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CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE: CINEMATIC ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE SEVENTIES BY JACOB SCOTT STARKS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Environmental Studies New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Robert Johnson Sarasota, Florida February, 2009
Starks iii Acknowledgements Pete F., Eddy J., and Ray B. who have no idea what this project is about, but pretended to be interested anyways. K. Scott and Margaret Starks for their encouragement and support. Kirsty Beauchamp for her suggestions and he lp. Dr. Robert Johnson for patiently helping me through the initial stages of the project, providing feedback, helpful criticism, and the essential consideration: Jan Wheeler for her writing expertise. Dr. Glenn Cuomo for his help with film analysis. Dr. Meg Lowman for her encouragement and grant writing assistance. Meagn Goose for her encouragement and patience.
Starks iv Table of Contents ii iii iv v Econom Cinematic A Malthusian Future in Soylent Green Chinatown Conclusion Silent Running Commodifying Nature in King Kong The C hina Syndrome and the Risks of
Starks v CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE: CINEMATIC ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE SEVENTIES J acob Starks New College of Florida 200 9 ABSTRACT environmental culture. Many films of the decade reflected a cult ural environmentalism production, and reception, which indicate a notion of Amer ican uncertainty concerning chapter examines the apparent in the films: The Candidate Soylent Green, and Chinatown Public criticism of tion of reported scandals and failures to prevent environmental disasters, and this appears in many films of the decade responsibilities, particularly visualized in the films: Silent Running, King Kong and The China Syndrome
Starks vi development or environmental protection was more beneficial to the progress of the nation. from an amalgamation practices of government and industry; that meaning was then reflected, reinforced, or reconsidered on film. D r. Robert Johnson Division of Environmental Studies _________________________
Starks 1 Thesis Introduction This projec Many films of the decade reflect a cultural environmentalism driven by a crisis of environment. Through an alysis of content, cultural context of production, and reception, this thesis attempts to create a context for understanding the historical meanings of six films. Many films of the decade visualized the growing American environmental consciousness and rein forced or perpetuated the movement's beliefs and actions. Environmental films play a reflective and contributory role in American culture of the 1970's. (Frum xv iii ). The nation experienced an economic decline that remains one of the most memorable aspects of the decade. Americans lost faith in their officials. In addition, a m stimulate economic growth caused Americans to question the limits and abilities of their politicians and generals. Industry in the United States also found itself losing credibility as unemployme nt rose, businesses failed, and man made disasters became a continuing storyline. The turbulent decade affected American society with what President Jimmy the growi ng doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of
Starks 2 American approaches to economic, social, and environmental issues, which necessitated rethinking the roles of business and government. In the midst of these troubles, however, a promising growth in American environmental consciousness appeared. Both contemporary ecological issues and vironmental awareness Silent Spring many Americans became aware of the environmental dangers of industrial chemicals for both nature and its inhabitants. According to historian Carolyn Merchant, Silent Spring pest control methods in agriculture after the publication (Merchant 178). In 1968, overpopulation selling book, The Population Bomb In 1969, the Santa Barbara oil spill occurred when an offshore well erupted and polluted miles of California coastline. The Santa Barbara spill along with frequent Los Angeles smog re ports further alerted Gaylord Nelson to ask students nationwide to fight for environmental causes with the same passion they displayed in Vietnam War protests (Merchant 2 63). The result was the first Earth Day on April 22 nd 1970, a national day of demonstration involving over twenty million Americans interested in saving the environment. Environmentalism became a recognizable part of American culture during the the formation of government institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
Starks 3 E nvironmental groups formed to promote a plethora of causes, and well established groups such as the Sierra Club and the Audubon society increased in membership. Social movements for localized environmental action developed, Earth Day became an annual event voters tracked the environmental record of political candidates, and the environment appeared thematically in various art forms. In films released during the Culture reflects and shapes pe Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture, John Storey defines culture as shared meanings between individuals: Culture is not something essential, embodied in particular can be made to signify), it is the practices and processes of making everyday lives. In this way, then, cultures are made from the production, circulation and consumption of meanings. To share a cultur e, therefore, is to interpret the world make it meaningful in recognizable ways. (Storey 3) Cultural theorist Stuart Hall also argues that culture is a system of representation derived from meanings, providing individuals with concepts of abstract rea lity. The measure of a ( Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media ). The films considered in this thesis messages relating to a cu ltural crisis of Films express the culture in which they are made become a part of it and sometimes lead to individual and societal change. Film theorists Jean Louis Como lli and
Starks 4 ed on some relation to the prevail ing cultural ideology. Film historian Dudley Andrews finds Film often perpetuates and enhances the beliefs and ideas of a specific culture because it envisio ns the mentality of that new meanings back on reality, meanings which necessarily enrich us and pay tribute to the inexhaustible world The audienc e may identify with some of Film historians often examine the content, reception, and the cultural context of production to understand audience mentalities of a spe thesis takes a similar approach when analyzing six films appealing to the American The Candidate Soylent Green Chinatown Silent Running King Kong and The China Syndrome Histori an Pierre Sorlin justifies the use of any film as an artifact because filmmakers must present recognizable situations audiences with messages relating to familiar con cerns of viewers. This thesis considers Audience acceptance may indicate whether a film reflects the prevailing cultural ideology of its time period. To find the cultural and socia l relevance of a film, historian 117). In Interpreting Films
Starks 5 thesis uses critical and social sources that iden tified environmental themes and issues appearing in each film. Cultural context also provides an opportunity for investigating the historical popular culture) generall y stick very closely to realities since they show images that the (Sorlin 50). Observing the connections between cinema and reality, this thesis studies the political production and release. of confidence in American government and business, and how films created during this period express this uncertainty. Filmmakers attempted to create culturally relevant works, familiar to audiences consciously or subconsciously, and succeeded. No culturally obscure films are analyzed in this project; all received popular recog nition from critics and audiences alike. and explores the American of social, political, and technological p political and economic background provides the context necessary to understand the suspicion some Americans had about institutions and industry. An explanation of the growing cultural environmentalism during the de cade follows. A discussion of film and
Starks 6 autonomy in film production, more controversial social concerns appeared in films. The second chapter examines three films with envi ronmental messages and their The Candidate appeared early in the decade and visualized the inauthenticity of some politicians supporting environmental causes. The seco nd film depicts a world nearly destroyed by overpopulation. The corrupt world of Soylent Green casts suspicion on government and industry partnerships that are ostensibly solving environmental problems. Then, Chinatown is a nihilistic film expressing the f utility of combating corruption in resource management. The films discussed in the second chapter hold parity with several governmental events and political movements of the era. For audiences of government, these films echo their sentiments. ability to operate safely within the environment based on a discussion of three skeptical films. Silent Running envisions a tec hnological future where nature becomes unnecessary and suggests that conservation efforts sponsored by corporations and managed by government will disappear when they are deemed unprofitable. King Kong depicts corporate negligence in the environment by usi ng an exaggerated example of invasive species destruction. Finally, The China Syndrome seems to prophesize the dangers of corporate greed and negligence in the nuclear power industry. Ten days after the film appeared in theatres, the United States suffered its worst nuclear accident at Three Mile
Starks 7 practices required scrutiny because of past catastrophes. ation of societal events, beliefs, and actions; that meaning was then reflected, reinforced, or reconsidered on film. Many films of the decade express the crisis of confidence in lowing chapters will analyze the importance of this theme in environmental incidents and actions of the period.
