“Civilizations have crashed […] in the past – today we have a global civilization that is doing what many of those other ones did.” With a picture of the Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt as a background, followed by Mayan pyramids, the documentary Earth Days by Robert Stone begins.
After WW II, America was all about consumerism, complete with huge gas guzzling cars. Then in 1962 Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring appeared, and when President John F. Kennedy’s call for more scientific research resulted in more evidence of the damage that chemicals were doing, public awareness and the modern environmental movement was born.
Many US Presidents since have warned about an impending disaster, and slowly more and more people have listened.
The first environmental laws were developed. A lot has improved. A lot still has to be done.
As much as being about environmentalism, the documentary is about how life in America has changed since the early 1950’s. It’s fascinating. What ideas such as “progress” meant, and its impact. Which gives us insights into what is happening in some countries in the developing world.
Two of my favorite ideas from the documentary? One is Hunter Lovin’s point that we’ve all got to work together to help our planet. We’re in this together. Splitting into sides and fighting for what your side believes is right doesn’t work – dialogue and diplomacy are the ways to go.
My favorite quote from the entire documentary is it’s final word. Stewart Brand says that we have the opportunity to do something in our lifetime that goes way beyond us. What we do now will affect the whole rest of human life on Earth, for another 3 ½ billion years. Eternity. “Once you get that really clear in your mind, what do you do on Monday?”
You can watch the American Experience documentary on PBS website.