On the Beach

By Stanley Kramer (1959)

From IMDb: “The residents of Australia after a global nuclear war must come to terms with the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.”

Old Quabbin Valley


Boston’s history has included a long reach for adequate water supplies. The city controls a complex system of aqueducts and reservoirs stretching 80 miles into western Massachusetts and culminating in the large Quabbin Reservoir, which was created in the 1930s by flooding four towns and six villages. This documentary focuses on Boston’s latest, bitterly controversial scheme to meet its growing need for water–to skim floodwaters of the Connecticut River and divert them via an aqueduct to Quabbin. The centuries-old struggle between the state’s urban east and rural west is investigated, highlighting especially the question of home rule.

(Florentine Films, 1981, 16mm, color, 30 minutes.

The Next Industrial Revolution


While some environmental observers predict doomsday scenarios in which a rapidly increasing human population is forced to compete for even scarcer natural resources, Bill McDonough sees a more exciting and hopeful future.

In his vision humanity takes nature itself as our guide reinventing technical enterprises to be as safe and ever-renewing as natural processes.

Can’t happen? It’s already happening…at Nike, at Ford Motor Company, at Oberlin College, at Herman Miller Furniture, and at DesignTex…and it’s part of what architect McDonough and his partner, chemist Michael Braungart, call ‘The Next Industrial Revolution.’

Shot in Europe and the United States, the film explores how businesses are transforming themselves to work with nature and enhance profitability.

www.bullfrogfilms.com ($250 VHS/$275 DVD)

Modern Times

By Charlie Chaplin (1936)
Henry Ford vs. stochastic chaos in the form of The Little Tramp. IMDb: “Long after most people thought the silent movie had been buried forever, Chaplin brought his “Little Fellow” out of mothballs for one more magnificent motion picture. The Tramp is trapped in a factory, performing mind-numbing repetitive tasks, and finally he goes hilariously berserk. I started laughing the instant I saw the lady in the dress with the buttons. Like “City Lights,” this film is a collection of charming vignettes, this time revolving around The Tramp’s desire to settle down with gamin Paulette Goddard. From the Tramp’s encounter with an assembly- line “feeding machine” to his unsuccessful stints as night watchman and waiter, this movie is packed full of delights. Chaplin never speaks, but he does sing a little. This work of genius can make you smile though your heart is breaking. “ No student should graduate from a STS or envirotech program without contrasting the feeding machine scene with The Little Tramp feeding the trapped master mechanic scene from this film.


By Fritz Lang (1927)

IMDb: “Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking landmark remains one of the biggest mysteries in the world of cinema. How can a movie that’ll soon turn 80 years old still look so disturbingly futuristic?? The screenplay by Thea Von Harbou is still very haunting and courageously assails social issues that are of all ages. The world has been divided into two main categories: thinkers & workers! If you belong to the first category, you can lead a life of luxury above ground but if you’re a worker, your life isn’t worth a penny, and you’re doomed to perilous labor underground. The further expansions and intrigues in the screenplay are too astonishing to spoil, so I strongly advise that you check out the film yourself. It’s essential viewing, anyway!

“Metropolis” is a very demanding film-experience and definitely not always entertaining. But, as it is often the case with silent-cinema classics, the respect and admiration you’ll develop during watching it will widely excel the enjoyment-aspect. Fritz’ brutal visual style still looks innovative and few directors since were able to re-create a similarly nightmarish composition of horizontal and vertical lines. Many supposedly ‘restored’ versions have been released over the years (in 1984 and 2002, for example) but the 1926-version is still the finest in my opinion, even though that one already isn’t as detailed and punctual as Lang intended it. “Metropolis” perhaps is THE most important and influential movie ever made. “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner” owe their existence (or at least their power) to it.”