Starks 8 n government and industry to solve many of their pressing problems. Economic woes, international conflicts, environmental elected officials. An insecure nation faced an in creasingly globalized market while experiencing economic recession, inflation, and high unemployment. Industrial accidents and energy crises further shook the faith of Americans in their leaders and corporate employers. Environmentalism emerged as a strong cultural movement, encompassing many interests and issues often expressed in American films by and for a population disillusioned with government and industry. This chapter provides a historical context for the environmental issues appearing in films of the post Earth Day Era (April 22,1970). The first section examines the economic climate and the struggles of industry in light of energy crises and scarcity in the public catastrophes of the decade that furthered American doubt about the competence of government and industry. Examining the increase of environmentalism in American culture, the fourth s growth of the movement. The final section explains the role of film in expressing social concerns and discusses how environmentalism became a prominent theme at the movies. The histori
Starks 9 a cultural environmentalism driven by a crisis of confidence in government and Economy and Industry o A wave of economic insecurity made worse by the decline of industrial two decades faded, and a new phenomenon, stagflation, set in. Stagflation became the te rm used to summarize economic stagnation from weak growth, high unemployment, and rising inflation rates (Fiedler 169). Previously booming industries decreased employment for large portions of the American populace as international trade relocated capital and profits (Eckstein and Heien 186 189). Rising prices and a fluctuating dollar valuation had already unsettled the American public before oil shocks in 1973 and 1978 increased the cost of production for most industries (Berkowitz 55). Unemployment increa sed as industries scaled back their operations. These conditions led Americans to lose confidence in the overall sustenance of industrial progress, and the prospects for future prosperity appeared bleak (Mullaney 203). An apprehensive American workforce u nderwent a major revision in their industry. American productivity decreased throughout the decade as advancements in technologies allowed for the mechanization of many jobs ( Ruttan 896 99; Nordhaus 493). While the number of high paying, product oriented factory jobs decreased, less remunerative jobs in the service and retail trades increased (Flint 1). Service and retail sectors accounted for 70 percent of all newly created pr
Starks 10 (Berkowitz 67). These jobs generally involved younger workers, shorter hours, lower rates of pay, and fewer benefits (Cotterill and Wadycki 71). Americans became aware of the changes in the labor market, and at the same tim gathered much attention. Factories of longstanding American companies shut down their operations, often sending small towns into full scale economic decline when replacement ventures or industries failed to emerge (Berk owitz 69 70). For example, historian Edward D. Berkowitz describes Youngstown, Ohio as a town that suffered great economic decline when large steel companies shut down operations and abandoned their enterprises. New service based jobs available from the es tablishment of a hospital and Youngstown State College could not provide an equal amount of employment. Almost 25,000 people moved away from the town in just a few short years (Berkowitz 120 122). An accessible international marketplace revoked the previo us dominance of American industry in global markets. For instance, the U.S. steel industry operated at less than 85 percent capacity by 1977 because greater productivity from efficient Japanese and European competitors marginalized the formerly hegemonic b usiness (Berkowitz 120 (Lewis 41). Rising gasoline prices prompted American consumers to purchase more fuel efficient Japanese automobiles while very few domestic vehicles wer e exported to Japan (Berkowitz 56; Halloran 71). Americans became aware of their tenuous position in the Rising inflation increased American fears that the postwar era of prosperit y had disappeared. The American dollar had been taken off the gold standard and its value allowed to float perilously in international currency markets (Lewis 41; Krieger 156). To
Starks 11 maintain the value for a short term period, prices and wages were controlled by the Nixon administration (Hershey 14). This procedure worked until the controls were lifted and large events such as the 1973 oil crisis and foreign purchases drove domestic prices upwards in excess of 12 percent (Lee 215; Metz 205; Jensen 73; Shannaha n 93). The American economy had undergone a full recession by 1974, and despite brief recoveries, a general malaise persisted throughout the decade (Berkowitz 60 61). Some Americans feared a return to the Great Depression, and others attempted to forestall the problems of (Schulman 135). In The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics historian Bruce Shulman explains that many American consumers beg an borrowing on credit cards to combat inflation. According to Schulman, because interest rates of saving (around 5%) were often lower than the rate of inflation (around 8%), credit card users had borrowed $167 billion in 1975 and nearly doubled that by 19 79 preserve the prosperity of the postwar era. Assuming continued inflation, Americans attempted to combat stagflation individually while awaiting an effective government solution. The Crisis of Confidence in Government After an early summer spent consulting the citizens and discussing American issues with leaders of business, politics, and labor, President Jimmy Carter delivered a speech to the American public on July 1
Starks 12 had closed because of fuel shortages, inflation had passed ten percent, and unemployment levels began to rise again (Schulman 140, Berkowitz 126 127). In what has become sident Carter accepted some of the blame for the present state of the nation, but asked American citizens to recognize the threat to indulgence to help right the nation (rptd. in Horowitz 1 08 119; Berkowitz 131). President Carter attempted to stabilize inflation by placing controls on prices and credit while instructing the Federal Reserve Board to contract the money supply. However, another recession occurred just before the 1980 presidenti al election, and President Carter lost his bid for reelection that year (Lohr 29; Schulman 140 143). gate scandal office (Smith 37). Many Americans viewed the Vietnam War as a costly action, psychologically and economically, with little benefit or objective (Emerson 3; Reston 37). The war demonstrated a decline in the hegemonic power of the United States in world affairs (Schulman 48 49). President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Nixon for any crimes he may have committed on September 8, 1974, in an attempt to mov e the nation forward after the long Watergate scandal. However, President Ford quickly found himself under criticism for this action, as well as for his inability to halt rising oil prices and remedy inflation (Silk 59). Congressional scandals also shook A merican confidence in elected leaders. Representative Wilbur Mills, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, made national news when he and an exotic dancer were arrested for intoxication
Starks 13 (Crewdson 23). Representative Mills publicly apologized for the incident, but made another similarly publicized drunken appearance shortly thereafter, then retired before running for another term (Berkowitz 88 89). Representative Wayne Hays, Chairman of the Administration Committee, also had to retire after a scandal a ccusing him of having paid mistresses on his staff was printed in The Washington Post (Lyons 23) After Watergate, news media and journalism informed the public of government corruption including the formerly unmentioned private lives of elected officials (Berkowitz 101 103). A significant number of Americans lost much of their faith in government in the disreputable controversies. An environmental "crisis of confidence" developed during the 1970's as the American populace held corporations and government largely responsible for several catastrophes. This section explains public distrust of industry and government through thr ee disasters: the Amoco Cadiz oil spill, Love Canal ground pollution, and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. coverage of environmental disasters with the blame often laid on American industries (Steinberg 247 249). Preceding the 1970's, environmental disasters had received some public attention, but corporations had not always been held responsible for the damage. For example, farming practices and natural climate forces had been perceived as the
