won a battle against supersonic jets, nearly stopped the Alaska pipeline, pushed through a moratorium on coastal drilling, and turned anti-nuke. He became the most famous environmentalist of his time, just as a new wave was emerging.
[00:17:00.13] He was propelled by many things, air and water pollution, sprawl and development, massive fish kills and endangered birds, the Cuyahoga river catching on fire, and oil spills off California and Cornwall. But the real consciousness changer was seeing Earth from space.
[00:17:25.77] And that became a point of reference when in '69 and '70 we started to get real photographs of the Earth from space. That completely changed people's perspective on themselves and their role in the planet. They were stunning because you saw a green, blue, cloud-bedecked living planet.
[00:17:58.24] In the background with, in the foreground, a dead moon with nothing but craters. And the life death image all combined in one beautiful and compelling scene was what people, I think, began to realize that we could be the moon. We could be as dead as the moon. So what we do to keep this green, blue, white, bespeckled thing as alive as it apparently looks?
[00:18:26.16] (MUSIC - JONI MITCHELL "BIG YELLOW TAXI")
[00:18:58.75] All the social and political ferment that was going on in this country was building up and building up and building up. And on Earth 1970, it was like water bursting through a dam.
[00:19:12.16] (MUSIC - JONI MITCHELL "BIG YELLOW TAXI")
[00:19:33.72] I think you have to start out looking at the big picture. The big picture is that we live on a finite planet with a limited capacity to sustain life.
[00:19:45.60] If we do not save the environment, then whatever we do in civil rights or a in a war against poverty will be of no meaning. Because then we will have the equality of extinction.
[00:19:58.19] Earth pollution is mind pollution.
[00:20:04.29] 20 million people came out for the first Earth Day. Still, the largest demonstration ever. It catalyzed the transition from conservation to a new environmental movement and the next big issue, pollution.
[00:20:17.60] (MUSIC - JONI MITCHELL "BIG YELLOW TAXI")
[00:20:41.50] I carried a child for nine months. Our little Julie was stillborn. The loss of our child may be a direct result to the chemicals. Please don't allow this to happen to anyone else before you get them out. Don't let it happen to yourselves.
[00:21:10.68] Pollutants and toxic chemicals grew out of a bright and shiny vision of civilization. It was an age of miracles. The rise of modern chemistry brought new synthetic wonders. But it had a dark side.
[00:21:29.45] DDT had saved millions in the fight against malaria. However, it proved lethal to wildlife. The first to sound the alarm was Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring set off widespread concern and controversy.
[00:21:47.94] Miss. Carson maintains that the balance of nature is a major force in the survival of man. Whereas, the modern chemist, the modern scientist believes that man is steadily controlling nature.
[00:22:07.04] Now to these people apparently the balance of nature was something that was repealed as soon as man came on the scene.
[00:22:16.03] People were finding, from Rachel Carson and others, about DDT and other poisons that were getting into their food. The chemical industry was unregulated. Raw sewage was going right down the Hudson River.
[00:22:31.92] Air pollution was growing just as fast as new automobiles were coming out. You had steel mills belching out whatever it was they belched out. And all of a sudden people said, wait a second. This is not how we have to live.
[00:22:47.74] Why can't we get any decent drinking water in this town anymore?
[00:22:51.77] (MUSIC - TOM LEHRER "POLLUTION")
[00:23:02.73] Hey, you kids. Don't you know better than to swim in there? That water's polluted. Now come on out of there before you get sick.
[00:23:07.71] (MUSIC - TOM LEHRER "POLLUTION")
[00:23:20.20] The great question of the '70s is shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water?
[00:23:38.22] Earth Day created a tide so strong that it swept up both Republicans and Democrats. It launched the second wave of environmentalism marked by a series of landmark environmental protection laws, the creation of the EPA, strengthening of the Clean Air Act, expanding the Clean Water Act, passing the Endangered Species Act, and creating Superfund to control toxic waste.
[00:24:06.00] Cleaning up the environment came down to issuing regulations and enforcing them. Rising to the challenge were a new breed of lawyers equally adept at working with the government or suing them.
[00:24:19.10] Once these regulations were put in, lawyers were able to become the enforcers of these laws. We helped write the regulations. And then we sued the government if they didn't live up to the regulations. And we sued the polluters if they violated those laws.
[00:24:35.91] All of a sudden industrial America realizes that this is a fundamental threat to the way they do business. And they came back with a very powerful counterattack. We went in to pass a new Clean Air Act.
[00:24:56.12] The industrial lobbyists said, look these old factories, we're going to shut them down in a few years. It doesn't make sense to make them clean up. Make the new stuff be clean. And let us just retire the old stuff. The environmental community didn't really want to take that deal. But we took it.
[00:25:16.61] And what happened is they didn't build new factories. And they didn't clean up the old ones either. They just kept operating the old ones dirty.
[00:25:26.53] My generation of environmentalists made a fundamental strategic error. Most of the really bad new ideas of the last half of the 20th century we were able to stop. What we failed to do was to replace the toxic industrial infrastructure and the toxic industrial processes of the first half of the 20th century.
[00:25:54.11] The issue of toxic waste began bubbling up at a place called Love Canal. It was neither the first nor the worst toxic waste dump. What made the difference was the people of Love Canal led by Lois Gibbs.
[00:26:09.65] You are murderers! Each and every one of you in this room are murderers!
[00:26:14.89] We want out! We want out!
[00:26:18.04] When Love Canal came, it was a new segment of the movement. It wasn't that we don't care about the forests. It was the people focus that set us aside from the other elements that had come before us, and really the focus on if the fish are dying and if the birds are dying, then we're going to die.
[00:26:41.30] Buried beneath the neighborhood were 20,000 tons of poisonous chemicals dumped in an old canal by Hooker Chemical Corporation. Reports of trouble began in 1976. But Love Canal did not explode until Michael Brown, a journalist at the Niagara Gazette, wrote articles exposing the problem. They caught the eye of Lois Gibbs.
[00:27:04.26] I read a newspaper article. And Love Canal had 20,000 tons of chemicals buried in it, and it was leaking into the neighborhood. And so I read this newspaper and I said, oh, those poor people.
