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AMERICAN MASTERS: A Fierce Green Fire

Airs Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Local children in Niagara Falls, New York, protest toxic contamination of Love Canal, as seen in AMERICAN MASTERS "A Fierce Green Fire."

THIRTEEN’s AMERICAN MASTERS series presents the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement in "A Fierce Green Fire," premiering nationally Tuesday, April 22, 2014 on PBS in honor of Earth Day. The one-hour documentary chronicles one of the largest movements of the 20th century, and one of the keys to the 21st. Written, directed and produced by Academy Award-nominee Mark Kitchell ("Berkeley in the Sixties"), AMERICAN MASTERS "A Fierce Green Fire" spans 50 years of grassroots and global activism from the 1960s-2009 and connects the major causes of environmentalism, from conservation to climate change.

Environment Quiz

Do you know these fierce green fighters? Take the quiz

Online Sneak Peak Screening with The Sierra Club

Join Sierra Club conservationist Bruce Hamilton for a special sneak preview screening of AMERICAN MASTERS "A Fierce Green Fire." We’ll gather together to watch the first 20 minutes of the film, chatting live about the history of the Sierra Club and current Earth Day priorities. Join the screening and chat on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET.

Online Screening and Filmmaker Chat

A day after the national PBS premiere of AMERICAN MASTERS "A Fierce Green Fire," filmmaker Mark Kitchell will participate in the AMERICAN MASTERS online chat and screening of the entire film, Wednesday April 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm PT / 5:30 pm ET.

Environmental Movement's Hot Spots

Follow the film’s stories in this interactive map of the environmental movement’s hot spots of activism and urgency in the 20th century.

Environmental Movement and History

This timeline of key moments in environmental history and the environmental movement is adapted from Tom Turner’s chronology for "American Earth," an anthology edited by Bill McKibben. The timeline includes important early writing, the first conservation groups, disasters, legislation, community and non-profit activism, and more.

Narrated by Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, Van Jones and Isabel Allende, the film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and has won acclaim worldwide.

Inspired by the book of the same name by environmental journalist and film interviewee Philip Shabecoff, and informed by advisors like conservation biologist E.O. Wilson, "A Fierce Green Fire" unfolds in five acts, each with a central story and character, featuring vivid archival footage and new interviews that shed light on the battle for a living planet. The first four acts include success stories of people fighting for causes against enormous odds, and the fifth concludes with climate change.

Act 1, narrated by Redford, focuses on the conservation movement of the 1960s, the Sierra Club and its Executive Director David Brower’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon. Act 2, narrated by Judd, looks at pollution in the 1970s, spotlighting the fight led by film interviewee Lois Gibbs and other Love Canal (Niagara, N.Y.) residents to save their children from toxic waste. Act 3, narrated by Jones, features alternative ecology strands like Greenpeace and its famous campaigns to save whales and baby harp seals, including interviews with co-founders Paul Watson and Rex Weyler. Act 4, narrated by Allende, charts the rise of global resource crises in the 1980s with the struggle to save the Amazon rainforest, led by Chico Mendes and his fellow Brazilian rubber tappers, as its centerpiece. Act 5, narrated by Streep, tackles climate change and the 25-year effort to address this ongoing, global problem, featuring author/activist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, a movement dedicated to solving the climate crisis.

The film’s title is derived from pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold’s "A Sand County Almanac" (1949), which describes his awakening after shooting a wolf while working as a U.S. Forest Service ranger: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.”

“The environmental movement is the biggest movement the world has ever seen, yet so broad and diffuse that we lack a larger sense of what it was about,” explains Kitchell. 'A Fierce Green Fire' is meant to take stock, explore the historical meaning, where we’ve come from and where we’re heading. A hugely ambitious undertaking, it has proved to be the greatest challenge of my career.”

'A Fierce Green Fire' furthers the story of the environmental movement that AMERICAN MASTERS began exploring in 2011 with 'John Muir in the New World,' which won an Emmy,” said Stephen Segaller, executive-in-charge of AMERICAN MASTERS and vice president of programming for WNET. “The film is a series first because there is no ‘American Master,’ per se. Instead, we are featuring a movement made up of individuals and organizations worldwide that have left an indelible impression on America’s cultural landscape, and beyond.”

AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook. Past episodes of AMERICAN MASTERS are available for online viewing.

A Fierce Green Fire - Trailer

American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire is the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement, spanning 50 years of activism. Chronicling the largest movement of the 20th century, the film tells vivid stories about people fighting – and succeeding – against the odds, from the Grand Canyon to Love Canal, from the oceans to the Amazon. A film by Academy Award-nominee Mark Kitchell.

Love Canal: Children and Toxic Waste

The neighborhood called Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, was neither the first nor the worst toxic waste dump, but it became a national story in the late 1970s thanks to the organizing efforts of Lois Gibbs, who fought to protect Love Canal's children, including her own, from the 20,000 tons of toxic waste in the ground. An excerpt from "American Masters: Fierce Green Fire," airing April 22.

When the Sierra Club Saved the Grand Canyon

In the late 1960s, the Sierra Club's fight to save the Grand Canyon from dams was met by retaliation by the IRS. Between the Sierra Club's advertising campaign and the involvement of the IRS, public opinion was galvanized to protect the Grand Canyon. This video is an excerpt from American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire, premiering on PBS on Earth Day, April 22, 2014.

A Dangerous Whale Rescue Mission by Greenpeace

Rex Wyler and Paul Watson, both among the co-founders of Greenpeace, describe the danger and tragedy of the first whale rescue mission they conducted in 1975, when Russian whale hunters were tracking a pod off the coast of California. This video with archival footage of the rescue mission is an excerpt from American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire, premiering on PBS on Earth Day, April 22, 2014.

The Workers Who Saved the Amazon Rainforest

In the 1980s the fate of the Amazon rainforest turned on an unlikely environmental hero: Chico Mendes (1944 - 1988),a poor rubber tapper and union organizer in Brazil. As cattle ranching and logging threatened the rainforest with deforestation, Mendes formed a workers union that aligned itself with environmentalism. This excerpt is from American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire, premiering 4/22/14.

Women in the Environmental Movement

In this web exclusive video, learn why the Indian women of the Chipko Movement became known as tree huggers and what their defensive tactics were. The Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai (1940 - 2011) founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and was the first African women to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. Watch "A Fierce Green Fire" on April 22, 2014, at 9 pm on PBS.

Are You an Environmentalist?

"This is bigger than the Catholic Church," says Paul Hawken about people's concern about the earth and use of its resources. "There are literally two million organizations in the world that are working on these issues of social justice and the environment because they’re inseparable." Activist Robert Bullard thinks anyone who wants to consume clean resources is an environmentalist.