Films about pollution
Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and this culture’s relentless pursuit of engineering, mechanisation, and commodification in the face of environmental collapse. The film shows how fish hatcheries and fish farms threaten wild salmon populations, which in-turn has wide effects on the rest of the environment, but instead of helping wild salmon recover, this culture powers on with hatcheries and farms at great cost, both economically and ecologically. Artifishal explores the process, and what’s at stake if this culture continues its destructive path.
The central thesis of Planet of the Humans is that various people and organisations in the United States claiming to promote ‘green energy’ are actually promoting biomass energy—largely a euphemism for cutting down and burning forests—a practice which is not carbon neutral nor renewable nor sustainable. The film reveals the destruction of environments first-hand, and also explores how wind power and solar power don’t fare much better than fossil fuels in terms of impacts once all the inputs for construction and maintenance are considered and compared. In most cases, the additional demands for resources and construction simply invoke more environmental degradation and pollution. The film examines this push for more industry through key figures in the modern environmental movement that are funded by entities connected to fossil fuels, or have established profit motives, revealing how the environmental movement has been essentially co-opted into a de-facto lobbying arm of ‘green’ industries. The film also posits that regardless of energy systems, overpopulation is a central problem of industrial civilisation, and that this current way of life is unsustainable no matter how it is powered or ‘re-imagined’ by technology.
This biography documents the life of Rachel Louise Carson who was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist. Her book Silent Spring, and other writings, are widely recognised to be responsible for advancing the global environmental movement. Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the United States Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s, turning her attention to conservation, especially some problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring, published in 1962, which brought environmental concerns to the public at large. Although the book was met with vicious attacks from chemical companies, Carson spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. This film is an intimate portrait of the woman whose groundbreaking work revolutionised our relationship with the natural world.
The Devil We Know investigates the toxicity of perfluorooctanoic acid—PFOA/PFA, also known as C8—the key ingredient found in non-stick cookware, stain resistant furniture and carpets, wrinkle free and water repellent clothing, cosmetics, lubricants, paint, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, and many other everyday products. The film centres on Parkersburg, West Virginia, in the United States, at the DuPont facility that manufactured Teflon, and dumped at least 1.7 million pounds of PFOA into rivers and streams between 1951 and 2003, knowing that it was a carcinogen. The film follows the personal stories of several people who worked at the facility that experienced cancers and birth defects, and also reveals the detection of PFOA in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion (ppb) range, with levels much higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations.
RiverBlue shows the toxic effects of textile production and jeans manufacturing on some of the world’s largest rivers. Travelling from tanneries along rivers in India, to some of the largest jeans manufacturing factories in China, renowned river advocate Mark Angelo guides the viewer through the declining health of waterways around the world.
Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? investigates the latest method of providing so-called “green” electricity, as espoused by the renewable energy movement. It’s called biomass, which is a euphemism for clear-cutting and burning forests. It is claimed that this is first a sustainable method of electricity creation, but secondly, and more slanderous, is claimed to be carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly. So how did this become the purported saviour for the power-generation industry, and by extension, the modern environmental movement? Burned provides a visceral account of these questions, while documenting the accelerating destruction of forests to fuel this destructive culture.
Half of all marine life has been lost in the last 40 years. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. The way the ocean is different to how we thought 100 years ago. We can no longer think of it as a place of resources, a dumping ground, immune to change or decline. Blue takes us on a journey into the ocean realm, witnessing the critical moment of our time when the marine world is on the precipice. Passionate advocates for ocean preservation take us into their world where the story of the changing ocean unfolds. We meet those who are defending habitats, campaigning against exploitative commercial fishing, combating marine pollution, and fighting for the protection of keystone species. Blue comes at a time where decisions made today will pave the legacy for what we leave behind for generations to come.
How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change travels the globe, from New York City to the Marshall Islands and China, to meet with people who are committed to reversing the tide of global warming. The film examines the intricately woven forces that threaten the stability of the climate and the lives of the world’s inhabitants.
