It is the largest movement the world has ever seen, it may also be the most important - in terms of what's at stake. Yet it's not east being green. Environmentalists have been reviled as much as revered, for being killjoys and Cassandras. Every battle begins as a lost cause and even the victories have to be fought for again and again. Still, environmentalism is one of the great social innovations of the twentieth century, and one of the keys to the twenty-first. It has arisen at a key juncture in history, when humans have come to rival nature as a power determining the fate of the earth.Written by
The History and Importance of the Environmentalist Movement
Prior to this documentary, the debate centering on environmentalism has often been between warring factions which make the Wars of the Roses of the 15th century look tame by comparison. Each vilifies the other. The more conservative (ironically) who believe in complete free enterprise and capitalism without hindrance have labeled the environmentalists quacks and anti-capitalistic, and therefore "Un-American". Particularly figures like James Watt who was the Secretary of the Interior from 1981 to 1983 under the Reagan Administration felt that environmentalists were delusional in their perspectives, prompting Reagan to say of them "They won't be happy to until the Whitehouse is a bird's nest", which is of course wasn't true at all. Simultaneously, some "Green" activists have accused capitalists of being beholden to only moneyed and corporate interests. Corporations have argued that high regulation of business will stifle the free market and compromise jobs and incomes. The "Greens" have argued that if we destroy our planet's habitability, through Global Warming, we will have no planet upon which to exist and create, be it housing, cars, or corporations, etc. If the human species is extinct, there will be no capitalism in other words.
Strangely, prior to 2012, there hadn't been a documentary which tells the full tale of the environmentalist movement, why they came to believe what they believe, and why they have protested as vehemently as they have. Films like "An Inconvenient Truth" have successfully made the case why Global Warming threatens the existence of the Earth but there hadn't been a film explaining the history of the movement. "A Fierce Green Fire" has filled the gap. This film explains where the movement came from and why it continues today.
The film is divided into five parts: Act 1, The history of Conservation beginning with the origins of the Sierra Club, headed by John Muir in the 19th century and later David Bower in the mid-20th. Act 2, the pollution of the 1970's including demonstrations against toxic waste. Act 3, Green Peace and their exploits to save the whales. Act 4, the fights against the destruction of natural resources such as the Amazon Rain Forests. Act 5, Global Warming.
Despite popular belief, the Environmentalist Movement did not begin in the 1960's with hippie radicals on the Haight-Asbury in San Francisco. It began as early as the 19th century when birds with beautiful plumage were disappearing because they were being hunted and killed for the plumage adorning ladies' hats. A group formed to save these birds from extinction. Shortly thereafter, John Muir fought against the construction of dams which would destroy the habitats of many wildlife areas west of the Mississippi. Families of the mid-west who probably had never been involved in environmentalism before engaged themselves in the debate when their children were becoming and ill and even dying as a result of toxic waste. And the threat of Global Warming is recapped, extending what Al Gore had accomplished in his documentary 10 years earlier.
The view of the documentary is certainly from a particular bias, but at the same time, I think it does a reasonably good job of not vilifying the other side unless that side deserves it. Most political anti-environmentalists didn't believe there was a real problem, and the conventional wisdom prior to circa 1960 was that environments could and should be compromised in favor of "progress". Many people until President Reagan began to sign onto the Environmentalist cause, but this shifted under Reagan, particularly with the appointment of James Watt who wanted the country to drill more and more no matter where and how.
A very professionally-made documentary as good as any PBS documentary being produced today. The talents of several Hollywood heavy-hitters narrate the film, such as Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, and Meryl Streep. Even Isabelle Allende lends her voice to one of the segments. My only hope is that it doesn't just speak to the choir but encourages those on the fence, and maybe even the other side, to take a look at this very real issue. The truth is, if we don't have a world, nothing else really matters that much. I don't want cock roaches to be the only occupants of deserted cities in a few hundred years.
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