Starks 14 by the end of the 1960's, a deeper public awareness of environmental issues had been Si lent Spring (1972) called attention to the dangers of widespread pesticide use. When the Cuyahoga River caught fire on June 22, 1969, because of floating debris and oil, the event gained national media coverage, and reports assumed industrial pollution. Al though the river had caught fire on several occasions throughout the 20th century, this time the event received national attention. Time magazine dbuted its new "Environment" section with the story, reporting that "great industries have lately made effort s to dump fewer noxious effluents into the Cuyahoga" (HP Time.com 8/1/1969, Steinberg 239 240). As reported environmental disasters became common throughout the 1970's, so did governmental legislation of environmental practices. President Richard Nixon es tablished the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December of 1970 to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment: air, water, and land. In his 1970 State of the Union Address, President Nixon declared that: estoring nature to its nat ural state is a common a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later (Nixon 1 970) A series of environmental legislation covering air, water, land, resources, animals, and pollution passed through Congress in the 1970's as well. However, several environmental disasters of the decade challenged the government's ability to protect th e environment or to prevent disaster. As a result, the public questioned government stewardship of the
Starks 15 Americans became gruesomely aware of corporate irresponsibility and government de ficiencies in August of 1978, when the story of Love Canal made national headlines. The most infamous began as a William Love, t from a canal built between the Upper and Lower Niagara to support a small city of homes and industry (Beck 2). Love began constructing a large canal, sixty feet wide, ten feet deep, and t hree thousand feet long, but economic troubles doomed the project (Levine 9). The locally operating Hooker Chemical Company purchased the land in 1947 and dumped chemicals in the canal until 1952 (Levine 10). The land, containing many hazardous alkali and caustic chemicals, was sold in 1953 to the Niagara School Board for one dollar (Brown SM6; Levine 10). In the deed, Hooker Chemical added a disclaimer releasing it from any liability for accidental exposure to the industrial wastes under the property(Levin e 12). Homes were constructed on adjacent properties until the early chemical odors, basement leakages, and sink holes from corroded barrels appeared in local newspapers and civi c records (Levine 12 14). While many blue collar homeowners federal loans, continued environmental deterioration in the area alarmed some residents (Levine 14). Governm ent response to the problems of Love Canal varied at the local, state and federal levels. A professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Adeline Levine spent three years interviewing hundreds of residents at Love Canal
Starks 16 recording the history and impact of the disaster in Love Canal: Science, Politics, People presence of chemicals in Love Canal homes, but encouraged homeowners to fill their ba sement drains with cement to prevent leakage into the Niagara River. This official did Commission and New York Department of Environmental Conservation began investiga tions in 1976, which stalled during chemical analysis troubles and local government opposition (Brown SM6). Finally, the press began to report the story locally in 1977, and Congressman John LaFalce toured the area, contacting the EPA afterwards. Local gov but EPA officials recorded high concentrations of carcinogenic benzene in residential homes, as well as numerous incidents of birth defects, pregnancy miscarriages, and blood disor ders within the Love Canal community (Levine 16 18). The story broke national news in a front page New York Times article in August of 1978 (McNeil A1). On August 7 th 1978, President Jimmy Carter approved emergency financial aid for Love Canal, and New Y ork Governor Hugh Carey promised that the state government would purchase the regi onal administrator, voiced concern a year later that possibly hundreds of sites similar to Love Canal existed throughout the United States, and state grants were issued to examine and inventory other possible sites (Beck EPA.gov; Dionne NJ22). Love Canal small movements around an environmental cause. Love Canal was home to at least 500
Starks 17 Americans who could not trust industry or government. Resident Lois Gibbs understood the dangers of buried c hemicals when two of her children developed blood disorders and other medical troubles at Love Canal. She failed to persuade the local elementary school to close down when she learned of the chemicals buried underneath it. Local government also rejected th e idea, and environmental groups lacked the knowledge to help (Shabecoff 234). She finally petitioned the Love Canal community and created a group to meet with state government officials, and the school was shut down on August 2, 1978 (CHEJ Gibbs explained in a later interview that legality and science did not matter in the Love Canal example; she felt that the entire matter was political (Shabecoff from the init evacuated as well on October 1 st, community had not fought a highly publicized and politicized battle, significant parts of Love Can al would have been ignored (Gibbs and CHEJ 1983). A different kind of industrial accident occurred outside the United States on March 16th 1978. A Liberian super tanker, the Amoco Cadiz, ran aground near the shore of Brittany, France hull a nd storage tanks ripped open, releasing 230, 000 tons of crude oil, which spread through the English Channel. The oil spill polluted approximately 150 miles of coastlin e, destroying fisheries and oyst ers and seaweed beds (Lewis 1). While the accident occurr ed on foreign waters, the corporation involved was American. Amoco disputed its liability in the accident, furthering American doubt about corporate responsibility (Carter 514). This kind of incident also reminded the large scale damage that a single accident
Starks 18 could produce. Journalist Noel Mostert had warned of supertanker accidents caused by in serialized pieces for The New Yorker then published Supersh ip in 1974. During its coverage of the Amoco Cadiz accident, The New York Times A2). Additionally, the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 had driven Americans to question natural resource pursuits (Blair 30). After a rig platform spilled over 80,000 barrels of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel, miles of California coastline suffered heavy pollution. Santa Barbara residents immediately formed a protest group, Get Oil Out! (GOO!), appealing directly to President Nixon and the national media (MacDonald and Easton SM32). After much controversy, federal legislation regulated offshore drilling with the 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act to improve the safety of drilling opera companies leasing federal lands (Bratland 531). Since the Santa Barbara event, most oil spills have occurred in connection with transportation of crude oil rather than with offshore production operations ( Bratland 531). Even if Americans could not link an Amoco Cadiz type disaster to incidents like Love Canal, it became apparent that technological advancements had allowed for more serious corporate accidents to occur. According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) a not for profit organisation monitoring ship sou rce marine million barrels) of oil released into global waters (ITOPF 3). S tructural failures from oil tankers accounted for nearly one third of all oil lost to the oceans even more than was lost from tanker groundings and collisions (ITOPF 7) Structural failure
