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10 Environmental Documentaries to start your 2017 with more awareness

Reading Time: 15 minutes

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim and it tells the story of former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, in his campaign to educate a population on the science and the dangers of Global Warming.

Al Gore’s interest for Global Warming began long before his role at the white house, when he studies with Professor Roger Revelle, at Harvard University, one of the first scientists to measure the impact of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Later, already in Congress, Gore organized the first hearing to speak about the subject in 1981.

As Clinton’s vice president, Gore led a number of initiatives in the White House, including the implementation of carbon taxes, and the diversification of fuel options with lower environmental costs. He also helped organizing the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, an international treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions (a treaty whose next president, G. Bush, publicly announced ignore).

In the year of 2000, Al Gore was candidate for the presidency of the United States and was defeated by its competitor, George Bush. It was then that he decided to revert all his focus to his presentations on global warming, traveling through the United States and the world lecturing on the topic and introducing himself, of course, as “I am Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the States United”.

Available on Google Play and on iTunes

How to change the world

In the late 60s and early 70s, the time was Cold War and Vietnam War, and the US President Richard Nixon was leading the Nuclear Weapons Testing Program and using the island of Amchitka, in Alaska, for the tests. Since Alaska had suffered a disastrous earthquake in 1964, the population feared that the bombs could lead to more earthquakes and tsunamis.

People were already tired of wars, the Hippie movement was started and everyone wanted to live in peace and harmony. An anti-nuclear committee was formed in Vancouver, Canada, to discuss the environmental and social consequences of the tests and a possible nuclear war, as pointed out by journalist Bob Hunter.

The “Do Not Make a Wave” activism group decided to sail to the island and witness nuclear tests as a form of protest. Although they were not successful because of the bad weather to navigate to the site, the news spread to the United States and Canada, and these activists began to create a legion of fans. In a simple farewell act, one of the activists makes the peace symbol with his hand as he leaves one of the group’s meetings, and another responds, “Green Peace.”

This documentary tells the story of Bob Hunter and the creation of his NGO, Greenpeace, one of the most important NGOs in history. From stopping nuclear tests to saving whales, it is contagious to see and hear the stories of Bob Hunter and his allies.

Available on Netflix.

Do the Math

One of the most interesting documentaries on this great problem that humanity needs to be tackled in order to avoid a disastrous catastrophe of this planet: to reduce our CO2 impact on the atmosphere.

The most important climatologist of our time, Jim Hansen, put his NASA team to study and discover how much carbon in the atmosphere would be the limit, and this paper became one of the most important scientific articles of the millennium, presenting us with a simple mathematics: The amount of carbon in the atmosphere must not exceed 350 parts per million to be compatible with the planet on which civilization has developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.

But the math is daunting when they tell us that there were already 395 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere then (today it’s already past 400), the increase is about 2 parts per million a year, and fossil fuel companies have 5 times more in their reserves, and the obvious intention to profit on it.

The poles are melting, the Arctic ice sheet has already been reduced by more than half; The oceans are about 30 percent more acidic than they were 30 years ago because of the chemical changes that occur in seawater as it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.

Watch the documentary to understand more of this math and the saga of Bill McKibben and his team to create a resistance movement against the fossil fuel industry.

Available on YouTube and Netflix.


Disruption is also a documentary by, an organization that moves people to fight against use and profit over fossil fuels.

This film shows the catastrophes that are already happening around the world because of our unbridled carbon emissions in the atmosphere, we are the first generation to witness the real consequences of climate change, and at the same time it takes us behind the scenes on the efforts to organize the largest climate event in the world’s history during the UN climate summit, in 2014.

Available on their website, Watch Disruption.

A Lei da Água

Brazilian film made by Cinedelia that investigates and clarifies issues regarding the new forest code in Brazil, a law that provides for the protection of native vegetation and repeals the Brazilian Forest Code of 1965.

It is estimated that 80% of the population was opposed to implementing the law changes, but despite great protests and demonstrations shouting “Veta, Dilma!”, Dilma vetoed only 12 points of the law and proposed the amendment of 32 other articles, and the rest was approved in the chamber and in the senate.

This documentary takes us to the political guts of the law and also to get to know the real problem of water, which attacks not only the arid and remote regions but also the great urban centers, as was the case of the city of São Paulo.

The contrast between political and opinionated speeches versus scientists and researchers is striking.

Available on YouTube.

Mission Blue

A 2014’s documentary that tells the story of one of the most incredible women in the planet: Sylvia Alice Earle. Marine biologist now with 81 years old, she was the first person to be named by Times Magazine as “Heroes of the Planet”, received the TED Prize in 2009 and is celebrated in the Hall of Fame of the National Women of the United States.

Sylvia has been diving, studying, and collecting data from our oceans since the 50s. In 1979 she was the first woman to walk on the ocean floor at a depth of 381 meters. She was also one of the first people to wear a JIM wetsuit, developed on the 70s with the purpose of maintaining the internal pressure of clothing equivalent to that on the atmosphere despite external pressures, and thus eliminating much of the dangers associated with deep dives.

