Ten Lessons Of The Environmental Movement, According To A Fierce Green Fire

6. Love Canal, Mutant Factory

One astounding act of A Fierce Green Fire is dedicated to this infamous New York neighborhood built atop an Occidental Petroleum toxic-waste dump. The entire segment beggars belief, from its alarming genetic and physical deformities to its naked corporate corruption. But its most stunning achievement is its grassroots uprising, led by the legendary Lois Gibbs, who galvanized neighbors and the nation alike. But most egregious is the government’s claim that Gibbs’ personal investigations, later correlated by pretty much everyone, was comprised of what she recalled as “useless housewife data.” And that EPA relocation advisory blocked by Carter? Mindfuck, the Sequel.

7. “Apartheid American Style!”

Lost in the toxic soup of environmental and corporate pollution are the disproportionate numbers of people of color condemned to sickness and death. That is, until the conscientious pioneer Robert Bullard arrived in the ’80s to ignite the environmental justice movement as we know it. But the author of Dumping in Dixie and Toxic Waste and Race understands that true environmentalism is both colorful and colorblind. “There’s no Hispanic air,” he argues in A Fierce Green Fire. “There’s no African-American air. There’s air! If you breathe air — and most people I know do breathe air — then I would consider you an environmentalist.”

8. The Coming of Environmental Terrorism?

With global resource wars already well underway, enviroterrorism seems like it’s going to become, as the popular slang goes, a thing. But it has proven polarizing on either side of the environmental movement. On one side you have insurgents like Greenpeace influential and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, who as A Fierce Green Fire graphically illustrates isn’t shy about getting physical for his environmental beliefs. This philosophy is corroborated somewhat in the documentary by Greenpeace co-founder Bob “Mind Bombs” Hunter, who notes that “we’re insane” for killing sperm whales for their lubricant, which we use to make better inter-continental ballistic missiles to kill each other. But despite the fact that Watson, currently fighting extradition notices from Costa Rica and Japan, has been battling whalers worldwide, Kitchell seems confident that the enviroterrorism label won’t stick to him.

“Not a chance,” he said. “Every time they go after Paul Watson, he just gets bigger.”

But Kitchell stops short of endorsing more radical environmentalists, whose records speak for themselves.

“I had to stop using terms like radical ecology or deep ecology, in favor of alternative ecology movements,” he added. “Radicals means Earth First, and much as I love and respect them, look how much they accomplished.”

9. Chico Mendes, Amazonian Canary

One moving act of A Fierce Green Fire is dedicated to this indefatigable grassroots environmentalist, whose leadership of Brazilian rubbertappers seeking to save the Amazon rainforest from rapacious development cost him his life. It is one of the documentary’s most bittersweet moments, given that the Amazon — which comprises over half of Earth’s remaining rainforests and stores 10 billion tons of carbon, more than annual global emissions from fossil fuel combustion — is in danger of losing its total cover by 2100. Be afraid, very afraid.

“Thomas Lovejoy, who has studied the Amazon and how it unravels the most closely and the longest, talks about global forestry compacts and deals, and regulating carbon and nitrogen. He’s saying, it’s a new day. And who knows? It might even make us get along! There have been and will be parts of the Amazon that are lost. The rain machine will stutter and maybe halt. But a third of the Amazon is under formal protection. That’s impressive and amazing, better than we’ve done in America.”

“So it will be a world of islands, biologically and otherwise,” Kitchell concluded. “Find a good place to take refuge, go local, consume less, dematerialize and cyberneticize. And restore the land.”

10. Global Warming Is Truly Bipartisan

One thing above all becomes crystal clear while watching A Fierce Green Fire: When it comes to climate change, it is both Democrats and Republicans who have screwed us all. The documentary’s final act on the greatest environmental threat facing any generation of American history has nothing good to say about either party, from Nixon to Carter to Reagan to Clinton to Bush to Obama.

Which is why it’s more important than ever for citizens of any political persuasion to take up the charge and force the American government to get it in gear before global warming turns into a full-fledged apocalypse rendering the Earth uninhabitable. And the Keystone XL pipeline — whose cargo means game over for climate stability, as NASA atmospheric physicist James Hansen so incisively argued last year — is the flashpoint for that fight, which needs to heat up, not cool down.

“It is a protest against the Obama administration, meant very deliberately to put pressure on them to do the right thing,” Kitchell said. “And it seems to be working. I don’t hear much talk of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy now. But part of the problem with the environmental movement is it doesn’t have the power to swing elections and instill fear and discipline in politicians. You could say that of most mass movements, though.”

“I’ve been trying in this film, and the process of making it, to look at the bigger picture of where environmentalism is going and what it means,” he added. “I think it’s about civilizational transformation, an idea I got from Paul Hawken. It’s the next big transition after the Industrial Revolution, and it’s about reinventing the way we make and do everything to bring our industrial society into sustainable balance with the natural world on which we depend for survival. That’s why the subtitle of the film is The Battle For a Living Planet.”

‘We Are Slaves To Fossil Fuels:’ An Interview With Chasing Ice Director Jeff Orlowski

Morphizm: Climate change is existentially exhausting.

Jeff Orlowski: It’s a tough issue. It’s hard for people to maintain the energy to get the issue out there, because the opposition is so well-funded. But I still have a lot of hope: One of my mentors is Jane Goodall, and she always talks about the indomitable human spririt, which I agree with. But she also talks about the resiliecy of nature. This is not a matter of saving the planet or protecting the environment. The planet is going to be fine. The question is what kind of civilization are we going to have that will be able to sustain any semblance of what we’re used ot. That’s what it comes down to, in my mind. Our lifestyle is in jeopardy now…