Starks 19 was cited as the primary cause for over 500 oil tanker accide nts occurring between 1969 and 1974 (Carter 514). Although technology had allowed for increased globalized oil technology (514). At the time of the Amoco Cadiz acciden t, over 6800 Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), tankers carrying over 200,000 tons each, often experienced navigational and maneuvering difficulties because of their size. Concern for future oil transportation safety increased after the Amoco Cadiz disaster resources previously believed to be inexhaustible. Wasteful oil spills became economic liabilities when Arab oil embargoes shocked the United States in 1973 and 1978. Risin g gasoline prices and occasional gas rations caused American consumers to line up for with the energy problem and Congress passed the first fuel efficiency standa rds for automobiles in 1975 (Schulman 125 128). government looked back to the post war era promises of nuclear power as a substitute for ts promoted the development of nuclear energy as a cheap substitute for carbon based electricity, but President Carter prevented commercial reprocessing of plutonium to prevent military weapons proliferation of nuclear technology (Kaku and Trainer 109; Bre nner 89). However, after the Three Mile
Starks 20 44). O n March 28, 1979 the main feed water pumps failed in the non nuclear cooling system of R eactor 2 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. C ooling water drain ed away from the reactor resulting in a partial melting of the reactor core. Operator errors, a blocked valve, faulty sensors and design errors resulted in an atmospheric release of about 2. 4 million curies (a standard unit of radioactivity, roughly the activity of 1 gram of the radium isotope 226Ra ) (Gerusky 57; National Research Counc il 41 ) Inadequately trained operators of the TMI reactor ignored temperature and pressure measurements in the core and coolant, but fortunately, 18 billion curies of radiation remained in the con tainment structure around the reactor. A few days after the accident occurred, all children and pregnant women were evacuated from a four mile radius of Three Mile Island as a safety precaution, a national frenzy of concern ensued, and a film ( The China Sy ndrome ) released just three weeks before appeared to prophes y the events. A poorly trained staff at TMI, consisting of owners, overseers, and operators received the blame for an event that could have had larger environmental implications (Ayres A8) Ameri can faith in nuclear power largely disappeared as environmental groups began to advocate a return to coal as a substitute for oil based energy. ability to secure a viable environment. Government appeared to promote faulty programs, and regulation could not prevent every catastrophe. Many people believed i ndustry had no concern for public safety with interests only in
Starks 21 resource extraction, producti on, and profits. Each event galvanized environmental movements attempting to solve the specific problem. Love Canal led to Not In My Back Yard resistance to hazardous waste site and political organizations to force corporate/government to accept responsibi lity for past misdeeds. Pollution from oil spills helped create movements against pollution and loosely regulated oil transportation. The Three Miles Island accident virtually halted the construction of new nuclear power plants in the United States to this day (Burnham E5) American concern for environmental reinforced American environmental concern. amalgamation of events, legislation, movements, and media. Millions of Americans peacefully petitioned for a healthier environment on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. Throughout the decade, public service announcements (PSA), non commercial broadcasts or printed advertisements promoting a public good, appeared condemning pollution and other environmental ills. Popular contemporary publications often pred icted dire consequences for the future, warning Americans of problematic environmental n ew environmental groups formed while previou sly established clubs increased their membership. Partly in response to public pressure, government legislation increased the protection of land, water, air, and animals.
Starks 22 A significant portion of the American culture became environmentally conscious in the The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 ushered in a decade of cultural environmentalism. Millions of peaceful protestors organized rallies, marches and demonstrations across the United States on this day. Prominent political figures, such as Senat or Ted Kennedy, gave speeches, and recognizable cultural figures, including Arlo Guthrie, participated in litter collection efforts. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D Wis., who originated the Earth Day concept, told students at the Unive rsity of California at Berkele y that "our goal is not just an environment of clean air, clean water and scenic beauty, while forgetting Appalachia and the ghetto. Our goal is a decent environment without poverty, war and discrimination" (United Press International A132090848, Hill 1 ). Television and printed media encouraged environmentalism throughout the PSA aired on television depicted a Native American on horseback emerging from a pristine forest, pre sumably from the American past into an urban present. As the rider surveys his present day surroundings, a driver tosses litter from his car window amidst then the tagli ne appears, "People Start Pollution. People can stop it (Keep America Beautiful 1971). The antipollution group responsible for the PSA, Keep America and printed materi Beautiful received more than 2,000 letters a month from citizens interested in helping their cause. By the end of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful local teams had helped
Starks 23 to reduce litte r by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries (Coombs and Holladay 93). The success of the Keep America Beautiful anti litter campaign led to many other environmental messages through the years from various sources. Complicated environmental issues captured the attention of the American culture The Population Bomb ( 1968) Limits to Growth (1972) describe bleak futures where millions of people starve to death because population growth exceeds the carrying capacity of the Earth. Some sociological studies from the decade report a high correlation of individuals concerned with overpopulation personally in favor of having fewer children. One interest group consisting of 36,000 members in 1971, Zero Population Growth, Inc., particularly favored tax incentives for couples having two children or less a s well as penalties for those having more (Barnett 759, 764). about the effect of environmental restrictions on the availability of jobs. In Progress and Privilege: America in the Age of Environmentalism William Tucker, a conservative editorial writer of the 1970s, criticized environmentalism as a movement for the affluent at the expense of the poor. Many labor unions opposed the environmental movement because of a fear that blue collar jobs would be lost if development projects were cancelled. Vernon Jordan, Director of the Urban League, believed that the interests of black and urban people were incongruous to those of the environmental movement. At a joint conference on urban and
Starks 24 proverbial man on the street what he thinks the basic urban environmental problem is, sustainable development, a conc ept publicized by the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment, which meant development meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (United Nations 12/11/87) r elatively high levels of support for environmental legislation from college educated, white collar p rofessionals, self identified independents and Democrats, with liberal political thinking ( Van Liere and Dunlap 190 193; Calvert 333) Less support came from older individuals with minimal formal education, agricultural workers Republicans, conserv atives, and rural dwellers (Van Liere and Dunlap 190 193). In addition, the highest levels of legi slation support stemmed from middle income earners ($10,000 14,999) and the lowest level of support from high income earners ($25,000 or more) (Calvert 333) environmental activity and gro up affiliations. The Back to the Land Movement consisted of individuals and households who moved from urban or suburban dwellings to rural ones. A Gallup poll conducted in 1973 found that 56% of Americans would prefer a rural life if they could have it; 23 % chose a suburban life while only 18% preferred an urban dwelling ( Science News 309). By the late '60s, many people felt out of touch with nature and physical work. Mother Earth News the Whole Earth catalogs and derivative publications emerged as impetus to the
