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The Environment

Over the years POV has featured a number of films about the environment. This collection offers educators a range of our most popular accompanying content, from lesson plans to interactive games.

Investigating the Real Price of Food

<strong>Food, Inc.</strong> A film by Robert Kenner/ Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Food, Inc.
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. The documentary Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Watch a clip about the dilemma of The Dollar Menu and an interview with Food, Inc. filmmaker Robert Kenner about the invisible costs associated with low-cost food.

How much do you know about GMOs? Take the GMO quiz. A large percentage of the items in your local grocery store contain at least one ingredient that comes from a genetically modified organism (GMO). And, in much the same way that genetically modified food has been received with suspicion and fear today, Milton Beeghly brought the gospel of hybrid corn into the homes of Midwestern farmers in the 1930's. Take the quirky corn quiz and find out if you are as crazy for corn as Milton Beeghly.

For teachers, POV has developed three lesson plans that bring the connection between agricultural subsidies and health and the benefits and controversies of GMO seeds and food label education into the classroom.

Women and the Environmental Movement


Julia "Butterfly" Hill sits on a
thousand-year-old redwood tree,
from the POV documentary Butterfly

In December 1997, Julia Hill climbed a thousand-year-old redwood tree vowing to not come down until it was saved from being clear-cut. She lived 180 feet off the ground for more than two years, galvanizing an already intense dispute over the fate of Northern California's old-growth forests. Doug Wolens's film Butterfly is a primer on forest issues and direct-action environmentalism, but most of all, it is about the spiritual journey of a determined, articulate woman nicknamed Butterfly who saved an ancient tree she called Luna. An interview with the filmmaker reminds us that the film is about much more than an environmental issue -- it shows what individuals can achieve.

Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The group she founded, The Green Belt Movement, trains rural women to plant trees, combat deforestation and generate income for impoverished communities. In a 2010 interview produced for the POV documentary Good Fortune, the Kenyan environmental activist points out that aid organizations cannot expect communities to change overnight and explains Green Belt's holistic approach to addressing poverty.

Environmentally Motivated Law-Breaking

A protester, from <em>If a Tree Falls:<br> A Story of the Earth Liberation Front</em></br>

A protester, from If a Tree Falls:
A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Credit: T.J. Watt

The Oscar®-nominated 2011 documentary If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front explores two of America's most pressing issues — environmentalism and terrorism — by lifting the veil on a radical environmental group the FBI calls America's "number one domestic terrorism threat." Daniel McGowan, a former member of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), faces life in prison for two multimillion-dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. What turned this working-class kid from Queens into an eco-warrior? Watch a discussion of whether the ELF fires fit the definition of terrorism, an examination of the covert communications that allowed the ELF to evade authorities, news footage recounting the story of the arsons set by the Earth Liberation Front.

Teachers can download a lesson plan that examines the role of various forms of protest in a democracy by analyzing the motivations and actions of those involved in a 1997 arson in Eugene, Oregon.

The Urban Environment

Filmmaker Ian Cheney explores the human relationship to the night sky in the POV documentary <strong>The City Dark</strong>

Filmmaker Ian Cheney explores the human
relationship to the night sky in the
POV documentary The City Dark

Is darkness becoming extinct? In The City Dark, filmmaker Ian Cheney moves to New York City discovering streets awash in light and skies devoid of stars. His subsequent journey to America's brightest and darkest corners provides a fascinating introduction to the science of the dark and an exploration of our relationship to the stars. In the short film Alice Sees the Light , Alice leaves the city only to find that "security lighting" a large corporate storage facility has taken away her view of the universe.

One of the biggest factors affecting the quality of the air we breathe is the vehicles we drive. Where better to go looking for the problem and the solution than the Golden State? Californians not only spend more time in their cars than anyone else, but they also are very much defined by what they drive. There are 31 million vehicles registered in the state and 36 million people living there. POV's Webby Award-winning project introduces you to Californians who made a different kind of statement with the hybrid cars they drive, the alternative fuels they put in them, and the years they waited to drive their first electric car.

In high-school-level lesson plans created by POV, students will brainstorm viable alternatives to driving as a means to lesson climate change and recognize which activities contribute to poor air quality.

The Food We Eat, The Seeds We Sow


POV's "Seed Stewards" game
illustrates the experience of
a Saskatchewan farmer
who contends that genetically-modified
seeds contaminated his fields

Few of us have time to wonder where our food comes from let alone contemplate the actual seeds that grow into the colorful array of produce we're used to seeing at our local supermarkets. The age-old tradition among farming families to pass down and replant their favorite "heirloom" seeds — a practice that has kept the Brandywine tomato you enjoy today as pure as the one your great granny enjoyed a hundred years ago — is under threat.