[00:27:16.79] The next day there was another article. And in that one it talked about the 99th Street Elementary School. And I was like, oh my goodness. That's where Michael's going to kindergarten. That's why Michael's so sick.
[00:27:31.38] Lois tried to get her son transferred to another school. But the superintendent refused.
[00:27:37.44] When I met with Doctor Long, he said, I am not about to move 407 children because of one irate, hysterical housewife with a sickly kid.
[00:27:48.26] Instead, Lois began to circulate a petition to close the school. She went door to door discovering the extent of the damage.
[00:27:56.64] I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked. I thought I was the only one with a sickly child. I thought I was the only family that was affected by these leaking chemicals from Love Canal.
[00:28:10.04] In their basement, you could see where the chemical residue just comes up through the basement floor and just pools there. And it smells. It smells like a chemical factory. It's nasty.
[00:28:24.91] This hole just popped up. And this is what we feel is causing a lot of the birth defects and the miscarriages and health problems in the area.
[00:28:33.54] In '76, it was before Love Canal broke, I got pregnant. I carried the child for nine months. The baby weighed 3 pounds and it was a stillborn birth.
[00:28:44.36] I've have some miscarriages. I had a miscarriage living in this house. And I had a miscarriage when I worked for Hooker Chemical. My god, I almost panicked. I couldn't believe it. Both my children were born premature.
[00:28:58.37] When Lois took her case to the state, officials surprised her with an emergency declaration to evacuate the nearest homes. However, the outer ring of homes surrounding Love Canal, 800 families, were given nothing.
[00:29:13.95] Would you please tell me, do I let my three-year-old stay? She has a birth defect now.
[00:29:21.76] What are you going to do for my kid? What are you going to do? Nothing. The damage is done, man. The damage is done.
[00:29:30.32] The state bought the inner ring of houses. Then they put up a fence and began to excavate. Love Canal residents outside the fence felt trapped.
[00:29:47.74] When did the state tell you to stop growing your vegetable garden?
[00:29:52.02] In August of '78.
[00:29:56.47] So they weren't willing to move you out, but they were willing to tell you to stop growing vegetables.
[00:30:00.02] Yeah. Willing to tell us not to have the kids go barefooted, not to have them go in the basement. Don't plant a garden, but enjoy your house. Live there with your family, while we continue doing our tests and use you as guinea pigs.
[00:30:13.69] The Love Canal residents decided to do their own health study and found an alarming increase in disease and birth defects.
[00:30:21.60] We truly believed if we can prove that there is an increase in disease, they-- meaning the government-- will do the right thing. And we found that 56% of the children in our community were born with birth defects. 56% of our children had three ears, double rows of teeth, extra fingers, extra toes, or were mentally retarded.
[00:30:49.34] During that study time, there were 22 women who were pregnant. And of those 22 pregnancies, only four normal babies were born. And the health department literally threw the health study on the floor. I mean, literally took it and just threw it on the floor and said, it's useless housewife data collected by people who have a vested interest in the outcome.
[00:31:14.16] The New York State Health Department was prodded into doing its own health study and presented their findings to a packed meeting in Love Canal. The Health Commissioner took the stage and said, we found that 56% of the children in Love Canal were born with birth defects.
[00:31:29.84] And we're secretly, as sick as this sounds, saying, yes, yes. And now you're going to evacuate us, right? I mean, that's what we were hoping for. And then he says, but we don't believe those birth defects are related to Love Canal.
[00:31:44.43] And just the whole audience, you could hear, huh? I mean, it was just like--? And he's like, we believe that those birth defects are related to a random clustering of genetically defective people.
[00:31:56.36] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[00:32:33.44] For the residents, Love Canal became a two year struggle to get relocated. Lois Gibbs pushed relentlessly and finally forced the state to bring in the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency launched a pilot study of chromosome damage. The results of the tests were explosive.
[00:32:52.64] Chromosome damage means my two children may be genetically damaged as a result of Love Canal. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.
[00:33:04.91] We will then decide whether this evidence added to the cumulative knowledge that we already have from some other health and environmental studies at Love Canal justifies a recommendation for relocation of the residents or other appropriate actions to assist those in the area.
[00:33:23.52] It seems to me that the federal government has finally, after two years, come up to the high level thinking of housewives that they have constantly put down. We know what's going on. We did research, too. And we want out of there. We want our kids out. Not on Wednesday, today.
[00:33:42.57] The EPA recommended relocation, but the White House blocked the emergency declaration. The residents of Love Canal demanded an explanation. When EPA officials arrived, they decided to take them hostage.
[00:34:00.52] Just pass the word around. We're not going to do anything violent. We're just going to keep them in the house. Nothing more than that, body-barricade the doors. OK? Pass the word. And don't let them out.
[00:34:18.91] If I was to let the two EPA representatives come out of the door, does anybody know what would happen to them?
[00:34:27.36] They'd die!
[00:34:29.85] I guess I'm here for the duration.
[00:34:32.40] Meaning what, the duration?
[00:34:34.61] Well, I guess until the White House gives the homeowners some sort of answer.
[00:34:40.85] I call up the White House. The lady started giving me this lecture about how Love Canal residents have blown it out of proportion and lots of people die of cancer and we should just-- I'm like, you know lady, if I was a crazy, I'd kill these hostages. And I hung up the phone. I'm thinking, like, I am crazy.
[00:34:55.91] Homeowners Association President Lois Gibbs spoke with Congressman John LaFalce in Washington to try and get some answers. LaFalce is said to meet with President Carter at this hour at a dinner meeting at the White House. We should have more information tonight.
[00:35:07.77] I went out on the front porch and said, OK guys. The President hears us. He's going to hear from our congressman. I think we should let them go. And I think we should let them go with a very strong warning.
[00:35:20.16] I have told the White House, and this is upon your approval, that we will allow the two EPA representatives to leave. But if we do not have a disaster declaration Wednesday by noon, then what they have seen here today is just a Sesame Street picnic in comparison--
[00:35:50.88] Two days later, Lois called the White House. Amazingly enough, her ultimatum worked.
[00:35:57.31] An emergency to permit the federal government and the state of New York to undertake--
[00:36:04.72] And then all of a sudden she said, and we will grant temporary relocation. I'm like, and we will grant temporary relocation. All of a sudden it was just like, even the birds, I swear, weren't singing until we can get permanent relocation money allocated. Permanent relocation is the goal.