Starks 25 Membership in environmental groups, previously established or recently formed, membership had increased from 88,000 to 388 ,000 over the past ten years (Audubon group, saw its membership rise from 33,000 to 200,000 between 1965 and 1981 (Sierra ups such as the Friends of Earth (the US in 1969 and internationally in 1971) and Greenpeace (1971) formed early in the decade (Webster 14; Walz 14). Environmentally conscious Americans had a large choice of groups to choose from, including special interes t or political action groups which formed to address specific problems. several pieces of congressional legislation. Several environmental groups, including Greenpeace, the S ierra Club and the Audubon Society, actively lobbied for specific protections of various subjects. The Clean Air, Clean Water, Coastal Zone Management, Endangered Species, and Wilderness Acts represent significant legislation in respect of their intended environmental fields. Charles O. Jones, a political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh and author of several texts on public policy, argues that many of these legislative pieces occurred because of constituency pressures. The American public action (Jones 123 124). In 1972, Hazel Erskine, then editor of the Public Opinion
Starks 26 George O. Jones, this constituent based pressure increased three factors in environmental legislation : the number of participants working on environmental policy, competition among elected officials attempting to gain credit for legislation passage, and media coverage of policy development (Jones 124). facets, reinforcing the notion of an overall movement often associated with the decade. Although environmentalism consisted of many elements, these events, actions, legislation, and publicity reinforced a foundation of public consciousness for years to come. Twenty years after the first Earth Day, a 1990 Gallup poll asked Americans whether they believed themselves to be environmentalists. 73% answere d yes (Corbett 65). Cinematic Expression of Environmental Issues In the appearance of e nvironmentalism in many films was made with realistic styles and techni ques. This section begins by defining film and its cultural importance. An examination of film as a cultural artifact and its effect on audiences follows. This section then provides a short history of classical Hollywood production before an explanation of
Starks 27 chapters. Films or motion pictures are sequences of recorded images from the world created by using cameras. Sometimes a film incorporate s animation or special effects t o tell a story. Over the past century, film has become an important form of art, recording event s as they occurre d in real time and portraying accurate or fictionalized accounts of the world. Films often fall into categories according to genre: for example, drama, western, science fiction, and comedy. Most popular American motion pictures are produced by Hollywood ba sed studios, but are often captured or shot in their location setting. Film audiences attend and appreciate films basing their interpretations within current cultural circumstances. In A Short History of the Movies film historians Gerald Mast and Bruce Ka indicates, at least partially, that a sufficient number of people wanted, needed, demanded, Many films act as cultural artifacts cre ated by cultures, which reflect and affect their social audiences. Colin McGinn, professor of philosophy at the University of Miami, argues in his text, The Power of Movies argues that the power of cinema exists in its similarity to human dreams. Accordin events because they serve social communi cation as both the message and messenger (Gronemeyer 7). Cultural theorist Stuart Hall developed a theory of encoding and decoding to explain degrees of understanding and misunderstanding between the
Starks 28 audience and the producer of a specific medium in a comm unicative exchange (Hall 54). verdetermined," which means that any film is the cumulative product of certain industrial practices, political climates, ideas about artistic merit and available financial and technical resources (American Film To explain further, a film is created within a certain cultural context structure with some information encoded by its creator(s). The film then delivers the on screen within its contextual structure. Audience meaning based on interpretations of message, structure and a correlation of the two ( Hall amiliarity with symbols, messages, and themes within the present cultural structure (Hall 52). Classical Hollywood studios delivered film entertainment to the public through Holl ywood films from the first half of the century depicted American ingenuity, kindness, and sincerity triumphing over greed, suffering and oppression (245). Clearly defined protagonists performed within standard storylines fitting to specific genres. Filmmak ers of the era utilized smooth continuity of shot sequences and rarely intended for audiences to notice camera positions, sound editing, or other production techniques. and W esterns, claiming 70% of box office revenue from 1930 1948, grossing a then record $1.7 billion in 1946 (Mast and Kawin 236, 284; American Film Institute
Starks 29 Classical Hollywood production studios maximized their profits by control ling each stage of a film's life: production (making the film), distribution (getting the film out to people), and exhibition (owning first run theaters in major cities). However, profits began to decline as a result of television and legal and commercial woes beginning in the U.S. v. Paramount Pictures in 1948, broke 400). The film industry developed the use of color such as Tec hnicolor larger screen sizes such as Cinescope and technical gimmickry such as three dimensional films in films to draw audiences away from their home television viewing, but with declining success (Gronemeyer 110 112). Box office flops like Cleopatra (1 963) prompted studios to cut expensive film productions and allow for more independent and creative projects (Harris 9). Although still financed by major production companies, independent production groups gained more power to make films throughout the 19 (Bordwell 400). had changed dramatically, allowing directors more independence. Critics have labeled this shift from old industry standards classical cinema (Lev xviii ). Popular f ilm stars and directors found financing for their projects from studio executives, who, in turn, interfered minimally in the work ( Bordwell 368; Lewis 21 22, 45). If directors maintained low budgets and attracted large young audiences, producti on studios virtually guaranteed future independence for their upcoming projects (Gilbey 6). With more
Starks 30 Lester D. Friedman, author of several texts about film and a Scholar in Residence in the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, finds that doubt in the promises of America (Friedman 20). Young directors, fil m school educated and energetic, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Roman Polanski, incorporated this crisis of confidence in to characters and films. M orally ambiguous protagonists, social criticism, technical expertise, and h istorical revision films The Godfather work allowed studios to experiment with auteur theory, the idea that film directors should have complete responsibility as the creative impulse fo r their film (Lewis 2). Friedman lit, symbolic confessional of a n Italian official social and political institutions that are presumed to bolster moral and ethical to maintain relative autonomy in filmmaking for the next decade (Lewis 15). Other directors also contributed to an exciting and e xperimental era in film, bringing realism, Under the influence of directors attempting to produce realistic films depicting prevalent social concerns, environmentalism became salient in many films of Thematic environmental issues occurred in numerous film genres. Many new Westerns revised American views of identity, masculinity and wilderness. Science fiction films questioned the notion of progress with respect to environmental stewardship Political dramas challenged the motives of politicians and government acting for and against the
Starks 31 environment. American cultural environmentalism appears in films such as Jeremiah Johnson and Little Big Man ponsibilities occur in Chinatown King Kong and The China Syndrome American government becomes apparent in The Candidate Silent Running and Soylent Green ut these films illustrate the American crisis of confidence and cultural movements generated by Conclusion apprehension. This chapter established a historical context for American insecurity about Environmentalism also increased throughout the decade as events, movements, and disasters called Americans to actio n. Motion pictures of the decade often illustrate a combination of social concern for ecological issues and the uncertainty of the times. The environmentalism and the crisis of con fidence in government and industry to ensure an ecologically viable future.
