Act 2 looks at the new environmental movement of the ‘70s with its emphasis on pollution, focusing on the battle led by Lois Gibbs over Love Canal. First we connect Rachel Carson and Silent Spring to the golden era of environmental legislation and groups like NRDC that arose to enforce regulations. However it takes Love Canal to put toxic waste on the map. Lois Gibbs leads angry housewives in a two-year battle to save their children from 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals. They are relentless -- protesting and conducting health studies and demanding relocation, even taking EPA officials hostage until President Carter agrees to buy them out. But it’s just the beginning. Business pushes back and Reagan counter-attacks. Grassroots activists fighting toxics in their own backyard arise all over the country. Environmental racism gives birth to an environmental justice movement.

Act 2 Interviewees

Lois Gibbs


"When Love Canal came, it was a new segment of the movement. It really was about people and peoples' health. It wasn't that we don't care about the forest, but it was the people-focus that set us aside from other elements that had come before us. If the fish are dying and the birds are dying, we're gonna die!"

John Adams

"People were finding out from Rachel Carson about DDT and other poisons. The chemical industry was unregulated. Raw sewage was going right down the Hudson River. Air pollution was growing just as fast as new automobiles were coming out. You had steel mills belching, and all of a sudden, people said "Wait a second! This is not how we have to live."

Carl Pope

"We went to pass a new Clean Air Act, and the original proposal was that all factories would be cleaned up as the technology became available. Industrial lobbyists said, 'Look. These old factories, we're going to shut them down in a few years. Make the new stuff be clean and let us just retire the old stuff.' The environmental community didn't really want them to take that deal - but we took it. And what happened was, they didn't build new factories and they didn't clean up the old ones either. They just kept operating the old ones dirty."

Bob Bullard

"West Virginia -- a lot of people don’t even know there are black people in West Virginia. And this company, Union Carbide, found them!  The only place in the country that manufactured methylisocyanate, MIC -- the same chemical that killed all those people in Bhopal India -- was in Institute, West Virginia. And Institute has always been 95% black. The largest hazardous waste landfill in the country is in Emelle, Alabama. At the time that landfill was sited, you got a county that’s 75% black, but there are no black people on the county commission. You say, 'How can that be?' It’s called apartheid, American style!"

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