[00:36:23.03] Here's to the homeowners and all our hard work.
[00:36:34.49] At last, President Carter came to Love Canal to sign the agreement buying out the homeowners.
[00:36:40.88] The whole question of a disposal of hazardous wastes especially toxic chemicals is going to be one of the great environmental challenges of the 1980s. There must never be in our country another Love Canal. Thank you very much.
[00:37:01.34] But the forward progress that had started with Earth Day came to a screeching halt.
[00:37:07.33] There is environmental extremism. I don't think they'll be happy until the White House looks like a bird's nest.
[00:37:13.93] The real counter-revolution began with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan came to office saying he wanted to get government off the backs of the American people. And what it meant in practice was getting the government off the backs of American business and industry.
[00:37:36.42] He appointed Anne Gorsuch to the EPA, who didn't want to enforce regulation, and James Watt as secretary of the interior, whose idea of conservation was to turn all public lands over to private industry. The American people reacted very strongly. They didn't want the gains that had been made rolled back. So that blunted the counter-revolution.
[00:38:13.66] That was when the momentum shifted to the grassroots.
[00:38:16.73] I'm here with you shoulder to shoulder till we clean this mess up.
[00:38:21.28] Hundreds of groups sprang up to fight pollution and poison in their own backyard.
[00:38:26.51] What the hell do you think we're doing?
[00:38:29.36] Of the people, for the people, and by the people-- shall not perish from this Earth.
[00:38:34.57] Many were inspired by Love Canal. All were battling to save their homes, their lives, their children.
[00:38:42.64] We have workers in Geismar right now that's got chemicals in their blood. If they were fish, you would not be allowed to catch them and eat them.
[00:38:54.93] 100% of all of Houston's city owned landfills were located in predominantly black neighborhoods. 100%, without deviation. Six out of eight of the city owned incinerators were located in predominantly black neighborhoods.
[00:39:09.95] African Americans primarily, but also Hispanics and other minorities and recent immigrants realized that they were bearing the brunt of environmental pollution in America because of their lack of political clout. And they decided they had do something about it.
[00:39:27.96] West Virginia, a lot of people don't even know there are black people in West Virginia. And this company, Union Carbide, found them. The only place in the country that manufactured methyl isocyanate, MIC, the same chemical that killed all those people in Bhopal, India, was in Institute, West Virginia. And Institute was 95% black and has always been 95% black.
[00:39:48.70] The largest hazardous waste landfill in the country is located in Sumter County in Emelle, Alabama. 95% black. At the time that landfill was sited, you got a county that's 75% black, but there are no black people on the county commission. You say, how can that be? It's called apartheid American style.
[00:40:09.62] We will not allow Warren County to become a dump site.
[00:40:15.78] It was not until Warren County, where that toxic waste landfill was placed in the middle of this predominantly black county that it began to galvanize people to talk about this whole idea of environmental racism.
[00:40:32.66] The protesters were told not block the trucks. They are now lying in the streets now blocking one truck coming into the landfill. They're refusing the order to move, and they are being arrested one by one.
[00:40:43.48] I'll would like to live in peace and I'll go to jail in peace.
[00:40:46.83] This black community being dumped on, being targeted and people saying, no, we have a right to live in a clean and healthy environment, that's when the whole idea of environmental justice as a national movement came into effect.
[00:41:05.96] Why didn't they say, wait a minute? We can't allow them people to stay there. But they took the white out and allowed us to stay here.
[00:41:14.10] I'm the one that's got to breathe that stuff at night. I'm the one going to be laying around here going, I wonder, can I get my breath?
[00:41:21.83] I'm across the street, and I don't even hear a damn signal. By the time my family got up, the gas was all in our house.
[00:41:29.37] Unfortunately, the mainstream environmental movement for too long did not realize how important this was and did not cooperate and partner with the environmental justice movement.
[00:41:41.40] It was a point in time when the environmental groups didn't get it, and the civil rights groups didn't get it. And it took two decades for those two movements, Civil Rights Movement and Environmental Movement to converge. Then we said, OK, environmental justice for all.
[00:42:01.12] It's about race and class. And if a community that is as poor and is as powerless, if they're getting dumped on, then that is an environmental justice issue. Because it's about power or lack thereof.
[00:42:14.61] This is about human rights, the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat food that's safe, and to live in a community that is nourishing and sustaining. These are basic human rights, and that's what we're fighting for.
[00:42:39.77] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[00:43:11.53] It was just rich. Like, wow, look what we stumbled on. Let's play. Let's design. Let's reimagine what it means to be a human being.
[00:43:26.60] Ecology movements grew out of the 1960s counterculture. People saw a world out of balance and the need to get back to the land. They wanted to build alternative futures and live the change. They're Bible was the Whole Earth Catalog.
[00:43:43.22] Well, I decided to start helping the communes that I knew were starting hither and yon. The Whole Earth Catalog, initially a whole earth store that was going to go around with tools and books, they were reinventing civilization and did not know how. And I didn't either, but I figured we might find out.
[00:44:04.50] What is the proper relationship between human and living systems? There's a lot of experimentation. And people are trying to figure that out. In a Buckminster Fuller-esque way, how could you do more with less, more with less, more with less?
[00:44:19.91] Our resources, we now use them they way we've designed them. Operating at full capacity it can only take care of 44% of humanity. 56% of humanity is doomed early demise going through great pain and suffering on the way. Therefore, the only way we can possibly take care of everybody is through a design revolution, doing more with less.
[00:44:41.32] Bucky Fuller used the term "Spaceship Earth." And now we had come to this epic point in history where mankind was going to literally have to assume controls and figure out how to guide this thing. Mankind could attain a high standard of living with a fraction of the impacts on natural resources.
[00:45:08.14] We had the Integral Urban House in Berkeley. Bought an old house and fixed it all up, and put in solar collectors and backyard double-dug, French intensive gardening. This was really around the idea of appropriate technology.
[00:45:22.83] What scale of things work for us? How do we have solar energy? How do we have community gardens? What makes for conviviality? What makes for friendship?
[00:45:36.33] The greatest synthesis of ecological design and appropriate technology was the work of the New Alchemy Institute. They built a living machine that used aquaculture to clean sewage, grow food, and heat their ark.