Starks 32 decade of corruption, scandal an d inefficacy. A long, costly, and inefficacious war in Vietnam had aroused a public antipathy evidenced by years of demonstrations and violent protests around the nation. Vice President Spiro Agnew was convicted of income tax evasion and resigned from offi ce on October 10, 1973, because of kickbacks he received while governor of Maryland (Gateward 95). After several years of highly publicized Watergate investigations revealed illegal campaign contributions and activities, President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 (Wooten 1) In addition to scandals, government regulations and administrative agencies were unable to prevent ecological disasters of the institution of the EPA and pa ssage of environmental legislation. On June 6th, 1976, t he Teton Dam disaster, a failed project of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), also lowered (Gallagher 197) Nearly all forms of authority received greater scrutiny as Americans became disillusioned and suspicious of government and its institutions (UPI 28) Historian Bruce Schulman notes that elements that the powers th realistic political campaign drama/comedy, The Candidate (1972), which questions
Starks 33 articulated in the science fiction film, Soylent Green (1973), a depiction of future horrors address overpopulation and overconsumption. The third section explores the revisionist film noir Chinatown (1974) and its allegations of corruption behind government projects and natural resource management. These films voiced an American concern of the 19 the environment. The Candidate The Candidate a realistic political drama chronicling a fictional California senate race, reflects the political disillusionment of with a summary of The Candidate officials. Through the changing political stance of senate hopeful Bill McKay, the film raises questions about the real importan ce of the natural environment in American politics. The film speaks to audiences wary of politicians changing positions or posturing as proponents of environmental issues. The Candidate also illustrates political handling of the prevalent cultural debate: economic development versus environmental protection. The film unmasks the American political campaign procedure as shallow, contrived, and disillusioning. Content The Candidate abandons or co mpromises his positions on environmental and other social issues in order
Starks 34 to win his election. Bill McKay, son of a former California governor, begins the film as an active supporter of working lower class people. However, a Mephistophelian campaign adviso r, Marvin Lucas, approaches McKay with an offer to run against the powerful Republican incumbent, Crocker Jarmon. After initial reluctance, McKay agrees to run, but solely on his integrity and ideals. McKay expects defeat, yet sees the campaign as an oppor tunity to spread his idealistic platform for social, environmental, Californian land, protection of watershed and beaches, and the political favoring of polluting industries over m ore sound ecological practices. However, early election polls only comes from people who already agree with him. The vast majority of California voters still support Jarmon, who is emphatically against welfare and environmenta l concerns. Fearing an embarrassing loss, McKay begins listening to Lucas and abandons many points of his original platform. a wildfire in Malibu, McKay rushes to the scene a nd explains the importance of maintaining a natural watershed to prevent tree death and wildfires. The press quickly leaves McKay when Jarmon arrives via helicopter announcing a proposed watershed bill. nced disaster insurance and does campaign. Throughout the film, when McKay attem pts to address environmental or social concerns, his audience reacts with boredom or apathy
Starks 35 eventually set aside in favor of a less controversial agenda based more on his visual image than his leadership ability. sors finally persuade him to moderate all of his views. Campaign his image among voters. Although he clearly dislikes the direction of his campaign and its lack of subs tance, McKay accepts the goals of his advisors and wins an upset against unprepared Senator while a cheering cr owd of supporters sweeps McKay off to give his victory speech. The Candidate reveals how the American election process compromises the values, intentions, and actions of those running for public office. Reception Critical reception of The Candidate includ ed several film critics discussing of The New York Times ogical issues as neutralized and -that the system is so corrupt that no good man can win without either being hopelessly corrupted or turned into a Sight and Sound film critic Penelope Houston Film Quart erly Robert Chappetta
Starks 36 reviewed The Candidate the contemporary of accommodation and compromise, he must end up sounding -and being -just like his elections of 1972, Congresswoman Bella Abzug compared the relevance of the film to contemporary politics; she sympathized with McKay during the wildfire scene where his Cultural Context The Candidate encourages American doubt about politicians claiming the victories with the help of publicity from environmental groups eager to support candidates holding similar views (Hill 46). In a 1970 New York Times article, James Reston wrote that campaigning politicians could no longer ignore the concerns of the atmosphere, but whether they will listen to the industries of their district, or to the in presidential and congressional statements or directives for environmental protection ( T imes 42). When President Nixon ordered Federal agencies to eliminate all polluting activity by 1972, one New York Times [the order] heralds the end, or even a great reduction, of such activity by the ve ry
Starks 37 Times 28). The film portrays McKay abandoning the environmental principles he once considered most important (Hill 1) environmental p rotection throughout the film, but the specifics of his initial views disintegrate into generalities. McKay begins as a man of the people, promising teens on the beach less pollution from industry. However, advisors remove commercial footage of the candida te condemning oil drilling and the nuclear power industry because it will preserving the California watershed, gradually disappears from all campaign speeches because McKa Jarmon, both candidates avoid specific issues such as pollution by ignoring its sources, discussing leadership and technological progress instead of the problem. After McKay finally attempts to discuss real issues during the conclusion of his debate, he finds himself in danger of losing public support. Finally, the campaign concludes successfully with a repetitive speech of banalities, where McKay addresses the concerns of key voting demograp to these engagements, the candidate mocks his speech and mixes its lines: McKay: ainst old, the young against poor. This country can no longer house its houseless -feed its foodless -the basic indifference that made this country great -election day, vote once, vote twice for Bill McKay you middle class honkies. The Candidate portrays McKay realistically, showing his peculiar d isillusionment through participating in the political process. Terry Christensen, a political science and
Starks 38 film professor at San Jose State University, argues that once Bill McKay chose to run for understand how decent people The Candidate asks audiences: if well intentioned characters like Bill McKay become corrupted, what compromises might other elected of ficials make? The ease with which McKay and his advisors cast aside environmental issues in maneuvers by President Nixon and the government. Nixon abstained from inaugur al Earth Day activities and spent the week making proclamations for national participation in Archery and Boating (Hill2 1) The White House staff, however, did participate in a clean up of the Potomac River (Schulman 30 31). Nixon also established the EPA but the president instructed the agency not to impede profitable industry activities (Ruckelshaus EPA.Gov ). And, Bill Ruckelshaus, the first head of the EPA, also claims he ent (Ruckelshaus EPA.Gov ) Nixon also vetoed the Clean Water Act in 1972, a bill that John Ehrlichman remembers the president making the veto with full knowledge that a c ongressional override would follow (326). However, President Nixon believed that congress would have to answer to American voters and industry donors for the ensuing tax increase created by the bill (Ehrlichman 326). In a form of diplomatic environmental g randstanding, President Nixon sent several delegates to the 1972 UN Conference on the Environment as political favors for their support in his re election (Ehrlichman 318). While delegates attended this conference abroad, the White House criticized Ruckels haus
Starks 39 Ehrlichman 320). Americans wary of elected or campaigning officials grandstan ding about environmental protection also found several examples in The Candidate reminiscent of contemporary politics. The Jarmon watershed bill lacked substance in a way similar to n promised to create larger parklands by ceding Federal lands to State authorities ( Times 74) However, this act reassigned some areas formerly utilized for the study of environmental damages from nuclear power and other potential threats. Lands ceded from environmental science experiments by the University of Chicago, were transferred in June of 1973 to the DuPage County Forest Preserve District for public park and recreation purposes (Goodman 521). While the Legacy of Parks program appeared to create more parklands in the name of environmental preservation, it actually removed creating parks, but actu ally reduced the federal budget and prevented environmental The Candidate similarly deceives the public by promising insurance funds to rebuild after the wildfire without addressing the source of the disaster. The bill gai California watershed. The Candidate also illustrates the American debate of economic development versus environmental protection. Crocker Jarmon stands before a crowd of supporters and
Starks 40 promis without going to extremes President Nixon strongly favored economic development and job creating industries over envir 23). A taped conversation of the president with auto industry leaders recorded him saying What Conclusion The Candidate cautions viewers to observe their elected officials closely and decide whether their record matches their environmental politicking. By putting forth several examples of campaigning officials saying one thing and doing another, the film parallels several similar political events and actio office faced increased scrutiny from voters because of the crisis of confidence in government. In environmental matters, one could simply examine the voting record and the activities of elected officials to determin could look to their own President for examples of questionable environmental politics.
