Act 1 focuses on the conservation movement of the ‘60s, David Brower and the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon. It grows out of three earlier battles to halt dams: Hetch Hetchy, which was lost; Dinosaur Monument, which was won; and Glen Canyon, which was sacrificed. Saving the Grand Canyon looks like a lost cause until David Brower places ads denouncing the dams. The IRS retaliates and the uproar becomes front-page news. Opposition grows so fast and furious that Congress bows to pressure – canceling and finally prohibiting dams. It is the biggest victory yet, a pivotal battle that brings the flowering of conservation. However, Brower is soon forced out of the Sierra Club. He is coming to a larger vision – just as Earth Day heralds a new environmental consciousness.


Act 1 Interviewees

Martin Litton

"My attitude was always 'be unreasonable.' Let's not be nice. I mean, if you don't have any hatred in your heart, what are you living on? I was appalled at the idea that there would be development in the Grand Canyon - there would be a dam, and it was acceptable. No!"

Doug Scott

"Every now and then, some issue arises that is elevated into a stratospheric focus of public attention. It becomes symbolic, and the rallying cry for a whole generation of activists. The dams in the Grand Canyon -- that was going to be a fight to the death. You can’t build half a dam. They weren’t going to accept a little dam. It was, we aren’t going to allow dams to be built in a national park."

Tom Turner

"The day after one of these ads ran, a little gray man in a little gray suit with a little gray briefcase showed up at the door of the Sierra Club with a hand-delivered letter saying, 'The IRS can no longer guarantee that contributions to the Sierra Club will be deductible from taxes.' This was big news in itself. Here, the IRS is going after the poor little Sierra Club for trying to protect the Grand Canyon. How crazy is that?"

Jerry Mander

"The dams had been passed in Congress. The deal was done, Udall was celebrating a great victory, and Brower was desperate. He said we need something new, something to explode this story. He decided he wanted to do advertising. We did a version that had a headline: 'Only You Can Stop the Grand Canyon From Being Flooded - For Profit.'"

Philip Shabecoff

"All the political and social ferment that was going on in this country was building up and building up, and on Earth Day, it was like water bursting through a dam. All those inchoate fears and hopes for what could be done all of a sudden became real in the new environmental movement."
Category: The Story


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“Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mark Kitchell (Berkeley in the Sixties) winningly spans the broad scope of environmental history in this comprehensive doc, connecting its origins with the variety of issues still challenging society today.”
Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter

"The material is vast, and it’s an incredibly dynamic film. It’s shaping up to be the documentary of record on the environmental movement.
I think it’ll be hugely successful."

– Cara Mertes, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program