[00:45:51.36] As ecological designers, what we do is we go out and bring as many organisms from the local environments and put them in and say, you've been doing this for three billion years. You know better how to do it than we do. You sort it out.
[00:46:07.97] But a fierce argument over what level of resource use is sustainable led to the first computer modeling of future environmental trends. It was called The Limits to Growth. It combined projections of population, resources, food, industrial output, and pollution. The standard run led to overshoot and collapse in the first half of the 21st century, about now.
[00:46:45.66] Federal research spurred development of wind turbines. A gigantic field of mirrors powering the first solar thermal plant arose in the desert. Prototypes of experimental vehicles were designed and built from battery powered to hybrids.
[00:47:06.28] However, renewable energy only got a fraction of federal research dollars. Most went to coal gasification, synthetic fuel, and breeder reactors, the most dangerous of all nuclear technologies. In 1976, physicist turned activist Amory Lovins proposed a soft path of conservation and renewables against the hard path of coal, oil, and nuclear power.
[00:47:38.51] In general, the cheapest investments are the efficiency improvements, then the soft technologies, then the synthetic fuels. And most expensive by far are the power stations. As a nation, we have been taking those options in reverse order, worst buys first.
[00:47:55.59] I realized that people didn't actually want lumps of coal or barrels of sticky black goo or raw kilowatt hours. They wanted services, like hot showers and cold beer. So I started off at the other end of the problem, the end use end, and asking how much energy, of what kind, at what scale, from what source will provide each of those services in the cheapest way? This came to be called the end-use least-cost question. And it really did reframe the energy problem.
[00:48:26.18] A generation from now this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.
[00:48:42.59] Carter had solar collectors on the White House roof. And Reagan took them off. Carter, in his sweater, telling us that we might need curtail our consumption. So don't bring me down, man. Don't bring me down.
[00:49:08.61] Ronald Reagan took away all the tax credit and subsidy for the alternative energy industry. Employment went from about 50,000 to about 5,000 people. We walked away from that and we ceded control to other people.
[00:49:25.96] You want a wind turbine now? 20 years later, 30 years later, you go to Denmark. You want a solar panel? The top biggest factories in the world are in Japan and in Germany and in China. Not here.
[00:49:39.77] We're bit players in most of these games. And we're that way because we made a set of political decisions beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan to pay no attention to the idea that there might be a need to ever change.
[00:50:02.33] But a ragtag band of ecologists brought passion and excitement to the movement. They put their bodies on the line in defense of environmental issues. They got their name at the end of a meeting when Irving Stowe, elder pacifist, said, peace. Someone called out, make it a Greenpeace. The name stuck, and Greenpeace brought together the ecology and anti-war movements for the first time.
[00:50:36.79] We were asking the question, OK, the war in Vietnam's over. And what are we going to do next? And the answer to that question was we're going to start an ecology movement. And the first thing we're going to do is we're going to go save the whales.
[00:50:50.43] What we put into effect was a plan that Bob Hunter had come up with from reading a lot of Gandhi. He felt that we could just put ourselves between the harpoon and the whales, and they wouldn't kill the whales.
[00:50:59.92] It wasn't just a matter of holding up signs saying, stop killing of whales. No. Greenpeace wanted to get out there in front of the whaling boats and stop them.
[00:51:09.42] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[00:51:34.14] In 1975, Greenpeace set off to hunt the whalers. After two months at sea, they came upon the Russian whaling fleet.
[00:51:43.31] There's five over there. There's one by the (INAUDIBLE). And there's three over here. There's nine--
[00:51:46.86] We're coming upon a floating slaughterhouse. There's blood in the water. There's huge slabs of blubber being hauled up on these big factory ships. Blood is just pouring out of this pipe. The stench alone made us all want to throw up.
[00:52:07.30] Suddenly Bob and I were in a small boat in front of a Soviet harpoon vessel that was bearing down on us. In front of us was eight magnificent sperm whales that were fleeing for their life. And every time the harpooner tried to get a shot, I was at the helm, so I would maneuver the boat to try and block the harpoon.
[00:52:24.30] Here's the whales. Here's us in our zodiacs. And here's the Russian ship. We are right between the Soviet ship and the whales.
[00:52:32.62] And the harpooner's not shooting. But eventually, somebody from the bridge walks down the catwalk and talks to the harpooner. And the harpooner nods and the guy goes back. And Bob looks in his eyes he knows. This guys going to shoot this harpoon.
[00:52:45.09] Then he looked at us and smiled and brought his finger across his neck. And that's when I realized Gandhi wasn't going to pull through for us that day.
[00:52:53.72] And at that very moment they fired their harpoon.
[00:53:06.78] This harpoon flew over our head and slammed into the backside of one of the whales. And she screamed. It was a very human-like scream, like a woman. And it took us completely off guard.
[00:53:21.96] The whalers purposely shoot at a female first, because they know that the bull whales will attack them. And then when the bull whales come to attack them, which is exactly what happened--
[00:53:33.73] He was waiting for them, and very nonchalantly pulled the trigger and sent a second harpoon into the head of the whale. And he screamed and fell back. And now the water is full of blood everywhere from the two dying whales. And as this whale rolled in agony on the surface of the ocean, I caught his eye, and he looked straight at me.
[00:53:58.62] And we're looking into the eye of this huge sperm whale. And I have to tell you, it's sort of beyond emotional-- there's certain moments that are so emotional you're just in brand new territory.
[00:54:15.54] Why were the Russians killing these whales? They didn't eat sperm whale meat. But they did use the spermaceti oil to make high-heat resistant lubricating oil for machinery. And one of the pieces of machinery that they used it in is the manufacture of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
[00:54:31.01] And I said, here we are destroying this incredibly beautiful, intelligent, socially complex creature for the purpose of making a weapon meant for the mass destruction of humanity. And that's when it came to me like a flash, we're insane. We're just totally insane.
[00:54:45.04] And from that moment on, I decided that I work for whales. I work for seals. I work for sea turtles and fish and sea birds. I don't work for people.
[00:55:05.90] The story just exploded. And I think it was because people were seeing for the first time not just standing up for the dispossessed humans, standing up for the dispossessed everything else in the world, every other species in the world that has been dispossessed by the industrial civilization of humankind.