Starks 41 A Malthusian Future in Soylent Green Many reveal a continuing anxiety about en vironmentally unsustainable modern practices and question the American Soylent Green Silent Running Escape from the Planet of the Apes and visualized a future world wrought with t he negative environmental consequences of human progress. Soylent Green (1973) visualized a future of pollution, overpopulation, and resource scarcity, made worse by government incompetence. This section begins with a summary of the film, followed by a dis cussion of the fears visualized in the film and their parity with solutions to overconsumption in the Soylent world with those of the decade. The section concludes with an e xplanation of American fears of corrupt government solutions to Content Soylent Green questions the sustainability of the post Earth Day era and is perhaps the most famous of the Malthusian science fiction films. Dep icting the horrors of a future world ruined by the unsustainable practices of a modern global population, Soylent Green begins with a montage of modern environmental abuses and global burdens of over population and consumption. The film is set in New York City, 2022, with the population at forty million. Older characters remember a time of plenty, ruined
Starks 42 by overdevelopment, greenhouse gases, and heat waves. Lower class people of the Soylent world live without luxury and rarely eat fresh food. Colored wafers known as Soylent Yellow, Red and Green, supposedly come from soy and lentil beans, ocean because the Earth and its oceans can no longer sustain sufficient organic li fe, the Soylent Corporation, partnered with the government, recycles human bodies into nutrient wafers. Detective Thorn, a young detective, investigates the murder of a former government official and board member of the Soylent corporation. Thorn and his elder advisor, Sol, discover through their inquiry that Soylent Green is made of human beings voluntarily euthanized by a government institution. Soylent spies and government overy of the secret, government supported agents attempt to kill Detective Thorn before he reveals person of his discovery. Government deception drives the plot in Soylent Green reflecting much of the overpopulation and exhausted resources in the Soylent world attempt to p reserve social order and prevent starvation, but the problems cannot be resolved without extreme actions. The Soylent Corporation collaborates with the government to cover up the cannibalistic operation and to prevent discovery. The conspiracy includes mur dering company executives, priests, and law enforcement investigators in the name of what is
Starks 43 order, attempting to prevent starvation with the Soylent Green solution. H owever, Detective Thorn realizes, hey're making our food out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food. government and industry solutions to anthropogenic environmental problems. R eception Critical reception of Soylent Green recognized the parallels between themes in the Silent Running and Soylent Green pleasure as if it were happiness, we certainly are taking a gloomy view of the future in The New York Times reviewer A.H. Weiler iewer Samuel Johnson believed the male dominated society of Soylent Green was an of a futu imagination of at least one scientist. While researching overpopulation and sexual behavior of con temporary societies in 1979, Donn Byrne extrapolated conditions in the film and
Starks 44 Cultural Context Soylent Green visua imagery. In a film developed for the United Nations Conference on the Human Survival of Spaces hip Earth 1972). Fears of an overcrowded future Population Boom Limits to Growth Ehrlich, a director of graduate studies in Biology at Stanford University, began his text by recalling a travel experience in India: As we crawled through the city, we entered a crowded slum people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, (Ehrlich 15) Soylent Green In the Soylent future, m assive groups of people sleep on the streets, in broken welfare services cannot accommodate the needy public. When the government runs out of food, angry crowds riot, requiring ga rbage trucks modified with industrial scoops to clear the streets.
Starks 45 The public is alienated from government decisions in Soylent Green The film depicts a world with nearly exhausted resources; remaining goods and services protect the lives and positions o f the most wealthy and powerful. Only the most upper class members of the Soylent Green society enjoy luxuries in the form of small amounts of organic food, heated water, and air conditioning. Meanwhile, government and industry deceive the lower classes i nto cannibalistic consumption of euthanized people. Government vehicles use the last remaining fossil fuels to protect the wealthy by maintaining civil order and preserving the status quo. At times, characters of the film ask: So ylent Green never answers the question directly, but presents imagery of irresponsible environmental stewardship from previous generations. In addition, the film shows powerless individuals attempting to unmask the immoral activities of government. The A with less acquiescence than the characters of Soylent Green problem of dwindling resources. Soylent Green may have reminded Americans of oil embargoes and rising gasoline prices of the decade, but an American public already wary of self interested government officials began to look for their own alternatives in resource c and renewable energy sources (Hammond 148). Amory Lovins became a leading proponent organizations lobbied for legislation and administrative action (Shabecoff 122 3). At the
Starks 46 Pre Earth Day, American participation in environmental organizations increased from 50 0,000 to 2.5 million (Steinberg 253). The American public refused the subordination of the Soylent Green society. As the first administrator of the EPA, William Ruckelshaus ge about what was happening to the environment. Not because Nixon shared that concern, Epa.Gov ). Soylent Green essentially warns its viewers that unchecked government control of environmental issues may voters became concerned about the competence of elected officials to enact environmentally protective legislation. In a New York Times election editorial, E.W. e many politicians welcome the public attention on the environment because it will serve to divert attention from the intractable problems Environmental Action, a Washington based political organization, began publishing its denounced twelve U.S. Representatives based on their environmental voting records and helped upset the re election campaigns of several officials (Hill 27). Some politicians received greater scrutiny for re tracting past statements made against environmental began supporting environmental m easures in his state (Roberts 150). Environmental
Starks 47 books such as The Grass Roots Primer (published in 1975) encouraged activists to combat government officials portrayed as antagonistic, slick, and in league with profit motivated corporate managers (Underwo od BR2). Americans could speculate about government corruption after the Watergate scandal investigations exposed widespread ( Times E14). The disturbing solution in Soylent Green reminded many Americans of the Chinatown Resource Management, and Government Chinatown portrays the futility of challenging crooked political systems in charge of e works projects. Chinatown also visualized suspicion of government and private intere st partnerships in resource management. Finally, Chinatown laments the impotence of public officials attempting to protect the natural world. Content Chinatown begins i hired by a woman posing a s Evelyn Mulwray to follow her husband, Water Department engineer Hollis Mulwray. Gittes takes photographs of Mr. Mul w ray with a young woman that appear in the newspaper. The real Mrs. Mulwray meets Gittes shortly afterward and threatens a lawsuit. Gittes continues his investigation after Mr. Mulwray turns up dead
Starks 48 shortly afterward, only to encounter numerous adversaries working in league with the the delivery of water to Los Angeles County before his son in law convinced him to relinquish control to local government. Gittes uncovers dubious land dealings meant to move water from the county into surrou nding areas. Cross intends to promote future real estate developments and consolidate more power by controlling the water supply. By the time he confronts Cross, Gittes thinks he knows everything, but an even more sordid truth awaits him : Cross and his dau ghter secretly battle for custody of their child, a product of their former incestuous relationship. Cross has attempted to regain custody of the child ever since the girl appeared in the newspaper photos with Mr. Mulwray Cross feels no remorse for his ac tions, past or present, and explains to Gittes that "Most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they're capable of Gittes fails to prevent Cross from achieving his aim, and Mrs. Mulwray is accidentally k illed when attempting to drive away. Circumstances force Jake to return to his old beat in Chinatown; among police forces, Cross, and common thugs, he realizes just how powerless he is against such a corrupt system. Gittes acquiesces to the forces beyond h is control and walks off the scene as a partner tells him, "forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."