Earle was also NOAA’s first female chief scientist, and decided to leave the administration at a time when she began to feel pressured to omit the truths about the poor conditions of the oceans and marine life.

In 1969, Earle applied for a project called Tektite, sponsored by the US Navy and NASA and which would send a team of scientists to live for two weeks in a secluded habitat at the bottom of the ocean, 15 meters below the surface.

Sylvia already had more than a thousand hours of underwater research on her back, far more than any other scientists who signed up but, as she puts it, “the people in charge could not handle the idea of men and women living underwater together “, And so she was denied participation.

A year later, given her insistence on participating, the Tektite II project came as a women-only research expedition led by Dr. Earle herself.

Sylvia is a great inspiration as a person and activist, and even today she travels the world giving lectures, diving and showing us that no matter what age, color, gender and social class, there is much work to be done if we are to survive on this water planet.

Available on Netflix.


Cooked is a documentary about our food behavior, where it comes from, where it is, and make us reflect on what it could or should be. Divided into 4 episodes, it is the translation of Michael Pollan’s book of the same title to a different media, as Pollan’s says, he’s on a mission to change the way we eat, so he wants to reach as many people as he can and meet people where they are.

The 4 episodes are named Fire, Water, Air and Earth, and each theme tells the history of human cooking and present us with the scary trend we now live in where fewer and fewer people take the time to cook their own food.

What I like about Pollan is that, even though he is not a vegetarian/vegan or whatever, he is and is willing to make us all conscious of what we are eating and where it comes from. To me, this is the deepest and most important value the vegetarian/vegan communities share: awareness of their food choices. You don’t have to follow a 100% vegan diet to understand your own impact and act accordingly.

Available on Netflix


What can I say about Cowspiracy, a film I avoided with all my forces for so long because I knew that I would never look at meat consumption in the same way after I watched. I knew it would break all my hypocrisy and make me see within myself the responsibility I have to take for what I consume, more specifically, for the hamburgers and bacons I loved so much.

It took courage, so I ordered a vegetarian pizza and sat down to watch with my husband. Well, at half of the film not even the pizza’s cheese tasted good anymore.

Cowspiracy, for me, is one of the most important films of our time, because it shows us where our food comes from, and how it comes, and what happens since its cultivation, slaughtering until it reaches our table. But the greatest things is that it explores all of this from an environmental, sustainability and resource scarcity perspective, an angle rarely spoken of and even ignored by organizations and movements fighting for climate and environmental causes.

The reality punch from which cattle and their by-products account for at least 32 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. And that 2,500 liters of water is needed to produce half a pound of meat. Or that for every half a pound of fish caught, up to 5 kilos of marine species are caught unintentionally and then killed by discard.

It strikes even harder as a Brazilian, to know that at least 1,100 of land activists have been killed in Brazil in cold blood in the last 20 years, including Chico Mendes, as they were “interfering” with cattle breeding in the Amazon.

It’s unbelievable. Be strong and watch. Watch. Watch.

Available on Netflix.

The human experiment

This documentary brings real stories of theoretically healthy people who exercise, have a balanced diet, but suddenly find out that they live with unexplained diseases such as cancer, infertility, or even exceptional children. The explanation for this modern phenomenon of increasingly complex diseases is the uncontrolled use of chemicals that are in all our things, not only in industrialized foods or vegetables grown with pesticides, but also in our cosmetics, in the packaging of products and even in the furnishings of our house.

The truth is that the amount of chemicals produced for many different reasons around the world and that are added to the varied goods we consume daily is so huge that it is impossible to regulate and do the proper safety tests on time.

We rely on companies to provide us with all kinds of products, we trust that they know what goes into their products and what effects they have when in contact with other chemicals or environments or with our bodies, but the truth is that this is all a big lie, and we are so accustomed to believing in advertisements and the benefits of products made for the masses, with their descriptive labels of ingredients so small and complex to read that we prefer to trust and believe that companies are making the right and best choices for us.

Available on Netflix

The True Cost

Materialism, cheap consumerism, it’s very expensive. “The Real Cost” is a unique and illuminating documentary on the effects of our current fashion lifestyle. It’s a documentary about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact that the fashion industry has on our planet.

At the same time that the prices of garments decrease decade after decade, human and environmental costs have grown dramatically, and this documentary makes us wonder: who pays the real price?

The True Cost takes us on a journey around the world to hear people involved at all levels of the fashion industry, from designing, growing cotton and leather tanning, to the home of women who work on the factory floors to earn less than 1% of the value of clothing as wages to keep their families in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, China. It talks of transporting and distributing raw material and finished goods all over the world, touching the glamorous catwalks.

Includes interviews with leading fashion influencers worldwide including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva.

Available on Netflix.

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