Act 4 explores global resource issues and crises of the ‘80s, focusing on the struggle to save the Amazon led by Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers. They fight ranchers and roads, then start a movement to establish extractive reserves. The pivotal battle is over a plantation called Cachoeira. Chico wins – but is assasinated. However his death proves to be the turning point, to reserves that now total a third of the Amazon. Yet relentless pressures threaten to turn it into a semi-desert. We expand to look at movements across the global south, from Chipko in India and Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement to water wars in Bolivia and arguments over equity and sustainability.


Act 4 Interviewees

Tom Lovejoy

"I quickly realized that you didn't protect endangered species without protecting their natural habitat. Then you started to worry that you couldn't have protected areas survive, unless the local community was engaged. So you started to worry about the social and economic matrix in which all was set. Then you began to realize you needed to worry about forces from outside, like acid rain, distortions of nitrogen, then ultimately, climate change. That's why my profession today is no longer just conservationist or environmentalist. I'm actually sort of a planet doctor."

Barbara Bramble

"There were things that came together after his death that probably couldn’t have come together if he was still alive. Because they’d still be fighting over whether the extractive reserves should be established or not. After he was killed there was no question. So now it’s quite clear that who saves forests are the people in the forest."

Adrian Cowell

"[Chico Mendes] would collect thirty or forty rubbertapper men, women, and they would go unarmed to where people were cutting down the forest - and they were usually all armed. [The rubbertappers] would surround the trees that people wanted to cut down and try to resist them nonviolently, and explain to them what a disaster it was - not only for them to cut down the forest, but it cut down the livelihood of everyone."

Vijaya Nagarajan

"The theme that runs through all these movements is the loss of the commons. That’s what people are fighting for, is the right of subsistence and the right of access to clean water, to food, to forests. The right to live."


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