[00:55:25.36] Greenpeace's new style of media oriented activism launched them into the wildest ride of any environmental group.
[00:55:33.06] We were out there trying to make the whales famous. But in the process, we made ourselves famous. We were now able to talk about ecology. And we were able to raise money. Now we were able to do a seal campaign and a toxic dumping campaign. Offices were springing up all over the world calling themselves Greenpeace.
[00:55:51.71] Their critics claimed that they were better at dramatizing issues than affecting change. But Greenpeace saw the media as the best means of changing consciousness. They called it dropping mind bombs.
[00:56:06.33] My idea was that if you took an image and you passed it through the media into the mass mind, you could essentially blow the mass mind with new images that would create whole new ways of looking at the world. And the image of small whales up against giant whaling machines was a mind bomb.
[00:56:24.81] In 1976, Greenpeace dreamed up their next campaign, to save baby harp seals in Newfoundland.
[00:56:33.08] We used the same tactics that we used at a whaling campaign. We actually got out on the ice, blockaded the sealing ships.
[00:56:41.01] We're blocking the boat.
[00:56:45.55] It's backed up three times and came forward already, trying to bluff us off.
[00:56:58.97] The first year, they ran into furious opposition, especially over Paul's plan to spray dye on the seal pups, rendering the pelts worthless.
[00:57:09.99] That's, I think, where I had a first falling out with Bob, really. Because they compromise with the Newfoundlanders and said, well, we're not going to dye the seals if you don't do this. They didn't consult with me on it, so I was quite angry on it. I don't believe in compromising.
[00:57:27.92] Paul was bitter. He came back the next year determined to stop the slaughter.
[00:57:34.17] On the second seal campaign of '77, I pulled a sealing club out of a sealer's hand and through it in the water. I handcuffed myself to the pile of pelts to try and shut down their operations.
[00:57:45.38] They pulled the pelts into the water and pulled me through the water and up the side of the boat and dangled me from the air. And then they dropped me back in the water. And then they brought me up on the deck.
[00:57:53.95] And then they pulled me along the deck as the sealers are spitting and kicking and punching. Captain came in and started screaming at me about how it was people like me that ended whaling. And now you're trying to take sealing away from us.
[00:58:11.06] Soon after the second seal campaign, Paul Watson was thrown out of Greenpeace for breaching their ethic of non-violence. He'd gone too far. Paul vowed to pursue the whalers without compromise.
[00:58:29.65] He set up his own group, the Sea Shepherd Society, and got himself a ship. The first thing he did was hunt down the Sierra, an illegal pirate whaler. Off the coast of Portugal, he found her.
[00:58:47.41] I hit the Sierra at the bow to get its attention and destroy the harpoon, then did a 360 degree turn around it's stern and slammed into it's side at 15 knots and split it open to the water line. That ship had killed 25,000 whales.
[00:59:05.09] What we were able to do in one year was to shut down every single pirate whaling vessel in the Atlantic. At the end of that one year period, three of them were on the bottom, two of them were going to be sunk by the South African Navy, and one of them had been sold.
[00:59:19.39] Then Sea Shepherd went after whaling nations scuttling Spanish, Norwegian, and Icelandic whalers.
[00:59:27.36] In 1986, when we sank half of Iceland's whaling fleet, John Frizell from Greenpeace, came up to me. He said, just want to let you know that what you did in Iceland was despicable, reprehensible, criminal, and unforgivable. And I said, so?
[00:59:38.89] And he said, well, you should know what people in this movement think about you. I says, I don't give a damn, John. I didn't sink those whaling vessels for you or anybody in the movement.
[00:59:46.51] We sank those whaling vessels for the whales. Find me one whale that disagreed with what we did and we'll reconsider. But until then, I couldn't give a damn what you people think.
[00:59:56.66] It took everyone working together to ban whaling. For 10 years, radicals and mainstream, governments and NGOs campaigned to turn the International Whaling Commission from hunting to saving whales.
[01:00:10.12] Why should we kill them if they're just-- it's just like killing us.
[01:00:14.34] But they're just nice creatures. They're nice. They wouldn't harm anyone really.
[01:00:18.26] What we are proposing is a moratorium.
[01:00:29.30] A moratorium finally passed in 1982. And in time, it became a permanent ban on whaling, one of the environmentalism's biggest successes.
[01:00:44.11] Extinction rates have gone down tremendously. The battle today has been won numerically. But there is always the danger that the International Whaling Commission goes the other way. It's a problem for political work. There is never an and.
[01:01:07.26] Yes, Greenpeace grew as an organization, which put the bodies in defense of something, risked something. But it's, of course, not the entire story anymore. In fact, Greenpeace had to change.
[01:01:26.80] That ragtag band of ecologists grew into an international environmental organization, the biggest of its time. Greenpeace took on a host of new causes, but the biggest was opposition to nuclear weapons and power. Anti-nuke movements led to the rise of environmentalism in Europe.
[01:01:46.80] (MUSIC PLAYING)
[01:02:57.59] When we started off, it was all about this endangered species or that endangered species. And pretty quickly you realize that you didn't protect endangered species without protecting their natural habitat. Then you started to worry about you couldn't have protected areas survive unless the local community was engaged in some way.
[01:03:20.84] And then you began to realize you needed to worry about forces from outside like acid rain. Then ultimately, climate change coming down on top of all of it. That's why my profession today is no longer just conservationist or environmentalist. I'm actually sort of a planet doctor.
[01:03:56.41] The Amazon was ground zero of global scale resource issues and crisis that arose in the '80s. The greatest rainforest on Earth was threatened on all sides by mining and logging, massive dams, and cattle ranchers. In 1982, Brazil's generals launched a disastrous colonization scheme.
[01:04:19.17] Settlers marched into the forest and burnt it down only to find that the soil was too poor to grow crops. The fate of the Amazon turned on a most unlikely environmental hero, a poor rubber tapper and union organizer named Chico Mendes.
[01:05:12.39] The rubber tappers, known as seringuieros, squatted off their old seringals, or plantations, produced rubber and subsisted off the land. They were protected by being in the remote Western Amazon where roads had not penetrated. But as ranchers arrived and began clearing the land to claim it for tax breaks, Chico Mendes organized the rubber tappers to defend their territory.
