I want to learn more about unnatural disasters.
September 25, 2010 3:48 PM   Subscribe

What are some great environmental documentary films and/or series?

I'm not really looking for anything along the lines of "Food, Inc." or "An Inconvenient Truth." I'm mostly interested in stories of specific Superfund sites that explore pollution, toxicity and resulting local public outcry/ health issues. (Sites such as Times Beach, Love Canal, Gowanus, Uravan, etc.)

Documentaries I can download online or order off the internet would be good. I'd love it if they were available on Netflix. (Though I searched for "Chernobyl" on Netflix and got "Cher," so I'm not counting on that.) Relevant book suggestions also welcome!

posted by blackcatcuriouser to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Cove and The End of the Line are both great films, and I've seen them both via Netflix.
posted by 6:1 at 4:09 PM on September 25, 2010

The End of Suburbia is good on Peak Oil, if a bit apocalyptic. I also liked Who Killed the Electric Car? and have heard good things about Life After People. The Future of Food is good on agricultural capitalism and GMOs.

I don't think it's available on Netflix, but Invisible is a good documentary about the way waste from the industrialized West winds up in the breast milk of Intuit women.

Not exactly a documentary, but in the same vein: "Plastic Bag," part of futurestates.tv.
posted by gerryblog at 4:11 PM on September 25, 2010

Oh, and Lessons of Darkness (suggested in my question on oil just yesterday) is quite interesting about oil capitalism.
posted by gerryblog at 4:13 PM on September 25, 2010

Response by poster: Those seem great, but are a bit more macro than I'm looking for. I'm looking for specific stories about places that have been subject to toxic waste pollution and the health/social effects.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:19 PM on September 25, 2010

Most of the ones I suggested do have some local focus, for what it's worth. I'll keep thinking!
posted by gerryblog at 4:32 PM on September 25, 2010

can't go wrong with depleted uranium stories when it comes to pure evil
posted by Redhush at 4:34 PM on September 25, 2010

The VT International Film Festival has a fair amount of these. They have social justice as one of their general topics. I'll toos out movies that I've seen and liked that have a link I can give you.

- Razing Appalachia is about mountaintop removal mining and the people who try to stop it.
- Friendship Village is about a place in Vietnam set up to be a US/Vietnamese partnership to assist Vietnamese children with birth defects as a result of Agent Orange.
- Bombies is about people living surrounded by unexploded ordnance in Laos
- Playing with Poison examines the effects of rampant pesticide use in Mexican villages [great movie, old link no longer works]
- One More Dead Fish is about Nova Scotian fishermen getting gradually squeezed out of their jobs by shifting regulations concerning ocean fishing. Not superfund-y but very "a community deals with an environmental crisis"
- Fenceline: A Town Company Divided is about Shell Oil and whether or not they are poisoning a rural Louisiana town

The distributor of the movie I can't find, Bullfrog Films, puts out a lot of movies along these lines.
posted by jessamyn at 4:38 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

A Chemical Reaction; from imdb: "Canada has spoken and toxic lawn and garden pesticides are now banned in most of the nation. A Chemical Reaction examines how Hudson, Quebec, became the first town in North America to ban these products and inspired hundreds of others to follow suit."
(not exactly an unnatural disaster movie, but it does deal with the topics you mention)
posted by Laura in Canada at 6:49 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment

The title should give you an idea of what it's about. Although I've watched it online in the past, I couldn't find an online source for the video today. But there is this video transcript; I don't know if that's useful to you. It sounds like pretty much what you're asking for. (It won an Academy Award in 1992 for doc short subject.)
posted by heyho at 6:56 PM on September 25, 2010

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki. Fantastic! There's also lots of support materials on the website.
posted by kch at 7:50 PM on September 25, 2010

Does Darwin's Nightmare (2004) fit the bill? It's about the mostly negative economic and social impact of one small decision made fifty years ago -- the release of a bucket full of Nile Perch fish into Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:25 PM on September 25, 2010

Cane toads: an Unnatural History is more related to the potential consequences of biological pest control, but in terms of an excellent documentary, it is hard to beat. This is partly due to it being intensely absurd (with an amazing soundtrack of traditional folk songs reworked to feature cane toads in the lyrics), but it's also good w/r/t being informative.

Also, it's available on Youtube.
posted by DoktorFaustus at 9:19 PM on September 25, 2010

The Yellowstone documentary on Netflix is second to none. Some of the best footage I've seen in a long time in a documentary
posted by SharkLangasta at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

jessamyn mentioned Bullfrog Films and In Our Own Backyard is specifically about Love Canal.
posted by stefnet at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2010

Gasland - A very current film on some of the effects of development of shale gas plays.
posted by buttercup at 6:59 PM on September 27, 2010

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