Adrift is a short film that explores the phenomenon of space junk, where human-made objects launched into space and are now defunct orbit the Earth literally as garbage. The film makes visible some of the immediate impacts and dangers of the technological escalation of this culture, where old satellites, spent rocket stages, and other items orbit the Earth, only to collide with one another at high velocities, generating smaller fragments that collide with other items, and so on. The end point is a cascading complex of junk that engulfs the entire space around the Earth. Adrift aims to make this phenomenon visible, putting a big question mark against the claims made by many futurists and technologists that future space colonisation would even be possible, if only it were a tenable or sensible idea in the first place…
The oil industry giant Chevron began operating in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest in 1964, and by the time the corporation fled the area in 1992, their toxic footprint had brought about 1,700 times more damage than the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in the United States in 1989. Chevron vs. The Amazon visits the scene of this epic and enduring crime, to uncover the acts that have killed the riches of the world’s tropical paradise. The Amazon is home to hundreds of thousands of unique species of plants, animals, insects, landscapes, as well as an equally diverse human population—all under severe and continued stress and threat. Chevron dumped 17 billion gallons of crude oil and 19 billions gallons of contaminated waste water into the Amazon. Prior to fleeing, they attempted to hide this by covering the areas with dirt or setting the toxic dumps on fire. This film shows the totality of these crimes, and how the land and its people have suffered from devastating impacts over the ensuing decades, as the first step to holding corporate criminals to account, for justice and the survival of the Amazon and its peoples.
Pretty Slick reveals the untold story of BP’s coverup following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion is known as one of the largest environmental catastrophes in the history of the United States, but what is not well-known is that BP, along with government approval, used toxic chemicals to sink the oil in the water rather than clean it up, using a controversial chemical dispersant called Corexit. Because of this, it is estimated that approximately 75% of the oil, or over 150 million gallons, is still unaccounted for. When filmmaker James Fox learned of this, he began a three year investigation to find out about the dispersant use and its coverup. Pretty Slick reveals how public safety and environmental health took a backseat to restoring the economy, and along the way exposes the collusion between big oil and the United States government in these happenings.
Following on from previous reports about the numerous threats from industry facing the Great Barrier Reef, investigative journalist Marian Wilkinson returns to Queensland, Australia some years later to not only review the continued declining state of the reef, but to unfortunately investigate a new string of threats. This year, the government agency tasked with protecting the reef has approved a plan to expand the Abbot Point coal port which has serious cumulative effects on the already stressed reef and surrounding ecology. This in conjunction with the realities caused by anthropogenic climate change means the health of the reef has arguably past tipping point. Do we care enough to shift our perception of viewing everything through the lens of the economy? And not only that—do we care enough to act?
On April 20th 2010, a massive oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. It was called the Deepwater Horizon rig, operated by the BP corporation. The resulting fire claimed the lives of eleven workers, while the exploding oil well spewed over 4.2 million barrels of oil into the sea over 82 straight days, killing the ocean and millions of animals. The disaster is considered the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States. Ecocide profiles the disaster through the residents of Grand Isle, the last inhabited barrier island off the coast of Louisiana, United States, who thought they were living in paradise until the BP oil explosion hit their shores. Through the lived experiences of this island community, we see the devastating repercussions of the explosion, several years later, that continue to this day.
Nuclear Nation II is Atsushi Funahashi’s sequel, documenting the consequences of the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Japan. In this follow-up, we learn that the former mayor—previously a fervent advocate of nuclear energy and now a passionate fighter for the victims of the catastrophe—has now been replaced by someone younger. The single-minded cattle breeder also makes another appearance, originally having resisted the government’s orders to evacuate the disaster zone and kill his livestock. Today, a look at his animals lays bare the consequences of radioactive contamination: they all have ulcers and open wounds. It wasn’t until late 2014 that the final people left the school building, but they’re unlikely ever to be able to return to their homes. The epicentre of the catastrophe has been declared a toxic waste disposal site. The inhabitants of Futaba, to whom nuclear energy once brought affluence, are now paying the high price for it.
Who Pays the Price — The Human Cost of Electronics is a short film that seeks to humanise the largely hidden and anonymous global labour force that enables the ubiquitous technoculture, documenting the harsh conditions in which electronics are made and how this really impacts those people’s lives, and the environment. Toxic chemicals, plastics, and sweat-shop working conditions all contribute to the global machine that disseminates digital technologies, hidden in plain sight. Through direct footage of factory workers, interviews with them and analysis of the conditions, Who Pays the Price asks the question of the viewer, and as a call to action to stop the exploitation and toxification of people and the natural world.