[01:06:12.12] The rubber tappers organized empates, or standoffs, nonviolent protests in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King where they surround the trees and tried to explain what a disaster cutting down the forest was for everyone.
[01:07:00.14] They actually were able to stop the forest cutting by standing in front of the trees. It's a real heroic story. And it happened often enough that it actually impeded an entire cattle ranching operation so much that they gave up.
[01:07:40.82] American environmentalists helped bring Chico Mendes to the United States to campaign against the World Bank whose loans led to destructive development.
[01:07:51.24] The World Bank wants us to believe that they are helping the people in those areas. Now this is a big lie and an infamous lie. The opposite is true. The people living in the forests, they have an interest in their preservation.
[01:08:04.73] Save the rainforests! Save the rainforests!
[01:08:10.37] I hope that the governments which give money to be IDB, the people of the US, England, Japan, Europe, who contribute their taxes to finance the IDB will listen to the seringuiero's complaints.
[01:08:24.14] Our subcommittee is going to continue to put pressure on the IDB to withhold funds, to cut off all funds possibly, if they're not more cooperative.
[01:08:45.13] Chico was coming to understand that saving their way of life meant saving the Amazon. He began to build alliances with other rubber tappers and indigenous groups.
[01:08:55.40] Several leaders and Chico decided to hold a meeting to try to form a National Council of rubber tappers. What they all came to the conclusion of was that they needed to have rights to use the land. One of the things that was keeping them from being able to effectively defend the forest against the chainsaw loggers and the cattle ranchers was not having an actual right to this land. They were seen as squatters.
[01:09:25.40] The idea was raised that there should be rubber tapper reserves like Indian reserves. The people wouldn't own the land, but it would be theirs for as long as they wanted to work it. It was an idea of the people who actually lived in the forest.
[01:09:40.85] That was a huge breakthrough in concept. This is a great movement within Amazonia. And that's what Chico started.
[01:09:50.80] The rubber tappers decided to establish the first reserve at Cachoeira, the old rubber plantation where Chico was born and lived with family and friends. However, the land had been bought by a rancher named Darli Alves. So the seringuieros went to court to claim their squatter rights.
[01:10:10.75] It turned into a showdown.
[01:10:18.00] Xapuri ranchers have always had trouble with seringuieros blocking their deforestation. Every time the ranchers tried to deforest, they were blocked.
[01:10:25.35] In Xapuri, it's stalemate.
[01:10:30.38] We're in immediate danger. We're seeing people killed. And there could be many more. The Paraná ranch is terrorizing the whole population of Xapuri to strike at me, at Gomercindo, at Raimundo Barros, and the whole directorate of our workers' movement.
[01:11:14.27] The rubber tappers won. Cachoeira was declared the first extractive reserve in the world. It was an important victory to the whole of the Amazon. But the rancher Darli Alves had vowed to kill Chico Mendes.
[01:11:34.44] This has not been a bloodless journey. Some have already fallen defending extractive reserves. No one likes to die. But if it has to happen, then it should be to create more life. Christ was crucified. He gave this last drop of blood. But since that day, millions of communities have been born that believe and fight for brotherhood.
[01:12:26.39] I promise before the blood of our companion Chico Mendes to continue his work, to show our enemies they will never succeed in silencing the voice of the seringuieros. Chico Mendes, wherever you are, don't grieve that they have silenced your voice. Your ideas exist among us.
[01:13:03.60] There were things that came together after his death that probably couldn't have come together if he was still alive. Because they'd still be fighting over whether the extractive reserves should be established or not. After he was killed, there was no question. So now it's quite clear that who saves forests are the people in the forest.
[01:13:39.13] Chico Mendes' work proved to be the turning point in the battle to save the Amazon. The Brazilian government recognized the rights of the forest peoples and established an array of parks and protected areas.
[01:14:03.90] 58 million acres were set aside in extractive reserves. 40% of the Brazilian Amazon was formally protected.
[01:14:13.04] However, the fate of the forest is still in doubt. Now it is not just cattle ranchers, but soy farming on an industrial scale and illegal logging. Due to the partial deforestation and the climate changes it has brought, the Amazon is drying out.
[01:14:31.82] The Amazon is predicted within 100 years to be not actually desert, but semi-desert, thorn scrub. It will have lost all its trees and things like that, because deforestation reduces the rainfall. I mean, that will be an apocalypse. And it will be an apocalypse for the whole of mankind across the whole globe unless something is done about it.
[01:14:59.83] Time is at hand for a great global bargain about the world's forests. It may take awhile before everybody can agree to how to do it, but the handwriting is on the wall. We are, sooner or later, going to have to be managing global carbon.
[01:15:17.40] But biologically as well as in other ways, we're going to be managing global nitrogen. It's a different time. And who knows? It might even make us get along with each other.
[01:15:45.88] There is no substitute for clean fresh water. There is no substitute. There is no alternative. And that's why water must be protected everywhere.
[01:15:55.89] All over the global south, environmental movements arose in the '80s and '90s. They were fighting for many of the same things, to save their forests, to stop dams against pollution and toxic industry. However, there were new causes, seeds and traditional agriculture, water and soil, and restoring the land. Their movements blurred the lines between social justice, indigenous rights, and environment issues. In the developing world, they became one.
[01:16:33.74] The primary theme that runs through all these movements is the loss of the commons and the loss of access rights to the commons. And I think that's what people are really fighting for is the right of subsistence and the right of access to clean water, to food, to forests, the right to live.
[01:17:00.26] The first moment was called Chipko, or the tree huggers. It unfolded in India's Himalayan foothills in 1974 when the state sold the villages forest for wood to make cricket bats.
[01:17:16.07] When the forests contractors came to actually cut the trees, the women decided to make a huge feast. And said, oh, you must be hungry. Come and eat with us first. We just made this festival food.
[01:17:27.52] So they fed all the contractors first. And then the women sneaked off and started hugging the trees. So then when the contractors went to cut the trees, there were all these women who had fed them. They just threw down their hatchets and said, oh, no. We can't really kill the women.
[01:17:45.83] In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement was about recovery of the commons. The forest had been cut leading to loss of water and soil and the threat of desertification. Wangari Maathai organized women to plant trees, paid them to make sure the saplings would grow into a forest.
