5 Documentaries to Become a Woke Environmentalist

Updated: Jun 18

The time for change is now.

Introduction by Laura Marsh, Nova Conservation Founder


Like much of white America, I have spent the past few weeks mourning and praying in solidarity with black people and communities, specifically the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Hopefully we have all listened humbly and accepted the urgency to change our systems.


The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has finally (hopefully) woken us white folk up enough to take the burden for change off communities of color. It's long overdue time for privileged whites like myself to shoulder the responsibility to end systemic racism that African Americans have been fighting and dying for in the past four centuries.

There is still so much more to say, but I'll hopefully have my thoughts together enough to update on what Nova Conservation is planning to do to help change this. In the meantime, you can learn why I started Nova Conservation here, or read today's post (below) about environmental documentaries to grow your "wokeness" during this time....As if there isn't already enough going on in the world.


Take care, and stay safe.


Laura Marsh


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5 Documentaries to Become a Woke Environmentalist


With these past couple of months being as hectic as they’ve been, slowly we are seeing our communities come back to life. Additionally, after repetitive killings of African Americans by police, many people have finally decided to take a stand: fighting against racism and demanding justice.


However, people are still weary of the virus and may continue to stay indoors. Therefore, these are the best times to catch up on that life-long "to-do” list that you've been making. Why not add a documentary (or two, or three) to educate yourself and become environmentally woke?


We have a duty to recognize our privilege and become informed

Before the protests started, I got bored binge-watching unstimulating TV. Plus, connecting to nature gets challenging when you’re trying to avoid human contact on busy trails (but try this or this).


Recently, I made a commitment to replace useless television with informative environmental documentaries. The list below are perspective-shifting films that can virtually capture the touch of nature we've been missing.


5. Cowspiracy: The Sustainable Secret (2014)



“Cowspiracy” is a documentary exploring the appalling and eye-opening truth of large-scale factory farming. This was one of the first environmental films that I ever watched, and man did it hit me hard! But it kick-started my path toward sustainable living.


Filmmakers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn reveal the truth of the world’s largest polluter on a risky, yet imperative, journey to seek sustainability. They highlight how agriculture from livestock is the main cause of "deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean 'dead zones,' and virtually every other environmental ill." However, without awareness, this will continue unchallenged.


On their journey, they reveal the scale and cost of animal agriculture, such as how 1/3 of the earth’s land is used for livestock and livestock feed. Crunching the numbers of actual usable land, this means almost HALF of the earth's land is used in some way for animal agriculture and production!


No wonder cows are the leading cause for climate change! Yet, without educating ourselves and changing our diets, this money-making industry won’t be stopped.


WATCH | NETFLIX

You may also like: 5 Ways to Save the Planet...Even During Quarantine


4. Food Inc. (2016)


“Food Inc.” is a documentary filmed by Robert Kenner that reveals how animal agriculture has become the worlds largest polluter, especially through corrupt food processing.


Exploring the hidden costs of cheap food, this film argues that "mass-produced, 'engineered,' low-price foods come with health, social, and environmental costs.”

People have been lured into this way of easy living, all with permission from USDA and FDA. The film also reveals the close relationship, and thus control, these two regulators have with major food companies regarding the U.S. health guidelines.


It’s not just our fault that we’ve drastically polluted the earth by our eating habits: The government regulations put systems in place that make it cheaper to buy mass produced food and simultaneously more difficult to obtain local, organic food from sustainable sources. Once again, it’s up to us to learn the truth and implement healthier ways of living, for both our bodies and the planet.


WATCH | AMAZON PRIME

3. Our Planet (2019)



Our Planet is an Emmy-award winning 8-part docuseries, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, that explores the damage caused by humans in the past 50 years.

The film takes you from the ice caps and oceans, to the deserts and rainforests, putting you into the lives of different species while showcasing the world’s most-at-risk habitats. You can't help but empathize with imperiled animals as it reveals their struggles to adapt to human-caused changes to their environment.


See also: Endangered Species You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (But Should)


You've probably seen the (occasionally exaggerated) stories of animals re-inhabiting places while humans are on lockdown. Wildlife is slowly creeping back and taking back what once was theirs. For example, the bears of Yosemite National Park have been seen freely wondering the roads without human intrusions, and baby sea turtles have been able to hatch unhindered during their postnatal dash to the ocean. This pandemic has been harsh on our communities, but it has helped wildlife tremendously and hopefully opened many of our eyes to the damaged we’ve been causing to our home.


WATCH | NETFLIX


2. A Plastic Ocean (2016)



Directed by Craig Leeson, A Plastic Ocean investigates the vast amount of plastic pollution in our waterways. Filmed in 20 different countries, it breaks down the path of plastic once tossed into a landfill.


See also: Eco-Friendly Approaches to Globe-Trotting


Americans generate roughly 10 million tons of plastic a year and only 2% gets recycled. Studies have shown that 14 billion pounds of trash, most of it being plastic, is thrown into our oceans each year. Once it’s dumped in the ocean, plastic doesn't ever truly compost or disintegrate: it breaks up into smaller and smaller particles, eventually becoming microscopic and consumed by marine life. These particles make their way into the human food chain, especially when we eat seafood. Plastic pollution has become so widespread in our environment that we could be consuming up to 5 grams of plastic each week! That’s the size of a credit card. Delicious.


You may not even notice it, but it’s because we use so much plastic that it has made its way into our food, drinking water, and even air. This film is definitely a must-see. I recommend it to anyone that isn’t aware of the tragic plastic pollution take-over that is happening in our oceans.


WATCH | NETFLIX

1. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017)



This film is a sequel to the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Both films are the brain child of former Vice President Al Gore tracking his fight to educate and inspire climate action.


When “An Inconvenient Truth” was released, it brought climate change to everyone’s attention, demanding it not go ignored. This first documentary shows the efforts made by Al Gore to convince government officials to invest in renewable energy to fight against an administration that puts their interests with fossil fuels first before the health of our people and planet.

“An Inconvenient Sequel” reveals how close we are to creating an energy revolution if we could only come together, Beetles-style, and make the full-scale conversion to renewable energy. Solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower are all viable sources, especially working in tandem with each other. Yet we continue to choose fossil fuels. Gore once again emphasizes that the time for change is NOW.


WATCH | PRIME VIDEO



Guys, this is the perfect time to become informed on the environmental issues. With the momentum from current protests and activism, people are gaining the spirit and energy for true reform. Our voices are powerful, and these are amazing causes to stand up for. Hopefully these documentaries will be the foundation for inspiring you to make the changes necessary to protect our environment and your own health.

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