It's Time For An Environmental Retrospective
Earth Days presents archival footage of those very presidents and the others who served during the intervening years, including Richard Nixon, proclaiming environmental concerns to be crucial and extolling the urgent need for conservationist measures to be put in place.
During their administrations, government environmental agencies were funded to develop and implement alternative and sustainable energy sources. In a monumentally pro-conservation gesture, Jimmy Carter even installed energy-saving solar panels on the White House roof.
The politicians were, of course, responding to public opinion, and the expression of the progressive grassroots environmental movement that was afoot. Earth Days suggests that at its root was NASA's space exploration program and, in particular, those astounding photos of Earth sent home from orbiting space crafts. The iconic images, showing Mother Earth suspended in the vastness of space, brought about a shift in public awareness and opinion. They gave us a clearer view, and understanding, of our reliance of our planet -- and of its vulnerability.
So, what happened and why, if we were nearing sustainability thirty years ago, do we now find ourselves on the brink of ecological disaster?
What Happened to the Environmental Movement?
Stone's Style and Structure
Stone's brilliance as a filmmaker is that he serves the audience by serving his film's subject. A lesser director might have presented all those environmental experts and political heavies as a series of talking heads, but Stone (who also directed Oswald's Ghost, 2007, and the Oscar-nominated Radio Bikini, 1988) deftly avoids such dullness by separating comments from images. In Earth Days, he plays much of his insightful witness commentary as voice over narration in counterpoint to extraordinary images of Earth as seen from space, and other iconic images and startling footage of gas guzzling vehicles trapped in stand still traffic jams, expanses of strip-logged valleys, factories spewing black smoke into the hazy atmosphere, vintage TV ads exemplifying America's wealth and consumerism, assembly lines manned by happy factory workers, loggers protesting the creation of national parks and other memorable visuals. The result is mesmerizing.
More Than The Sum of Its Parts
Additionally, Stone's smartly selective application of computer generated images expands his thesis. The concept of exponential growth, for example, is demonstrated by the refolding of a table cloth over and over. No spoilers here: you'll be shocked to see the thickness -- or distance -- established when a tablecloth is folded 39 times. The bottom line is that Earth Days is full of 'ah ha moments' that will push you to new insights about the environmental movement, American history and filmmaking. This documentary is a perfect marriage of style and substance. You'll want to see it several times. And, when you do, you won't be disappointed.
If You Like This Film, You'll Also Like:
- Earth Days - 2009
- Director: Robert Stone
- US Theatrical Release Date: August 14, 2009 (limited)
- Running Time: 90 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Location: USA
- Language: English
- Production Country: USA
- Production Company: American Experience
- Distribution Company: Zeitgeist