[01:18:09.08] How do you plant trees in common? How do you hold forests in common when every other force around you is trying to get you to privatize property? I think that's what Wangari opened up and really made that visible.
[01:18:46.75] We want justice. We are going to shed blood because of our lands. We will. We are used to that. Our forefathers shed blood for lands. We will do so.
[01:19:02.88] North-South equity arguments grew into a debate about sustainable development. Developing countries saw it as an attempt to limit their growth. I think it came as, we Americans, we the West are here. But you guys can't come there. You're too late.
[01:19:20.43] We've already used up most of the resources. We don't have enough resources left for you guys to live the way we live. You're just going to have to live without.
[01:19:28.18] And that's not going down very well. People are not going to accept that. You know? Who are you to say to us what you think we should do?
[01:19:40.04] By the '90s, crises were unfolding in all the Earth's ecosystems. Deforestation, desertification, loss of water and soil, emptying oceans, and the sixth great extinction. An ozone hole opened up over Antarctica that should've been enough to make an environmentalist out of anyone. But the mother of all environmental issues was coming, so big it would overshadow everything else.
[01:20:17.63] I think the Earth system idea that really was transformative was the Gaia hypothesis, the notion that Earth as a whole was a self-moderating, self-healing system. What we're finding out is that if Gaia heals itself from our current greenhouse gas emissions by going to 5 degrees Celsius warmer, the way it did 55 million years ago, and stabilizes there, it's fine for Gaia but lousy for us. Because that's a world in which there's carrying capacity for 1.5 billion people versus 6.8 going on to 7 that we have now. That would be a very tough century.
[01:21:04.91] Why is it the problem from hell? It's the problem from hell not only because there are so many sources of the problem, so you can't just laser in and solve one specific piece and it's done. You have to go at the cars and the oil and the power plants and the way we farm and which food we eat. It's everywhere. And associated with those sources are huge political and financial stakes.
[01:21:36.80] Man may be unwittingly changing the world's climate through the waste products of its civilization.
[01:21:42.27] Due to our release in factories and automobiles every year of more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide--
[01:21:49.17] We've been thinking about climate change and its relationship to increasing numbers of people multiplied times their affluence, multiplied times the kind of technology they use to get rich, like coal and oil burning. And then we use the atmosphere as a free sewer to dump our tailpipe and smoke stack wastes and the things we generate when we deforest and change land. We've known about that since 1900. But we didn't have any idea the Earth was going to warm up half a degree or 3. The difference between well, no big deal, and, oh my god.
[01:22:28.88] The real key moment of its emergence is summer 1988, the hottest summer the continental US has yet known. There was a congressional hearing called to discuss this question of climate change.
[01:22:43.24] The evidence that the Earth is warming by an amount which is too large to be a chance fluctuation represents a very strong case, in my opinion, that the greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now.
[01:22:56.23] Jim Hansen took the stand and said, look, we've got to stop waffling around. We are heating the planet. This is human caused, and it's going to get way, way worse.
[01:23:09.20] People learned about the greenhouse effect and heat-trapping gases. Worse, the rate of emissions was accelerating.
[01:23:18.89] On our current emissions path, we could easily hit 800 to 1,000 parts per million. And that is a so-called tripling or quadrupling from preindustrial levels. The consequences are so dire that most scientists haven't even studied them because they never believed that humanity would be so stupid as to let it happen.
[01:23:44.02] In 1992, the world came together at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to sign a landmark treaty known as the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
[01:23:54.13] Mr. President, are you planning to go to Rio for the Earth summit?
[01:23:56.95] We're contemplating that right now as to what to do. And there's some preliminary work going on.
[01:24:02.20] Do you want to go?
[01:24:03.98] Well, I--
[01:24:07.70] The world leader who's most reluctant to go is the first President Bush. This is not his thing. I mean, he's an oil guy from way back. He says, look, we're going but the American way of life is not up for negotiation. People heard that loud and clear.
[01:24:26.27] At the insistence of the United States, limits on greenhouse gases were purely voluntary. However, the treaty was a start. And when Clinton and Gore were elected that year there were great hopes.
[01:24:39.97] The US Senate ratified that UN Framework Convention on Climate Change quickly without any controversy. And it seemed like things were going well.
[01:24:53.16] Clinton and Gore got the policy right, but the politics went wrong from the start.
[01:24:58.68] It is certainly true that the Clinton administration made its share of mistakes. But it is inaccurate to history to pretend that was the most important reason that we didn't get climate legislation passed. By far the most important reason was the political power of big oil and big coal.
[01:25:18.79] Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then? Carbon dioxide, they call it pollution. We call it life.
[01:25:32.36] You had the Global Climate Coalition, which was the coalition of industrial actors, many hundreds, thousands of companies, labor unions, farm organizations who organize against binding targets to reduce emissions.
[01:25:52.04] A doubling of the CO2 content of the atmosphere will produce a tremendous greening of planet Earth.
[01:25:57.62] In terms of plant growth, it's nothing but beneficial.
[01:26:01.19] I had no concept how deeply the resistance would run. Not because I didn't know the coal industry would fight, because I did. And not because I didn't think oil would fight. I knew they would.
[01:26:20.20] Global warming is the greatest single hoax ever perpetrated on the--
[01:26:23.16] I didn't understand the degree to which the ideological structures of the American right had become about denying global governance and rejecting collective solutions.
[01:26:40.66] Global warming is, in a sense, too big an issue for the environmental movement to take on. It took a long time even for environmentalists to really pick up on it. For much of the 1990s, it was second tier issue among environmentalists who were sticking with their old campaigns on important subjects. Just less important, as it turned out, than the shifting energy balance of the entire planet.
[01:27:19.58] Kyoto came in 1997, the first opportunity to negotiate a tougher treaty. The United States resisted mandatory cutbacks and insisted on impossible conditions. Meanwhile, the Europeans were pushing for aggressive emissions reductions. Kyoto deadlocked.
[01:27:38.47] What are your major points of contention still?
[01:27:40.62] Got to get agreement.
[01:27:42.10] How far have you come along?
[01:27:43.89] We are negotiating. And that's all we want to say right now.
