Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
by Garon Cockrell
DVD Review: A Fierce Green Fire
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Nov. 9, 2013 5:30 p.m.

A Fierce Green Fire is a documentary which basically tells the

history of the environmental movement right up to the present. It is divided

into five sections, each section narrated by a different person (though the film does not rely heavily on narration). The first

section is narrated by Robert Redford.

The film actually opens

with some gorgeous shots of nature – trees, an elephant running, etc. – and

then quickly, before we can lose ourselves too much in these beautiful scenes,

we are shown smokestacks and fires. And people marching. All of this while The

Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today” plays.

Robert Redford then tells

us, “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

.” Pretty serious stuff, but almost immediately, it is lightened: “But at the beginning you could say it

started with ladies’ hats
.” Yes, the Audubon Society was founded to try to

save certain birds that were being used for plumed hats.

And that is something I

truly appreciate about this documentary. While the subject matter couldn’t be

more serious, it manages to find some levity and also, more importantly, quite

a bit of hope. This isn’t a completely depressing fatalistic documentary, as it

chronicles the victories in the environmental movement, giving people hope, and

encouraging us that we can effect change.

It also has quite a lot

of information. I’ve long considered myself an environmentalist, and there is a

good deal here that was completely new to me. The documentary covers a lot of

ground (though never feels too rushed), including information on the Sierra

Club and other important groups. The Sierra Club’s fight against dams is documented

here, including the group’s work to save the Grand Canyon. That campaign got a

tremendous response, including a letter from the IRS saying that donations were

no longer guaranteed to be tax deductible. And this documentary shows us the

letter. Of course that caused more folks to join, and the dams project was

dropped. A victory for the Sierra Club.

Seeing the first photos

of Earth from space is what prompted a lot of people to become concerned with

the environment. And that leads to the first Earth Day, which was founded by

Senator Gaylord Nelson. The documentary treats us to footage of Nelson at a

press conference, footage of Allen Ginsberg, as well as

footage of that famous speech by Civil Rights activist James Farmer, in which

he says: “If we do not save the

environment, then whatever we do in civil rights or in the war against poverty

will be of no meaning because then we will have the equality of extinction

Robert Redford tells us,

Twenty million people came out for the

first Earth Day, still the largest demonstration ever

The second section,

narrated by Ashley Judd, is focused on pollution and the creation of the EPA.

The information on Love Canal is particularly engrossing, and includes

interviews with Lois Gibb as well as footage of the EPA press conference on

chromosome study from May 16, 1980.

As upsetting as that

information is, the documentary does show the positive outcome. It took a

while, but the homeowners were eventually victorious. Then, of course, with the

election of that bastard Ronald Reagan, the environmental movement ground to a

halt (and turned to grassroots tactics). As is mentioned in the film’s third

section, Reagan took away tax credit and subsidy for the alternative energy

industry. As Stephanie Mills points out, “Carter

had solar collectors on the White House roof, and Reagan took them off

The section on Greenpeace

is quite moving, and contains amazing (and disturbing) footage regarding the

fights to save the whales and the seals.

The documentary’s fourth

and fifth sections are on the larger picture, with the fifth section (which is

narrated by Meryl Streep) being about climate change. Streep says: “Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call that

revealed the impacts of global warming in ways that had not touched people before.

In Europe, a heat wave killed seventy thousand…Everything was happening faster

than scientists predicted

At the end, the film does

a good job of showing how we’re all connected. In fact, that is really one of

the film’s themes, and even early on shows how the different movements are

connected (such as the civil rights movement and the environmental movement).

Bonus Features

The DVD includes a short

biography of film director Mark Kitchell. Also, there is a timeline of the

environmental movement and an environmental resource guide, both of which are

PDF files and can be accessed on your computer.

A Fierce Green Fire was released on DVD on October 1, 2013 through

First Run Features.

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