Most people are so busy now that they don’t have time to read 300-page books much less watch full-length documentaries. If you sit in this category but keen to learn about topics such as climate change, global warming and consumerism, this list of green short films will help deepen your understanding of the environmental issues humanity faces – without you having to invest too much of your valuable time.
1. The Story of Stuff
This 21-minute fast-paced information-filled film is highly recommended viewing for anyone wanting to learn about the materials economy and how the stuff we consume impacts human health, communities and the environment. The film explores the entire lifecycle of goods, from resource extraction, production and distribution right through to its sale, customer use and disposal. It exposes many political, environmental and social issues such as the use of toxic chemicals, how corporations have more influence than governments and how the system is designed to encourage more consuming and thus, wasting.
From human health issues, through to the changing climate and declining happiness, the film is successful in showing that the current linear system of production and consumption isn’t working and needs to be overhauled, and shares what individuals and organisations are doing to help. Viewed over 5.2 million times on YouTube, The Story of Stuff is one of the most popular environmental short films of all time.
This four-minute film does a brilliant job of explaining the plastic lifecycle, from plastic production, consumption and disposal. Using 3-D animation and infographics, it educates viewers on how plastic is created, how the material breaks down, wreaking havoc in the marine ecosystem and causing species deaths, entering the food chain and increasing risks to human health. The best part is that it offers alternative solutions to reduce our reliance on plastic such as refusing plastics, switching to reusable bags and alternative plastic-free packaging options.
3. Man vs. Earth
Originally entitled “Three Seconds” this powerful five-minute short film by Spencer Sharp and Richard Williams – better known by his stage name Prince Ea – was the winner of the 2016 Connect4Climate competition which focussed on emotional mini-documentaries about climate change. Prince Ea is a spoken word artist and rapper from St Louis, Missouri known for other viral hits such as ‘Dear Future Generations: Sorry‘ and ‘Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?’The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. – Luther Standing BearClick To Tweet
In Man vs Earth, he compares the period of human existence to that of the Earth’s. In the three seconds humans have existed, Prince Ea reminds us how much destruction we’ve inflicted on the planet. However, through the use of spoken word poetry, he also provides hope and encouragement for us to recreate and reimagine a better world. With 3.9 million YouTube views and 11,000 comments, this short film has certainly moved people to reflect on how their choices impact the environment – and hopefully propels them to take action.
4. Forget Shorter Showers
This 11-minute green film urges people to think beyond making personal lifestyle changes and personal consumptive habits such as taking shorter showers, living simply and choosing not to have children, to being involved in organised resistance movements aimed at challenging the industrialised system and growth economy. It provides us with convincing data that even if every individual in the US implemented slow lifestyle changes, it would only reduce carbon emissions by 22 percent. The film encourages people to disrupt the industrialised economy by taking part in activities such as boycotting, running for office and protesting.
The biggest criticism of Forget Shorter Showers is that it separates direct action from collective action, but these are not mutually exclusive. While the mainstream view which assigns all blame to individuals should be dismissed, one cannot dismiss that a basic rule of economics is that consumers’ demands help to fuel our economies. Our individual wants, needs, desires and lifestyle choices drive the growth economy. Another criticism of the film is that it also fails to recognise that the ‘industrialised economy’ is really just made up of collective groups of flawed humans operating in flawed systems created by flawed humans. Thus to remedy this, it requires a human evolution, and that first starts with the individual.
Overall this film is thought-provoking and helps to realise that “personal change is not social change” and that we must do more than just take shorter showers.
5. Detox: How People Power is Cleaning Up Fashion
This four-minute film raises awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion and textiles industries. It was created for Greenpeace’s global Detox campaign aimed at phasing out the use of hazardous chemicals in the fashion supply chain and in fashion products by 2020. The film shares alarming facts (40 percent of surface water is considered polluted in China and 320 million do not have access to clean drinking water) and includes disturbing images of toxic chemicals being dumped in rivers in the developing world. With over 1.1 million views worldwide, this short film is a must-watch for fashion designers, entrepreneurs, style lovers and fashion activists.
Now your turn: What are some of your favourite environmental short films? Feel free to share them below.
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