In the past 40 years, global consumption of fish has doubled. Having decimated natural fish populations globally, the industrial food system has turned to mass-scale farming practices in order to sustain the unsustainable, supplying huge supermarket chains and commercial food outlets with cheap processed fish products. What do we know about this and these processes? And what of the lives of the fish? What about their health and the health of the waters in which they’re taken? Fillet-Oh!-Fish is the result of yet another indictment of the industrial food system, agriculture and factory farming—all of which have egregious implications to the health and well-being of species, and the planet as a whole. We see myriad mixes of pesticides and other chemicals, leading to toxic rivers and streams, the pervasiveness of the industrial food system, with glimpses into working conditions and processing methods, as well as the perniciousness of globalisation, with the world-wide reach of this crazy system that has hijacked a fundamental life-giver: food.
Gasland Part II follows on three years later, to continue documenting how the stakes have been raised on all sides in one of the most devastating environmental issues rapidly spreading the globe. This sequel further enriches the argument that the gas industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a lie, where in fact fracked wells inevitably leak over time, and vent exuberantly more potent greenhouse gasses such as methane in cumulative effect, not to mention the continued string of cases of severe water contamination across the United States and even cases as far away as Australia. Gasland Part II follows deeper into these happenings, revealing yet more of an entrenched corporate collusion in the pursuit of exploiting dwindling ‘natural resources’…
Just along the fault lines of the Pacific Rim of Fire from Japan, lies Taiwan—another heavily industrialised, modern economy highly reliant on nuclear power. Ninety percent of the world’s earthquakes occur along the Rim of Fire, so no wonder there are worries about a fourth nuclear plant being built there. The government of Taiwan is promising to hold a referendum on its future, but if the reactor doesn’t go ahead the country’s nuclear strategy is in question, along with the $9 billion already spent on the plant. And the state-owned power company, Taipower, would face bankruptcy, leaving no one to manage Taiwan’s nuclear waste. The waste currently sits across the water on the tiny Orchid Island, quickly corroding and risking potential disaster for the native Tao inhabitants. As fears grow, can we learn from Fukushima before it’s too late?
On 11th March 2011, a huge tsunami, triggered by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake, hits Japan. It cripples the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, releasing radiation, and turning the residents of Futaba into nuclear refugees. The devastation experienced by the town—dead livestock, crops abandoned, homes destroyed—was infinitely worse than anything reported by the newspapers. A year later, many refugees are still unable to return to homes that will be contaminated for many hundreds of years. The irony of this disaster occurring in a nation that experienced two nuclear bombs is not lost on the victims who poignantly question their responsibility for striking a Faustian bargain with nuclear power. Nuclear Nation examines the tragedy of Fukushima, and also whether it could one day be replicated on a grand scale.
Aluminium is everywhere—beer cans, tinned food, cooking pans, computers, pens, cosmetics; and many medications, including most vaccinations. Though what do we know about this material? The Age of Aluminium profiles people whose health has been seriously impacted by unwitting exposure to aluminium; along with research exploring how aluminium as a known neurotoxin relates to the growing epidemic of chronic illnesses and disabilities such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, and autism. Aluminium mining and manufacturing have also created cataclysmic environmental problems in several parts of the world, as we see the devastating effects of aluminium mining in South America, and environmental disasters in Hungary and the UK. What are we doing with this material? And what can we do now to avoid the continued impacts on our lives and the natural world?
On 20th April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, killing eleven workers, and spewing millions of barrels of oil into the ocean for weeks. Dirty Energy brings to light the personal stories of the Louisiana fishermen and local residents directly impacted by one of the worst environmental disasters in recent history, as they struggle to rebuild their lives and contend with emerging health crises related to the toxic dispersants used to clean up the explosion.
In 2010, the United States announced the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years. But a year later in Japan, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit, preceding a cataclysmic meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant bringing the reality of nuclear power back into public consciousness across the globe. For some. Both political parties of the United States ignored this and continued a pro-nuclear agenda, while others, forgetting more of the past, didn’t realise the history of home. The Atomic States of America serves to break this forgetting by travelling from the gates of Three Mile Island, to the cooling ponds of Braidwood to document just some of what has happened and is happening with nuclear power in the United States today. By speaking with communities throughout the country, this film documents arrays of stories of polluted drinking water, government collusion with industry, cover-ups, cancer epidemics and other suppressed stories. Begun more than a year before the disaster in Japan, this film gains a unique before and after perspective, seeking to inspire an honest remembering about just what this culture has done and continues to do for power at the expense of the world.
