However, we also look at how the struggles continue and the issues grow in scope until it’s an open question whether they’re too big for the environmental movement to deal with. Our approach differs from the usual environmental documentary in two ways.
First is our focus on activism. We reveal the issues by showing how people acted on them; it’s a more engaging approach, emphasizing drama and passion. Second is our emphasis on the big picture – connections, core ideas, what it all means. This film is designed to reach and teach a huge and hungry audience, give them an understanding of environmentalism like nothing before. Now we must all be environmentalists, as Bob Bullard the environmental justice advocate puts it: “There’s no Hispanic air. There’s no African-American air. There’s air! And if you breathe air – and most people I know do breathe air... then I would consider you an environmentalist.”
A Fierce Green Fire unfolds in five acts, each 20-25 minutes. E.O. Wilson, the biologist and advisor to the film, suggested focusing on five of the most dramatic and important events and people. In developing those main stories and characters, we discovered each was emblematic of an era and a part of the environmental movement. So we devised an hourglass structure for each act. They begin with the broader context. Then they focus in on the main story, more fully told. Finally they open up again to explore ramifications.
• Act 1 focuses on David Brower and the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon, a pivotal event in the flowering of conservation that led to a new environmental consciousness at Earth Day.
• Act 2 tells of Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal residents’ struggle against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals, the climax of campaigns against pollution and poisons that run from Silent Spring to environmental justice.
• Act 3 is about Greenpeace’s wild ride from confronting whalers’ harpoons to a moratorium on whaling, including Paul Watson breaking away to form Sea Shepherd. More broadly we explore radical ecology – going back to the land, building alternatives, anti-nuke and European strands.
• Act 4 follows the struggle to save the Amazon led by Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers, which cost his life but led to reserves that set aside a third of the rainforest. Around it is a look at the rise of global resource issues and crises, indigenous movements and anti-globalization forces.
• Act 5 concerns climate change -- the origins and rise of the problem from hell; a twenty-year tale of top-down political paralysis; and all the bottom-up movements around the globe beginning to transform industrial society, putting us on a path to sustainability.
A Fierce Green Fire’s style is similar to Berkeley in the Sixties, project director Mark Kitchell’s previous work which was nominated for an Academy Award, won top honors and has become a well-loved classic -- one of the defining films about the protest movements that shook America in the 1960s. Thirty interviews have been shot so far. Some are central characters, like Lois Gibbs, Paul Watson and Bill McKibben. Others are key figures, including conservation biologist Tom Lovejoy and climate scientist Stephen Schneider, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club and John Adams of NRDC. Some are gems discovered through extensive research: Barbara Bramble, whose work on World Bank loans led her to Chico Mendes and the struggle to save the Amazon; and Jennifer Morgan, who led the World Wildlife Fund’s international campaign to halt climate change. Bob Bullard talks about the rise of the environmental justice movement. Stephanie Mills, Lee Swenson and Paul Relis sketch radical ecology. Brice Lalonde, Tom Burke and Wolfgang Sachs bring European perspectives. Philip Shabecoff, whose book A Fierce Green Fire is the basis for this film, provides an overview. Most recently we interviewed Amory Lovins, the energy expert and visionary scientist. Coming up in the final round of interviews are: Marina Silva, the rubbertapper who became senator from Acre and just ran for president of Brazil; Mary Allegretti, the anthropologist who worked closely with Chico Mendes and helped to establish reserves; Stewart Brand who, from the Whole Earth Catalog to Whole Earth Discipline, has pushed the envelope; Paul Hawken, whose Natural Capitalism and Blessed Unrest explore the depth and breadth of environmentalism; Terry Tamminen, leader of subnational campaigns against climate change; and more. The other major element of the movie is all the archival material we dug up – glorious, vivid film that captures the events in all their immediacy and passion. We’ve gathered material from more than a hundred sources – truly we stand on the shoulders of giants – culled the best and shaped it into a story that transports you back over fifty years. Audiences love the chance to be there and see people fighting to change the world.