William Woys Weaver, food historian and avid gardener, shares the stories that these precious seeds have to tell. And check out the "Seed Stewards" game in which you can try your hand at saving seeds. Catch the free leaf, block the GMO seeds, and populate your garden with vegetables and flowers. For teachers, download lesson plans that explores the importance of seed diversity for cultural and ecological stability/health and the social impact of various land uses in their area.

Animals Threatened

A side-necked turtle,<br> from the POV documentary <strong>The Chances of the World Changing</strong></br>

A side-necked turtle,
from the POV documentary
The Chances of the World Changing
Credit: Andy Amsbaugh

A decade ago, after an epiphany at a New York restaurant, Richard Ogust began dedicating his time and resources to rescuing endangered turtles — confiscating hundreds bound for Southeast Asian food markets. When the filmmakers of The Chances of the World Changing catch up with the 50-year-old writer, he is sharing his Manhattan loft with 1,200 turtles, including five species extinct in the wild. The man finds himself struggling to save hundreds of lives — including his own. As a companion to the film, director Eric Daniel Metzgar visited the American Museum of Natural History to find out about turtle conservation and the relationship between evolution and extinction and POV provides a lesson plan about ecosystems and role of humans in helping endangered species.

Nutkin's Last Stand is a touching and often humorous short film about the movement to eliminate the invasive North American gray squirrel from the English Isles because of its threat to the native English red squirrel. The film also comes with a lesson plan about human intervention in an ecosystem.

The sheep of the documentary Sweetgrass are threatened not by other species, but by legislation. The film compiles raw footage of ranchers caring for sheep and the now defunct practice of driving sheep to summer pasture in Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. Watch scenes from the ranch, including shearing and "docking", then watch the filmmakers take you behind the lens in a scene where newborn lambs are matches with ewes to maximize the lactation efficiency of the mothers. In a lesson plan, students use video clips from the film to research animal husbandry practices for managing newborn lambs.

In the documentary Arctic Son, caribou calving grounds in Northeastern Alaska have become threatened, as the U.S. government wants to open the grounds up for oil drilling. Watch video in which a father shows the process of hunting caribou, and explains why he feels it's important to preserve the calving grounds for future generations. In a related lesson plan, students are asked to debate whether oil drilling should be allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The loggerhead turtles documented in The City Dark are endangered by artificial lighting. In the film's accompanying lesson plan, students study the nesting process of the turtle species and watch a video clip that illustrates how artificial lighting disorients turtle hatchlings along nesting beaches and affects their ability to reach the ocean successfully. After reviewing a practical guide from the International Dark Sky Association, students are asked to identity ways that humans can better manage artificial light.

Making Water Visible

Protesters opposing water privatization, from the POV documentary <em>Thirst</em>

Protesters opposing water privatization,
from the POV documentary Thirst

Population growth, pollution, and scarcity are turning water into "blue gold," the oil of the 21st century. Global corporations are rushing to gain control of this dwindling natural resource, producing intense conflict in the US and worldwide where people are dying in battles over control of water. The film Thirst is a piercing look at the conflict between public stewardship and private profit, where activists claim that water is a human right and corporations declare it a commodity. Read about the new economy of water and examine a case study, Harvesting Water from the Sky.

Water flows through our lives every day. But as long as our showers run and our toilets flush, we don't ask too many questions. Water becomes invisible, whether it's the expensive stuff in our bottles, or the polluted stuff under our bridges. For teachers, download two lesson plans that ask students to photograph the impact of water use on the local environment and map the local watershed.

Arborist Mike Raiman puts his life on the line protecting Montana's environment, in the POV documentary <strong>The Fire Next Time </strong>Credit: Jackson Hill

Arborist Mike Raiman puts his life
on the line protecting Montana's environment,
in the POV documentary The Fire Next Time.
Credit: Jackson Hill

The Environmental Movement

Find out more about the environmental movement with a roundup of timelines that explore environmental legislation, events and other milestones of the last 100 years.



Watch More Documentaries and Video About the Environment and Nature at POV

Sheep in a scene from the POV documentary Sweetgrass

Sheep in a scene from
the POV documentary Sweetgrass

POV's archive of documentaries and related video is always changing. Find full-length documentaries you can watch free, on demand in POV's Environment & Nature archive, including short films such as Big Birding Day, about three friends who attempt to see as many species of birds as possible in 24 hours.


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POV documentaries can be taped off-the-air and used for education purposes for up to one year from the initial broadcast.

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