The small town of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta, Canada, is facing up for the fight against The Alberta oil sands, which is arguably now the world’s largest construction project. Its expansion will have an estimated $1.7 trillion impact on the Canadian economy over the coming decades. An area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be affected by industrial activity. Once again the issue is water, but this time it is not just the flow of the river, but the chemicals the current may be carrying downstream from the strip mines and bitumen upgraders. In recent years, Fort Chipewyan has experienced an unusually high rate of cancer. Local fishermen are finding growing numbers of deformed fish in their nets. Residents and the community doctor, worry there could be a connection to the oil sands…
Ever since three reactors went into meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011; a broad, disparate, anti-nuclear movement is growing in Japan. Nowhere is that more apparent, perhaps, than in Fukushima prefecture, where a group of local women boldly protest the deafening silence of the Japanese government over the worst nuclear accident of this century. Largely ignored by their own media, these brave women brush aside cultural shyness and share their honest views on the state of the cleanup, the cover-ups, the untruths and the stagnant political climate in today’s Japan…
Almost 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is generated worldwide, every year. A large volume of it is shipped off to Ghana, in West Africa, as “second-hand goods” where electronics are not seen for what they once where, but rather for what they’ve become. Without dialogue or narration, e-Wasteland presents a visual portrait of vast landscapes polluted by electronic waste, shining a light on the endless consumerism of the 1st world; and the real, pervasive, ecological impact of electronic waste worldwide.
China’s factories provide low cost products such as computers and cars to the rest of the world, but the real cost is high with heavy air pollution, contaminated waterways, decimated land, terrible working conditions, widespread cancer and incidences of deaths. China’s Dirty Secrets travels across the country to follow workers at factories that assemble computers, then to e-waste dumps, and finally an industrial incinerator burning medical waste, all showing first-hand the extensive environmental impacts of so-called “economic growth.”
Bikpela Bagarap (Big Damage) is the story of logging in Papua New Guinea, following the reality of systemic exploitation by logging companies of indigenous communities, where locals are not even citizens in their own country. Customary landowners are coerced into signing release documents, or sign with the understanding that promises for clean water, health and education will be delivered. On the contrary, traditional hunting grounds are destroyed, waterways polluted, and livelihoods threatened.
Plasticized follows an ocean journey with the 5 Gyres Institute, a non-profit organisation that focuses on reducing plastics pollution through research. The expedition was the first scientific journey looking at plastic waste across the South Atlantic Ocean. The film takes a look at one of the institute’s global missions: studying the effects, reality and scale of plastic pollution around the world. The boat skims the surface of the ocean by trawling, in order to examine the toxic effects of plastic pieces to tissues of marine life. Many tiny bits of plastic are found contaminating the waters, and they’re sometimes not seen because the rough waters push them down. Every few kilometres, one teaspoon of plastic is collected. This may not seem like much, but this amount adds up substantially, considering that the ocean is vast and covers two-thirds of the planet.
All over the world, species are going extinct at an extraordinary rate—currently around 250 per day—a scale never before seen. Call of Life investigates the growing threat to Earth’s life support systems from this unprecedented loss of biodiversity by exploring the causes, scope, and potential effects of this mass extinction. The film also looks beyond the immediate causes of the crisis to consider how our cultural and economic systems, along with deep-seated psychological and behavioral patterns, have allowed this situation to develop and be reinforced, and even determine our response to it. Call of Life tells the story of a crisis not only of nature, but also of human nature; a crisis more threatening than anything human beings have ever faced…
Once advertised as the birthplace of a bright new future for the American Dream, Salton City, California is now crumbling into an apocalyptic landscape of pollution and desolate land. As farmers burn their fields, and the honey bee population dwindles, scum floats down the most polluted river in North America, which carries raw sewage, pesticides and factory waste from Mexico into the once-beautiful Salton Sea. Toxic Imperial Valley travels through these landscapes, meeting the squatters and other occupiers left, in what looks like the end of the world…
Sweet Crude is the story of how large oil corporations such as Shell and Chevron have absolutely decimated the Niger Delta, but the people are fighting back. The film shows the human and environmental consequences of 50 years of oil extraction against an insurgency of people who, in the three years after the filmmakers met them as college students, became the young of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The movement is born after series of non-violent protests, and what the corporations and colonisers don’t understand is that these people will fight for their land and emancipation until the end. Sweet Crude is their story of survival and armed resistance against corrupt governments and rapacious corporate power, amongst a complicit and collusive mainstream media.
