Earth Days Revisits Environmentalism’s Early Years


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 “hippie astronaut” Rusty Schweickart—engagingly recount 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 acknowledge that green power was diluted when it became Washington-centric in the ’70s and ’80s. There’s great archival footage (those anti-pollution PSAs with Iron Eyes Cody from the ’70s remain quite powerful), including a snippet from Face the Nation during which former Voice columnist James Ridgeway asks whether environmentalism is deflecting attention away 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 era, when many consider carrying an “I’m NOT a Plastic Bag” tote or sipping from a Klean Kanteen bottle a political act.