The Maxx

Animation by Vanzo (1995)

I have a VHS tape collection of the show’s segments that aired on MTV’s “Liquid Television” years ago. Julie the social worker lives in a rundown apartment and deals with the mean streets of the city. She gradually gets in touch with her subconscious and spirit animal in the Pangean Outback. Together, she and the masked man(?) Maxx battle the serial rapist and killer Mr. Gone (see Wikipedia for more details). I like to pair The Maxx with a reading from Grumbine’s Ghost Bears (about the biodiversity crisis) and exercises structured upon Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre vs. Theatre of the Oppressed.

Life with Principle: Thoreau’s Voice in Our Time

Produced by Melvyn Hopper

See http://www.lifewithprinciple.org/, sponsored by the Thoreau Society http://www.thoreausociety.org/. The DVD costs $250 for educational use and includes:
The 56-minute film, Life with Principle, which features commentary that follow six themes present in Thoreau’s writings. The themes are:

  • Hearing That Different Drummer
  • Being Awake, Aware, and Alive
  • Examining Desperate and Deliberate Lives
  • Living in Society
  • Living in Nature
  • Confronting the Mean and the Sublime
  • Thoreau’s Concord, a 12-minute historical documentar that follows the same themes to explore both Concord and Henry David Thoreau s place in it.
  • Profiles in Civil Disobedience, a 12-minute examination of this philosophy as practiced by Wangari Maathai in Kenya, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in Japan, and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
  • World Leaders, a 4-minute glance at the impact of Thoreau’s writings on Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Daisaku Ikeda, as well as on Life with Principle speakers Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Howard Zinn.
  • The Boat Men: Bill and Ben, an animated short that is certain to stimulate discussion of the six themes.
  • A 16-page Study Guide, intended to provide an overall plan for implementing all of the Life with Principle materials.
  • A 51-page Thoreau Curriculum that details teaching strategies, relevant activities, and recommendations for further study.
  • An 11-page Commentary written by Thoreau scholar Bradley P. Dean (1954-2006). It reveals the origination of the six themes in Thoreau’s writings.
  • A full set of the Thoreau Society Bulletin, dating from 1941 to 2005, containing sixty years of articles about Thoreau’s life, literature, legacy, and the landscapes that inspired them.
  • The curriculum material was developed particularly for high school students, but the DVD would also be useful on the college level, particularly in lower-level environmental history courses that talk about Thoreau.

    Kilowatt Ours

    Kilowatt Ours is an inspirational and enlivening film that demonstrates how easy it is to conserve energy that is produced from traditional sources as well as the many ways the average consumer can easily become part of the renewable energy revolution. The film reveals the connection between personal choices and energy use and introduces us to individuals, businesses, schools and universities who have cut their energy use in half by taking simple steps that benefit the consumer, the environment and the economy.

    www.progressivedvds.com ($25)


    By Claude Berri (1993)

    From IMDb: “The film is the rendition of Emile Zola’s 1885 novel of the same name examining the difficult lives of French miners. The movie, which on the whole remains true to the original story.”

    Gaia: The Living Planet (A Portrait of James Lovelock)

    By Lizius & Jungjohann (1990)

    As a brief biography of Lovelock and his ecoscience, this should need no further description. But here it is, from Bullfrog Films: “The Gaia Hypothesis is one of the most exciting new scientific theories to emerge in the 20th century. It’s the work of a British scientist, James Lovelock, who believes that the earth is itself a living organism, and that life actively creates the environment it needs to survive, by maintaining environmental factors like temperature, humidity and atmosphere. His theory has been embraced by the environmental movement and has stirred up controversy in the scientific establishment.

    Lovelock lives in the hills of Devon in southwest England. He’s a biologist, doctor, chemist, cybernetician, inventor, and author of science fiction. In this video portrait we meet the man at his home and workshop, and visit the Marine Biological Laboratory in Plymouth, which conducts marine research, that has produced some amazing results, apparently confirming major parts of the theory.

    The Gaia Hypothesis gives us a completely new view of the evolution of the Earth and may well be an incredibly productive tool for studying the complex ecological interrelationships that allow life to exist on our planet.”