Farley Mowat

Green screen: The sequel

Last year, I wrote about some of the worst efforts to incorporate environmental themes into cinema.

One of the all-time stinkers celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. On July 24, 1971, Godzilla versus the Smog Monster made its domestic debut to Japanese audiences.

Primarily known for stomping Tokyo, the giant reptile switched mid-career to saving it. Hedorah the Smog Monster rides to Earth on a meteor, looking pretty much like a flying loogie, feeds on, then globally redistributes pollution while giving audiences someone to blame other than heavy industry.

Now that was insurrection done right. Godzilla prevailed, of course.

But this time, let's focus on environmental movies done well and hand out a few laurels.

Never Cry Wolf

Here's a forgotten favorite of mine: Never Cry Wolf, the autobiographical adventure of Canadian writer Farley Mowat. His character is played by Charles Martin Smith, the diminutive actor best known for supporting roles in such non-environmental classics as American Graffiti and The Untouchables.

Dispatched to the sub-Arctic to prove the Canadian Government's case that wolf populations were a menace, biologist Smith came to a politically incorrect conclusion.

Dark Waters

Mark Ruffalo

In 2019, Mark Ruffalo starred in Dark Waters, a dramatization of the plight of Parkersburg, West Virginia, residents contaminated by C8. (Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

Mark Ruffalo gained fame as the Incredible Hulk, but he's also reached for a high profile on real-world things that make him angry as well.

Off-screen, he became active in anti-fracking politics near his upstate New York home. The controversial oil and gas drilling process is now under a moratorium imposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In 2019, he starred in Dark Waters, a dramatization of the plight of Parkersburg, West Virginia, residents contaminated by C8, a "forever chemical" used by DuPont since 1951 in the manufacture of Teflon. But Ruffalo does not play a victim, he plays Rob Bilott, the lawyer who waged a 20-year battle to bring DuPont to justice.

Big names in Hollywood

Dark Waters continued Hollywood's affinity for casting some of its biggest names as true-story, crusading environmental law heroes.

In 1998, John Travolta starred as Jan Schlichtmann in A Civil Action. He lawyered on behalf of neighbors of a Woburn, Mass., toxic dump.

And in 2000, Julia Roberts played Erin Brockovich, a paralegal who brings down Pacific Gas & Electric for contaminating rural Hinkley, California, with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium.

Jane Fonda is the undisputed standard bearer for combining acting and activism. A half-century ago, she was a well-established Hollywood superstar and an A-list Vietnam war protestor. But in what she later admitted was a bad overreach, she posed with North Vietnamese soldiers – viewed by many Americans as giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Fonda apologized multiple times over the years, but to millions of Americans, she had acquired some heretofore unknown immunity to Christian forgiveness. Politics didn't vanish from her films though. In 1979, she played a TV news reporter who stumbles onto a nuclear coverup in The China Syndrome.

These days, at age 83, Fonda is still hellraising, hosting a weekly "Fire Drill Fridays" podcast on climate change. In 2019, she delivered her acceptance speech for a special British Academy of Film and Television Arts award while being hauled away in cuffs at still another protest.

And finally, no list of Hollywood environmental moments is complete without this one:

In this 1958 short from their waning days, the Three Stooges invest in "California smog bags." Really. Click the link if you must and go to 2:10, but spoiler alert: Even if you're a Three Stooges fan, this one's not particularly funny.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: Farley Mowat at a book signing event for 'My Discovery of America'.' Never Cry Wolf, is the autobiographical adventure of the Canadian writer. (Credit Community Archives/flickr)

A nod to a few environmental movies done well.

invasive species

Peter Dykstra: American Invasive Species Hall of Fame, part 1

Flora and fauna that have left their mark.

In recent years, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., have done battle over two of the biggest Hall of Fame-less sports juggernauts. Atlanta got the College Football Hall of Fame; Charlotte snagged the NASCAR Hall.

Keep reading...Show less
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Biomass energy may soon lose its green label in the EU
theworld.org

Biomass energy may soon lose its green label in the EU

In Europe, wood pellets fire power plants and home furnaces in what’s become a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry. It’s expanded because the European Union labels pellets as renewable. But environmentalists say that the label is misguided.
Op-Ed:  There’s a simple way to unite everyone behind climate justice – and it’s within our power
www.theguardian.com

Op-Ed:  There’s a simple way to unite everyone behind climate justice – and it’s within our power

Cancelling poor nations’ historic debts would allow their governments to channel money into climate adaptation, says Guardian columnist George Monbiot

India′s forgotten stray animals suffer under record heat waves

Millions of street animals are struggling to escape blistering temperatures and dehydration. The heat waves have already caused widespread damage across India.
E-bike sales and sharing are booming
Vima/Flickr

E-bike sales and sharing are booming. But can they help take cars off the road?

E-bikes, already taking off during the pandemic, are getting a big boost from states that hope they will reduce driving, energy consumption and emissions.

From our Newsroom
Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Noted ecologist John Harte offers a fresh take on the dire topic of climate change.

Colorado fracking

Colorado is the first state to ban PFAS in oil and gas extraction

The toxic “forever chemicals” are used in fracking wells across the country.

gun control

Peter Dykstra: Gun and climate change delusions

Millions here suffer from twin hallucinations: Guns don’t cause our mass shootings, and the climate isn’t changing.

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Engine for social justice leads to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

Using comedy to combat climate change

Using comedy to combat climate change

The Climate Comedy Cohort aims to help comedians infuse climate activism into their creative work.

roe v. wade

Derrick Z. Jackson: Roe v. Wade draft bodes ill for air, wetlands and the EPA

Justice Alito’s longstanding consistency in wanting to restrict EPA authority makes it transparent where he wants the court to go.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.