Canada’s tar sands are the largest industrial project ever undertaken—spanning the size of England. Extracting the oil and bitumen from underneath unspoiled wilderness requires a massive industrialised effort with far-reaching impacts on the land, air, water, and climate. It’s an extraordinary industrial spectacle, the true scope of which can only be understood from an aerial view. Shot primarily from a helicopter, Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands offers an unparalleled view of the world’s largest ever industrial project…
Poisoned Waters investigates some of the root causes of what we see worldwide with ecological collapse, dead-zones and pollution effecting oceans, rivers and watersheds. With a focus on major waterways in the United States such as the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, the film follows the culmination of decades of evidence that today’s systemic and growing environmental collapse comes not only from the toxic activities of industry, agriculture and massive suburban development; but also from the permeated satiety of chemicals in prolific consumer products such as face-creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners. This is a startling reminder of the compounding threat facing our world and the need to act imperatively.
The Idiot Cycle investigates six major chemical companies—Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Astrazeneca and Monsanto—that are not only responsible for producing decades of cancer causing chemicals and pollution all across the globe, but also profit extensively from controlling cancer treatments and the production of drugs for those treatments. The irony is palpable. Also examined is how these very same companies own the most patents on genetically modified foods that have also never been tested for long-term health impacts like cancer. When there’s dioxin in every mother’s breast-milk, rivers throughout the world that no longer support life, cataclysmic environmental damage from industry and manufacturing—when do we say enough is enough?
In the early hours of March 24th 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil supertanker runs aground in Alaska. The ship discharges several tens of millions of gallons of crude oil. The incident becomes the biggest environmental assault in North American history, and in a flash, the news shoots across the planet along with footage of thousands of dead seabirds, sea otters and other marine life covered in oil, devastated. Thick black tides rise and cover the beaches of the once-pristine reefs of Alaska. Black Wave recalls this event, a generation later, by speaking with renowned marine toxicologist Riki Ott and the fishermen of the little town of Cordova, Alaska. They tell us all about the environmental and social consequences of the black wave that changed their lives forever—the legacy of the Exxon Valdez that still lingers today.
Flow—For The Love Of Water builds a case against the growing privatisation of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with a specific focus on human rights, pollution, the politic of corporate influence in the emergence of a domineering global water cartel. The film names and clearly documents many of the culprits, while asking the question—can anyone really ‘own’ water?
The Planet is a stylised observational video commentary that brings together an overview of the many global changes set about by industrial civilisation. Viewed through the myriad connections between consumerism and the false notion of a perpetually expanding economy on a finite planet, the film peers across the globe to reveal systemic exploitation; species extinction driven by industrial agriculture, logging, mining, manufacturing, pollution, the age of oil and plastic, etc; climate change; carrying capacity and population growth; while also positing that we—as in you and me—can do something, anything, to stop the destruction.
In July 2005, the Australian government announced its plan to open a radioactive waste-dump facility in one of three Department of Defence sites in the Northern Territory of Australia. With widespread community resistance by the indigenous people of the territory, No Where Here in the Middle documents the ongoing story of resistance to the dump and the fight to be free of toxins, poison, and a brutal occupation.
Following on from the series Planet Earth which looked at various forms of life across the globe, Planet Earth — The Future highlights the issues of conservation and the future of the environments and species featured in the Planet Earth series. Using interviews with the film-makers and eminent figures from the fields of science, conservation, politics, and theology, the series poses questions around the effectiveness of the environmental movement, and the future of the planet. A lot needs to change in order to ward off catastrophe…
David Attenborough explores just how far climate change is altering our planet—from drought-stricken rainforest to declining polar bears, from flooded homes to bleached coral. Are We Changing Planet Earth? explores the evidence that it is industrial civilisation and the activities of humans which are radically changing the climate…