Skip to main content
Michigan State University

Environmental Studies Resources: Films on the Web

Films on the Web

Ahead of the Curve: States Lead on Climate Change : A new fourteen-minute documentary film from Rockefeller Brothers Fund grantee Sea Studios Foundation explores how states are increasingly developing and implementing plans to address the pressing global problem of climate change. The film, Ahead of the Curve: States Lead on Climate Change, which can be viewed in its entirety on the Sea Studios Web site, features stories of state officials and citizens crossing political divides to discover reasons to be hopeful about the future of the planet.

Al Gore on Averting Climate Crisis (2006) 16:15 minutes : With the same humor and humanity he exuded in An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore spells out 15 ways that individuals can address climate change immediately, from buying a hybrid to inventing a new, hotter "brand name" for global warming.

Al Gore's New Thinking on the Climate Crisis (2008) 27.51 minutes : In this brand-new slideshow (premiering on TED.com), Al Gore presents evidence that the pace of climate change may be even worse than scientists recently predicted. He challenges us to act.

Al Gore Warns on Latest Climate Trends (2009) 7.48 minutes : Al Gore presents updated slides from around the globe to make the case that worrying climate trends are even worse than scientists predicted, and to make clear his stance on "clean coal."

Art from the Arctic  (2004) 59 minutes : British artist and filmmaker David Buckland organized three sailing expeditions to the High Arctic as part of a series of collaborations between artists, educators and scientists, designed to create public awareness of global climate change. Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Asia's Illegal Animal Trade .  22 minutes : Day by day, hour by hour, our planet's rarest creatures are being hunted, trapped and slaughtered to feed a global black market in wildlife products.....For years, Patrick Brown has traveled across Asia to document the devastating impact of wildlife trafficking. Now he'd like to bring his work to a worldwide audience, by producing a campaigning photographic book called "Trading to Extinction."...It is a shocking tale of cruelty, crime and human greed. As with drug trafficking, money fuels the animal trade. Its tentacles wrap around the world, from the remote forests of Asia to the trafficking hubs of Beijing, Bangkok, London, Tokyo and New York....A poacher who kills a rhino and removes its horn in India gets $350. That same horn sells for $1,000 in a nearby market town. By the time it reaches Hong Kong, Beijing or the Middle East, the horn is worth $370,000. Tiger bones are worth up to $700 per kilo.

Captain Charles Moore on the Seas of Plastic (YouTube) : Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he's drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

Car Footprint : Freedom on wheels makes a real impact on the environment over your driving lifetime. A short (4:17 seconds) video from the National Geographic Channel.

Carbon Watch : Tracking the New Currencies of Global Warming.  Courtesy of Frontline.

Catastrophic Climate Change : A video provided by National Geographic.

Changing Planet : NBC Learn, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, explores the impact that climate change is having on our planet.  For related lesson plans to accompany each film, visit Windows to the Universe .

The Cost of Climate Change : Freak weather and natural disasters seem to be on the rise. Over the past 50 years, severe weather patterns have cost 800,000 lives and a trillion dollars in economic losses. A new report puts much of the blame on climate change and the failure of nations to whittle down carbon emissions. So, what is the economic cost of climate change? June 20, 2011. Courtesy of DocumentaryNet.

Detroit : Building the Green City : A documentary in the works that explores the potential of revitalizing a shrinking city by reclaiming its vacant lands for agricultural development.  August 30, 2008.

Detroit Green : Gary Wozniak, president of Recovery Park, tells us about his project: turning 3 square miles of Detroit's Eastside into urban farming and food system development, indoor tilapia farms, an orchard, equestrian stables and more.  July 5, 2012.

Dying To Be Heard (abridged documentary) : Tells the story of Michigan State University professor Dr. George J. Wallace, who discovered a link between DDT and dying birds on the MSU campus. His work was highlighted in Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," which helped launch the modern environmental movement.  Flv version.

