Aired Monday April 19th, 2010 at 8:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
Preparations for First Earthdays
This program was screened at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 15th at the Swaner EcoCenter. Learn more!
Free Screening of "Earth Days" followed by discussion on Thursday, April 15th at 7:00 p.m. at the Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive, Park City - See Below for more information
In "Earth Days," acclaimed director Robert Stone ("Oswald's Ghost," "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst") traces the origins of the modern environmental movement through the eyes of nine Americans who propelled the movement from its beginnings in the 1950s to its moment of triumph in 1970 with the original Earth Day and to its status as a major political force in America.
Drawing heavily on eyewitness testimony and never-before-seen archival footage, Stone examines the revolutionary achievements - and missed opportunities - of groundbreaking activism. The result is both a probing analysis of past responses to environmental crisis and a poetic meditation on complex relationship with nature. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE "Earth Days" airs Monday, April 19, at 8:00 p.m. on KUED.
Among those interviewed is former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, who recently passed away; renewable energy pioneer Hunter Lovins; biologist Paul Ehrlich; former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey; Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes; and Apollo Nine astronaut Rusty Schweickart. They each reflect on their personal awakening to an environmental crisis and the activism that grew out of that crisis.
In the 1950s, a small group of scientists began to document the impact of technology on the Earth's ecosystem. By 1970, the stakes could not have been higher. Exponential and unstoppable growth in environmental pollution was taking place on a number of fronts. The world's human population had nearly doubled since World War II and was set to double again by the year 2000. Mass starvation was predicted by the end of the decade. Ninety percent of America's rivers were heavily contaminated with industrial pollution, agricultural runoff and human waste. Breathing the air in Los Angeles was equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Dangerous pesticides, such as DDT, had brought the American bald eagle - the nation's symbol - to the brink of extinction.
National concern about the environment crystallized on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans from all walks of life - 10 percent of the U.S. population - mobilized in a dramatic show of support for a cleaner environment. Earth Day aroused a political force that ushered in an explosion of new laws and regulations, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, the first legislation of its kind.
By 1972, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, established the Environmental Protection Agency, enacted the first fuel efficiency standards for cars, and phased out the use of pesticides like DDT. Sensing the public mood, many corporations, too, pledged to be more environmentally responsible.
In 1979, a national energy crisis propelled environmental issues further into the mainstream. In response, President Jimmy Carter outlined his plan to reduce oil imports and improve energy efficiency. He encouraged Americans to scale back their energy use, installed solar panels on the roof of the White House, and invested in renewable energy research.
But as the political landscape shifted, the solutions that many activists believed were the most promising came to a halt. Federal funding for energy research was slashed by as much as 80 percent in some instances. In 1986, under the Reagan administration, Carter's solar panels were removed from the White House roof and never replaced.
Nearly 40 years after the original Earth Day, those interviewed in Stone's film remain dedicated. "Environmental problems emerge out of daily life, and the solutions are also rooted in daily life. We need six billion people to get up and have a different consciousness and do things differently," says scientist Dennis Meadows. "Is that realistic? Probably not. But it's at least the hope that I have, that's what has been able to sustain 35 years of work on this effort and it's one I'll keep for the next 10 or 20 years, as long as I'm able to keep working."
"The environmental movement has come a long way from its start in the 1950s, but we're still facing many of the same unanswered questions," says AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Mark Samels. "Examining the gains - and losses - of this relatively young movement may provide a useful roadmap for the future."
Join KUED, the SLC Film Center and the Swaner EcoCenter for a screening and discussion of Earth Days Thursday April 15 at 7:00 p.m. Reserve your spot by calling (435) 649-1767 extension 103, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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