[01:27:47.30] Do you have common ground now that's attached to both the Americans and the Europeans?
[01:27:50.98] No. I can't tell you anything but that we are working hard on finding a solution.
[01:27:56.65] Bill Clinton promised that the United States would bring to Kyoto a pledge for significant future reductions. Vice President Gore, we await your announcement with bated breath.
[01:28:14.44] At the last minute Al Gore arrived to save the day.
[01:28:18.80] I'm instructing our delegation right now to show increased negotiating flexibility. If a comprehensive plan--
[01:28:26.04] The United States agreed to mandatory cutbacks and signed the Kyoto Protocol. But they knew the treaty was dead on arrival and never even submitted it for ratification. Then when Bush was elected, he rejected Kyoto.
[01:28:42.76] The Kyoto Protocol was fatally flawed in fundamental ways. Disasters brought back the issue of climate change. Hurricane Katrina was a wake up call that revealed the impacts of global warming in ways that had not touched people before.
[01:29:04.20] In Europe, a heat wave killed 70,000. Drought and fire turned Australia and the American Southwest into infernos. Arctic ice, disappearing. Coral reefs, bleaching. Everything was happening faster than scientists predicted.
[01:29:22.37] I am technologically optimistic that we can prevent a lot of dangerous outcomes, not all, but many. But I'm kind of politically bleak that we're going to do it until we have enough tangible damage that the symbol is able to tip us over the political tipping point of long term action.
[01:29:41.91] And we got close in '88, maybe a little bit in Katrina. And then we faded away each time. So I don't know.
[01:29:49.30] Do we have to have a hurricane take out Miami and Shanghai to have everybody wake up? If that happens in 2025, by then it's going to be too late to prevent melting of Greenland. If it happened next year, it might be possible to still do that. But what a hell of a way to run a planet?
[01:30:05.51] All the polling data showing that Americans understood what was going on and what the danger was, but still nothing happening in Washington, not a damn thing. 20 years without any legislation that would have done anything to deal with the biggest problem that the world's ever faced.
[01:30:23.68] Our movement was failing miserably to create the movement, the pressure, the awareness in the public to make something happen.
[01:30:41.81] I started emailing people to say, we're going to go for a walk. We left from Robert Frost's old cabin, because we liked that most cliched of all poems, about the road not taken.
[01:30:50.56] And that emerged into the global campaign on climate action, for the TckTckTck Campaign, as it's known.
[01:30:58.12] Now we've moved on to do the global version of this, 350.org in reference to Jim Hansen's number, this red line for the planet.
[01:31:08.15] 350 refers to parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the number considered safe by scientists. It was surpassed in 1988, the year Hansen first issued his warning.
[01:31:29.23] The world wants the real deal.
[01:31:32.74] Copenhagen, the 15th conference on climate change, was meant to strengthen the Kyoto Protocol. It came freighted with hopes that at last the United States and China, the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, would join the rest of the world and take action before it was too late.
[01:31:51.62] We marched in Berlin, and the wall fell. We marched in Cape Town, and apartheid fell. We march in Copenhagen, and we are going to get a real deal.
[01:32:14.20] However, Copenhagen turned into more of the same top down political failure. Once again, the US declined to offer significant emissions reductions. Once again, that resulted in deadlock. This time it was President Obama who tried to save the day. But his last minute accord sowed discord.
[01:32:38.18] I believe that the pieces of that accord should now be clear. First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions.
[01:32:51.97] I see it as a success, modest success. I think we should've achieved more.
[01:32:58.69] Well, this is a disaster.
[01:33:00.05] Obviously, we're quite disappointed with the outcome.
[01:33:02.51] Extraordinary flawed.
[01:33:04.79] Well, it was a good speech, but what we need now is action.
[01:33:10.38] Obama's accord was a pledge exercise, not a binding treaty. And it became meaningless when climate legislation died in the US Congress. Climate change remains the impossible issue, impossible to deal with, yet impossible to ignore.
[01:33:28.46] We are ready! Where are you? We are ready! Where are you?
[01:33:39.85] There's no question in my mind that as people who care deeply about the environment, we keep looking for love in all the wrong places. And that's from our political leaders. If we haven't learned yet, we should get it now, this is not going to be top down-- It goes right back to the hundreds of millions of people on Earth who are trying to find and craft and create solutions every single day.
[01:34:16.87] The very word of movement, I think, is too small to describe it. No one started this worldview. No one is in charge of it. There is no orthodoxy. It is global, classless, unquenchable, and tireless.
[01:34:36.04] Going around the country and other countries as well, I encountered nonprofit organizations that I had never heard of. And that's when I thought, well gee, how many are there? And I started to count. And I got to about 30,000.
[01:34:49.23] And I thought, OK. This is big. This is bigger than the Catholic Church. There are literally 2 million organizations in the world that are working on these issues of social justice and the environment, because they're inseparable.
[01:35:11.63] It's growing, it's growing, it's growing because it's not a movement. It's, in a sense, humanity's immune response to the despoliation of the environment, to the degradation of living systems, to the corruption we see in economic systems, and the pollution of the industrial system.
[01:35:44.13] Over the course of 50 years, environmentalism has shifted from saving wild places to saving human society. How we find a path to a sustainable future will involve reinventing not just the way we make and do everything, but reinventing the way we think about our place in the natural world. John Muir's ecological insight that everything is hitched is not just true for nature, but for humans as well.
[01:36:25.03] There's no Hispanic air, there's no African American air, there's no white-- there's air. And if you breathe air, and most people I know do breathe air, then that makes you part of the environment. And if you're concerned about that clean air, that air and it being clean, I would consider you an environmentalist.
[01:36:42.91] If you drink water, and most people I know drink water, and if you're concerned about what's in the water, I would consider you an environmentalist. And if you eat food, and most people I know eat food, and if you're concerned about what's in the food, I would consider you an environmentalist. If you answer two out of three, I say you're an environmentalist. You just may not know it.
[01:37:00.72] Stop blasting our homes!
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[01:37:11.82] If there's one thing the rights of mother earth is waking us to is we are all connected.
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Distributor: Bullfrog Films
Length: 101 minutes
Grade: 7 - 12, College, Adult
Closed Captioning: Available
Interactive Transcript: Available
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