Emerald Ash Borer Research at Michigan State University : Doctoral student of forestry Sara Tanis discusses the invasion and current efforts to eradicate Emerald ash borer in the Midwest. Courtesy of the MSU Environmental Science and Policy Program.

Everything's Cool : A trailer from YouTube.

Expedition Blue Planet- Anacostia River: In the Shadow of the Capitol (2009) 5 minutes : In July, Alexandra Cousteau and her international Expedition Blue Planet team will depart on a 14,500-mile journey across North American to investigate global water issues “in the backyard” of one of the world’s leading economies....Living, working and exploring water stories together, Alexandra and her team will use everything from the underwater gear invented by her grandfather to the latest in satellite technology and live social media to bring thrill of adventure and the wonders of nature to audiences across the globe....Through the lens of this expedition, global audiences will have the rare opportunity to join the expedition from an entirely new angle: sitting down with the crew as they discuss the work of the day over meals they’ve prepared as a traveling “family,” experiencing the camaraderie and adventure of solving problems in the field, and experiencing firsthand the thrill of discovering grand places and meeting everyday people in cities and villages along the way....Throughout the journey, the team will explore some of the great water treasures of the region, investigate issues surrounding water conservation, as well as bear witness to stories of people from all walks of life working to solve one of the great challenge of our generation – the global water crisis. Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars (2008) 34 minutes : From the outset FIGHTING GOLIATH: TEXAS COAL WARS was intended to serve as a tool for raising awareness, inspiring action, and creating a meaningful dialogue about how to overcome one of the greatest threats to public health contributors to global warming faced by the U.S.—conventional coal-fired power plants.  FIGHTING GOLIATH follows the story of farmers, ranchers and Mayors fighting against the construction of 18 new coal-burning power plants in Texas.  TXU Corp. withdrew eight of the 11 permit applications shortly before the case went to court, when it was announced that shareholders would sell the utility to private equity firms.  The film was produced by the Redford Center at the Sundance Preserve and Alpheus Media, and directed by Mat Hames and George Sledge. Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Fuel (America’s Dependence on Foreign Oil) : Eleven years in the making, FUEL is the in-depth personal journey of filmmaker and eco-evangelist Josh Ticknell, who takes us on a hip, fast-paced road trip into America’s dependence on foreign oil.Combining a history lesson of the US auto and petroleum industries and interviews with a wide range of policy makers, educators, and activists such as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young and Willie Nelson. Animated by powerful graphics, FUEL looks into our future offering hope via a wide-range of renewable energy and bio-fuels. March 8, 2011. Courtesy of DocumentaryNet.

Global Warming Awareness : A film clip by National Geographic.

The Habitable Planet : A video course for high school teachers and college level instruction; 13 half-hour video programs, online text, professional development guide, and Web site; graduate credit available. The Web site provides access to course content and activities developed by leading scientists and researchers in the field.

The Hudson Riverkeepers (1998) 48 minutes : Tells the stirring and dramatic story of how two generations of Hudson River fishermen and environmental activists fought a decades-long battle to protect one of the nation’s great rivers, the Hudson. Featuring Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; as well as excerpts from Walter Cronkite’s classic 1965 documentary, “The Majestic Polluted Hudson,” this important film brings to life one of the great environmental achievements in American history. It is also the story of the one of the landmarks in the U.S. environmental movement—because the fight to clean up the Hudson River went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and its favorable ruling helped paved the way for many of the great environmental laws passed in the 1970s, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.  Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Human Footprint (2008) 92 minutes : In a playful, surprising and thought-provoking portrait of our time on earth, National Geographic demonstrates, in a series of remarkable visuals, what makes up an average human life today and how everything we do has impact on the world around us. In this unique journey through life, it shows all the people you will ever know, how much waste you will produce, the amount of fuel you’ll consume and how much you’ve got to pack in during your 2,475,526,000 seconds on earth. Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Inconvenient Truth Trailer : From YouTube.

