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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
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
survival
.” 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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