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Must See Green Films: 8 of the Best Environmental Documentaries

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Written by Jennifer Nini

Since launching this blog in 2010 I have immersed myself in literature and documentary films trying to develop further knowledge about topics such as climate change, global warming, sustainability and other causes of environmental problems.

Recent political events have left me feeling uneasy about the state of the world and in particular what the rise of far right ideology means for our fight against climate change, so in the last few weeks I decided to re-watch some of my favourite environmental documentaries and scheduled viewing for recently released ones that I hadn’t made time for. Doing this has given me more peace as I try to find composure in a world so hell bent on pushing the individualist hierarchical ideology.

This list of documentaries has helped deepen my understanding of environmental issues and has increased my commitment to the environmental cause. I hope it does the same for you.

An Inconvenient Truth

This groundbreaking 2006 documentary film featuring United States Vice President Al Gore and his campaign to educate citizens about global warming, was the first documentary that I’d watched that really opened up my eyes about our human impact on the natural environment. The now infamous hockey stick graph sticks out in my mind when I think about the increase in carbon emissions in the Industrial Age. For a comprehensive look into climate change  I recommend watching this film.

Home

The mesmerising visual imagery of this 2009 documentary by photographer and environmentalist Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who is also famous for equally compelling documentaries such as Human and Terra, is what haunted me most about this film. It is entirely composed of aerial shots of places across the Earth which propels you to appreciate the variations of our landscape as well as protect the beauty of it. The choice of Glenn Close as narrator and the music score creates a haunting effect for this engaging environmental film. Highly recommended viewing.

Food Inc.

This 2008 American documentary by Robert Kenner exposes the country’s industrialised food system and its effect on the environment, economy and health of its people. The most unsettling part of this film for me is witnessing the large-scale animal factory farms as I am vegetarian and find the mechanisation in our food supply chain and commodification of livestock deplorable. However what’s also concerning is how processed foods – propped up by government subsidies – have become so cheap which has helped to drive demand for unhealthy food leaving the burden on the health department to deal with. The documentary clearly shows how disconnected humans are from how their food is grown and raised, and how Americans will need to demand better food if they are to win the battle against a growing waistline and its negative effects on the natural environment. For more details, visit the Food Inc. website.

The Cove

This is a nail-biting award-winning documentary about the capture and subsequent slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, a small Japanese village. This documentary film will open your eyes to the horror of Japanese fishing and whaling, the corruption within the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will make you vow never to step foot in a Sea World facility, dolphinarium or other zoo that holds dolphins in captivity. Purchase The Cove doco film here.

Tapped

This 2009 documentary film on bottled water will help you see that this seemingly clean industry is not what it appears to be. It reveals the truth that some manufacturers are using tap water, shows you how much fossil fuels are needed to create the plastic bottles and cart the water across the globe, and reveals how some companies outright steal this precious resource in public areas, you will come away never looking at bottled water the same again.

Before the Flood

This recently released documentary film by Leonardo Di Caprio is recommended viewing for anyone who is seeking to understand the modern challenges and impacts of climate change. Di Caprio, a flag-flyer for environmentalists around the world, traipses across the globe interviewing political leaders such as Barack Obama and John Kerry, climate scientists, economists and entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk to learn how the world can transition to a cleaner and greener future. This documentary doesn’t reveal anything that I didn’t already know but it is still hugely encouraging for concerned citizens who are feeling powerless. The biggest takeaway? Our elected officials are not our leaders but in fact our followers. They only follow the directions we provide them. All change in our society has come from the people, so if we want policies to help mitigate climate change, we need to demand it of our governments and political leaders. Purchase the documentary film here.

The True Cost

One of the best fashion-related documentaries to come out in recent years, this 2015 doco by Andrew Morgan inspects the damage caused by the fast fashion industry and how our consumer desire for poorly made, cheap fashion drives the industry’s worst behaviour which exploits the poor and turns a blind eye to environmental pollution. If you know any fashion addicts, I implore you to share this film with them. People need to start learning that one of the best things they can do if they want to change the world, is voting with their dollars. The more of us who demand ethically produced goods, the less exploitation and environmental problems we will have. Grab your copy of The True Cost here.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

This was a shocking film for many reasons but mostly for its attack on environmental organisations such as Greenpeace and Sierra Club. As an environmentalist, I was concerned about how it blamed environmental non-profit groups for not doing enough (c’mon, they’re the good guys!) but felt that the film’s important message of how livestock farming contributes to climate change was too important to overlook, hence its inclusion to the list.

I myself have been concerned how food is grown and raised for many years, and is one of the reasons that helped me to make a decision to be a part of an organic farm venture. With the amount of land devoted to human’s carnivorous appetite and with the world’s population increases and many parts shift into high-consumer gear due to globalisation, food security and the food industry is one my biggest concerns. So this documentary is a must view for meat eaters and omnivore environmentalists. I hope it helps you change the way you think about the flesh on your plate and how your eating habits contributes to climate change. Get your own copy here.

Now your turn: What are some of your favourite eco documentaries? Feel free to share your top green films in the comments below.

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she launched Eco Warrior Princess to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

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