Earth Days: Eco-Doc Recalls the Green Early ’70s

Veteran doc maker Robert Stone (Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, Oswald's Ghost) assembles nine talking, graying heads to reminisce about the origins of the environmental movement in the U.S., which kicked off in earnest in 1962 with the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and blossomed with the first Earth Day in 1970. Stone's nonet—which includes former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand, and Seattle's own Denis Hayes—engagingly recounts the sober realizations of the '60s (back-to-the-landers "who tried to live in an egalitarian way quickly got over it," Brand chuckles), and acknowledges that green power was diluted when it became Washington-centric in the '70s and '80s. There's great archival footage (those '70s anti-pollution PSAs with Iron Eyes Cody remain quite powerful), including a snippet from Face the Nation in which journalist James Ridgeway asks whether environmentalism is deflecting attention from far more polarizing, pressing issues like Vietnam, civil rights, and women's liberation. The question is never answered, but remains just as salient in our post–Inconvenient Truth, Iraq War era, when many consider carrying a hemp shopping bag or sipping from a Klean Kanteen bottle a political act.

 
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