A documentary in five parts (with celebrity narrators Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and more!), A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet looks at the history of the environmental movement. It begins with people becoming interested in conservation in the United States: fighting dams in national parks, saving the Grand Canyon, fighting to preserve wild spaces. It then moves through the second wave of environmental activism: creation of the EPA, regulations to clean up pollution. This part covers the disaster of Love Canal in depth: the miscarriages, birth defects, stillbirths, sick kids, and toxic chemicals leaching into homes—it is so horrifying to watch, you can hardly believe it really happened. Industry fights back, not wanting to change, not wanting to take responsibility.
The film shows the environmental and civil rights movements converging into the idea of environmental justice, acknowledging the basic human rights to have clean air and water and a safe environment. Green Fire shows the rise of Greenpeace and the bringing together of the ecology and antiwar movements. You get to watch whales being harpooned and cut up, and baby seals being axed in the head. The story moves to the international stage, showing the Amazon rainforest threatened by dams, mining, cattle ranching, with people all over the developing world fighting for their basic rights of land, livelihood, and a safe place to live.
And just when you think it can’t get worse, you have climate change, overpopulation, nuclear waste, and desertification. Politicians, big business, and energy industries are fighting change and rejecting collective solutions. The GOP won’t acknowledge that climate change exists and want to turn natural lands over to private industry.
The film has great interviews with people who are involved with all facets of the environmental movement, and it has some amazing footage. I don’t think the film is supposed to make you feel so demoralized that you want to give up on trying anything, but that’s the effect it has. While there are plenty of grassroots movements fighting to protect the environment, the film shows they have little top-down support. Governments won’t join international environmental treaties (ahem, United States), many citizens are apathetic, and leaders don’t want to impinge on “business,” even if it means destroying our planet.