Anthropogenic climate change has been frequently in the news, especially over the past decade.
The vast majority of scientists accept it as a reality and warn that it could have dire consequences.
Our excessive use of carbon-based fossil fuels has been adding far more carbon to the atmosphere
and oceans than is normally there, and that extra carbon is altering the climate and the planet in
ways we only dimly understand.
Documentarians, especially over the past decade or so, have made a number of environmentally conscious
films to educate the public about climate change or related environmental crises.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Arguably the grandfather of the modern environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth
famously starred Al Gore who also wrote the screenplay and associated book.
The film portrayed Gore’s efforts to learn about climate change and then educate other people
An Inconvenient Truth convincingly argues that climate change is real, caused by human activity,
and potentially catastrophic.
Food, Inc. (2008)
Made by Robert Kenner, whose most recent project is an adaptation of the book Merchants of Doubt,
Food, Inc. is a documentary about industrial farming in the United States.
Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan narrate the film which depicts the harm industrial farming causes
to both humans and animals.
The resulting food is cheap but also unhealthy, and it is often contaminated by various toxins.
Many of the pesticides and fertilizers used in food production are petroleum-based.
No Impact Man (2009)
Based on the book by Colin Beavan, No Impact Man is about a man in New York City who
conducts a year-long experiment in which he tries to reduce his carbon footprint.
His self-imposed rules included only buying food that had been produced within 250 miles,
not using any paper products (even toilet paper), not using any transportation that used
fossil fuels and not producing any trash other than compost.
Tapped is Stephanie Soechtig’s debut film about the bottled water industry.
She and Jason Lindsey concentrated on the economic and ecological effects of the industry.
They described one study that found the plastic in the bottles contained harmful chemicals,
including known carcinogens.
The filmmakers also noted that 40% of bottled water is nothing more than filtered tap water–
and tap water can be had for free.
buy, download, rent, or screen the film.
The End of the Line (2009)
Directed by Robert Murray, The End of the Line is about overfishing, which scientists argue
will exterminate most fish species by 2050.
The bluefin tuna, for example, is on the verge of extinction because of the growing demand
The film describes the decimation of the cod population off the coast of Newfoundland, which
had once been the most abundant cod population in the world.
The film also suggests ways that people can save the remaining fish.
The End of the Line can be streamed and bought through various means.
Directed and written by Josh Fox, Gasland is a documentary about hydraulic fracturing
Fox begins his film about a letter he received in 2008 from a natural gas company that
wanted to lease his family’s land in order to drill for gas.
That inspired Fox to learn how communities were being affected by the boom in natural
He found that some people had health problems due to contamination of their water or air.
Gasland can be streamed on Netflix.
Chasing Ice (2012)
Chasing Ice tells of James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey, a project in which he and a team
of environmental photographers used time-lapse cameras to records changes in the Arctic
glaciers of a period of several years.
The film is best known for its depiction of a glacier calving at Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland
which someone compared to “watching a city break apart.”
DVD available for purchase.
More Than Honey (2012)
More Than Honey is a Swiss documentary directed by Markus Imhoof.
The film describes colony collapse disorder, which scientists and beekeepers have been studying
since the late 1990s.
Colony collapse disorder is a pandemic that has decimated honeybee hives all over the world.
Since 80% of the world’s plant species require bees to pollinate them, the decline of the honeybee
will have wide-ranging consequences.
Racing Extinction (2015)
Louis Psihoyos, who had directed The Cove (2009) made Racing Extinction, which states that
the world is currently in the grip of a sixth mass extinction that could wipe out half the world’s
species by the end of the century.
The causes include the international wildlife trade and the increase in carbon in the atmosphere.
The oceans absorb some of that carbon and thus are becoming more acidic.
That acidity is killing off the world’s phytoplankton, which is the source of 50% of the world’s oxygen.
Under the Dome (2015)
The filmmaker, Chai Jing, was inspired to make it after her then-unborn daughter developed a tumor.
Believing that air pollution caused the tumor, Chai set out to find proof.
In the movie, she criticizes state-owned companies and the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
The Chinese government was angry and removed the documentary from various websites.
For that reason, it is not available for streaming anywhere but can still be found on YouTube.
All of the above films are warnings!
protect the earth, our health, the environment and the future of our natural resources.
While a majority were made in the United States, some were made in other countries which reflects
the global nature of the environmental problems facing us.
Similarly, many of the films depict a given crisis as affecting many different countries.
About the Author:
Maria Ramos is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.
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