Robert Stone's Earth Days combines footage from the birth and youth of the modern environmental movement with interviews with several of its pioneers and early advocates. Originally chosen for closing night of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Earth Days has been playing at festivals and in select theaters during the past months, and is scheduled to premier on Facebook, April 11, and on PBS, April 19 and April 22, in celebration of Earth Day's 40th anniverary.
A press preview was sent to us, and we were confronted with images of a 1950s, post-war America, filled with the urge to aquire bigger, better and more stuff. We took a black-and-white walk down a forest path with Rachel Carson, while one commentator's voiceover expressed that, before Silent Spring, there existed an assumption that living could only be made better through science. We saw the environmental movement come of age in the late 1960s, and 20 million supporters take to the streets on behalf of the planet on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.
Earth Days contains as many, if not more, shocking moments as scenes of pride and celebration. You may find yourself flinching at the depiction of children in a swimming pool being directly sprayed with pesticides. Stone has not created a warm, fuzzy tribute to the founders of the modern environmental movement, but an honest, in-depth look at the trials and triumphs of an effort still causing great controversy today. In fact, you may find oddly familiar the dissenters of several decades ago.
Regardless of whether you lived through much of this history, or, like me, your earliest memories of environmental issues involve an excess of "save the animals" films generated in the 1990s, this documentary, chronicling several decades of our past, is worth 102 minutes of your present.
Top: Stewart Brand's button, "why haven't we seen a photo of the whole earth yet," was instrumental in building awareness of environmental issues. Bottom: Earth Days creator Robert Stone. Photos courtesy of Zeitgeist Films.