Kings of Flint (YouTube)  Streaming video.  Steve Arellano, Erin Caudell, Troy Hale & Geri Alumi Zeldes talk about creating the documentary "The Kings of Flint" and urban gradening.  Geri mentioned that MSU provided start up funding for the project.  The Ruth Mott Foundation eventually provided funding to complete the project.

Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining : During the last two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams. Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining, a video report produced by Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm, focuses on the environmental and social impacts of this practice and examines the long-term effects on the region’s forests and waterways.At a time when the Obama administration is reviewing mining permit applications throughout West Virginia and three other states, this video offers a first-hand look at mountaintop removal and what is at stake for Appalachia’s environment and its people. March 10, 2011. Courtesy of DocumentaryNet.

Lois Gibbs - The Love Canal Story : Lois Gibbs details what happened at Love Canal - birth defects, mental retardation, and government inaction following scientific analysis.

The Majestic Plastic Bag : A Mockumentary from YouTube.  Explore the life cycle of one of Nature's "most clever and illustrious creatures" from its "pupping grounds in the urban asphalt jungle to its home in the Pacific Ocean"

Off the Grid: Life On The Mesa (2007) 67 minutes : Twenty-Five miles from town, a million miles from mainstream society, a loose-knit community of eco-pioneers, teenage runaways, war veterans and drop-outs, live on the fringe and off the grid, struggling to survive with little food, less water and no electricity, as they cling to their unique vision of the American dream…  Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Plastic Bag (2010) 18 minutes : This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world....In the end, the wayward plastic bag wafts its way to the ocean, into the tides, and out into the Pacific Ocean trash vortex — a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind and gradually let the memories of its maker slip away.  Courtesy of SnagFilms.com

Poisoned Waters : A far-reaching investigation into America's great waterways. They are in peril. There's a new wave of pollution that's killing fish, causing mutations in frogs -- and threatening human health. Discusses problems encountered by the Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. Frontline (52.47min.)

Return of the Cuyahoga : It was just a small fire, one of many that had erupted on Ohio's noxious Cuyahoga River over the years. But despite its minor nature, the Cleveland conflagration of June 22, 1969, became a sort of environmental poster child, illustrating the degradation of America's rivers. Partially because of congressional testimony about pollution given by Cleveland's then-Mayor Carl Stokes, the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. More importantly, the ways in which the once putrid river has been brought back to health provide a template for other polluted waterways across America. A 2:45 minute clip from YouTube.

The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes (1968). 17 minutes : In this short documentary from conservationist Bill Mason, he illustrates that although the Great Lakes have had their ups and downs, nothing has been harder to take than what humans have done to them lately. In the film, a lone canoeist lives through the changes of geological history, through Ice Age and flood, only to find himself in the end trapped in a sea of scum.

Story of Stuff (2007 Official Version) via YouTube (21:25 minutes) :  A short polemical animated documentary about the lifecycle of material goods. The documentary is critical of excessive consumerism and promotes sustainability. Wikipedia entry

The Timber Mafia / A report by Stephen McDonnell.  45:07 minutes.  Streaming video from Hulu : Four Corners Timber smuggling is on the rise. Swathes of protected forests in Asia, Africa and South America are being illegally cut and shipped abroad. It's a $20 billion a year trade that destroys entire ecosystems and increases global warming

Trash Footprint via National Geographic.  Streaming video.  2:58 minutes : Humans produce 246 million tons of waste every year. What does the human trash footprint look like?

White House Releases Landmark Climate Change Report (June 16, 2009) : The White House releases a new report representing a consensus of 13 agencies developed over a year and half, entitled Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. web page link

Who Killed the Electric Car.  (2006) YouTube trailer.

Wind: An Energy Alternative (1980) - Department of Energy : Produced by the Solar Energy Research Institute for the U.S. Department of Energy, this film looks at the history and uses of wind power, used for centuries by humans to move boats, pump water and grind grain including discussions on efficiency, problems in the urban environment, experimental systems and windmill use across the United States.

Michigan State University