Starks 49 Reception An examination of Chinatown the notion that the film appealed to the American suspicion of govern ment. Vincent plot is a labyrinth of successive revelations having to do with Los Angeles water The New York Times Chinatown that has unmistakable civic corruption, a trait noted by other reviewers such as Tom Milne of Sight and Sound Farber criticized the possibly jading effects of films like Chinatown is governed by evil forces too devious to und erstand and too powerful to defeat, then we are all completely helpless, and there is no point in getting involved in the fight for social Cultural Context of received significant attention in 1966 when it announced plans to flood the Grand Canyon and construct two new dams (Shannon 30; Janson 42). However, these projects
Starks 50 were cancel led after encountering staunch opposition from the Sierra Club and other wilderness advocates (Steinberg 244). After the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the BOR was required to make public assessments of the environmental impact of all planned p rojects. New reports issued by the BOR failed to satisfy scientific investigation in several projects, but most notable of these was the Teton Dam. The EPA failed to produc e an impact statement on the project as required by the Environmental Policy act of 1969 (Blair 48; Kenworthy 21). The Teton dam project became greatest failure because the project lay upon a shaky foundation of brittle, volcanic rock located in an area prone to seismic activity (Reisner 388 397). Despite the warning of could have told them [BOR] that they were building on top of an active volcano and they woul continued (Reisner 393). Legal battles plagued the project from 1970 on, but the dam was completed on October 3, 1975. When the Teton Dam began filling at a f aster rate than BOR s tandards, a policy exemption accommodate d the large snow melt leftover from winter blizzards (Reisner 399). On June 3, 1975, the Dam began to leak (Reisner 401). Two days later, the dam burst, leaving eleven people dead, four thousand homes damaged, and mo re land permanently destroyed through loss of topsoil than the amount of acreage purportedly created by the dam (Reisner 407). Chinatown uses the Los Angeles Water Department (LAWD), which attempts projects similar to BOR works, to question the integr ity of such government agencies Hollis Mulwray, a character loosely derived from Los Angeles water engineer William
Starks 51 Mullholland, heads the LAWD and refuses to build a new dam because its foundational bedrock will not bear the load of such a work. He cites a recently failed project that took the lives of 500 citizens as his reason for refusal. However, the local farmers react negatively to this news as they will be unable to irrigate their crops without the dam. One irate farmer accuses Mulwray of stealing wat er from the agricultural activities outside the city. Nonetheless, Mulwray acts in the interest of public safety and prudent resource management against the opposition of corrupt land developers and government officials. To solve the mystery in Chinatown Gittes must unmask government and private interest partnerships. Gittes discovers the conspiracy between Cross and city politicia ns to manipulate the water supply to make a large profit while controlling the future growth of Los Angeles. According to film historian Peter Lev, Chinatown metaphorically alludes to publicized debacles like Watergate, using familiarity with that concrete situation and speculating about conspiracy and corruption throughout all forms of government (Lev 55). However, unlike the Watergate scandal, Chinatown uses business interests to render government officials mere puppets (Christensen 131). Noah Cross contr ols the water department throughout the film because of his financial power and allies in government. Chinatown also serves as a metaphor for futility -a heavy consideration for Americans experiencing a crisis of confidence in government resource managem ent. Throughout the film, Gittes distances himself from Chinatown because of a past failure to protect a love interest. When the film concludes Gittes finds himself being led out of Chinatown, once again defeated by powers beyond his control. Gittes again has no power
Starks 52 to protect his loved ones or the city of Los Angeles from the power of corrupt officials and unscrupulous business interests. Peter Lev argues that the film makes one crucial point about government: ot matter; wealth presented as all (Lev 58). The police, well intentioned public officials, and the protag onist of Chinatown all fail to prevent the corruption behind water management. American audiences viewing the film could contemplate a number of contemporary issues keeping parity with the basic themes of Chinatown Conclusion Public criticism of gov ernmental inadequacies in foundation of reported scandals and failures to prevent environmental disasters. Several Americans concerning environmental issues. This chapter examined three of those films, The Candidate Soylent Green and Chinatown finding that these works illustrate the concerns, suspicions and fears of audiences experiencing a tumultuous decade. The Candidate questions the actual impor tance politicians placed on environmental issues. Soylent Green looks to a future caused by harmful environmental practices and short term, power driven government solutions Chinatown alludes to contemporary political scandals, using management of environ mental resources as a base for criticizing shadow governments driven by business interests. Together, these films represent a fair cross
Starks 53 section of the American concern about governmental legitimacy in dealing with environmental affairs. This chapter argue d that these environmental films of the intrinsically lacked faith in government officials, agencies, and decisions regarding the natural environment.
Starks 54 Chapter 3: Environmental Films and Criticism of Industry Many films of the 1 practices of American businesses. Considering the volatile economic market of the decade, regression from the Post War Era prosperity, environmental disasters, and high unemployment, the insecurity of the American public is understandable. This chapter examines three environmentally themed films with specific critiques of industry and ability of companies to maintain or create gainful employment while also protecting the environment. A futuristic interpretation of the debate between economic development versus environmental protection can be found in the 1972 science fiction film, Silent Running In light of growing en vironmental problems and disasters throughout the decade, the American public questioned the overall competence of industry to operate with ecologically safe practices. The 1976 remake of King Kong exemplifies corporate irresponsibility and the error of co rose as to whether corporations might jeopardize the safety of the American public in order to maintain profits. A nearly prophetic film, The China Syndrome visualized such a scenario in the nuclear power industry and appeared in theaters only weeks before the accident at Three Mile Island. Together, these films re flect some American s questioning the motives and practices of industry and its environmental responsibility.
Starks 55 Silent Running : Jobs Versus Pres erving Nature debated on Film Silent Running This science fiction film uses impressive special effects to give audiences a are preserved in space. The film predicts that economic and technological developments will diminish the utility of nature With respect to environmental stewardship, the film contains another example of low American confidence in government and industry partnerships. Silent Running also illustrates an important question about the choice between economic growth and environmental protection. Finally, Silent Running accusing past generations of environmental complacency s erving as a caveat about the potential costs of sacrificing nature for the sake of progress. Content Silent Running envisions the future American population neglecting environmental protection for the sake of economic development. The film begins someti me after the year 2000, when American spaceships orbiting Saturn contain the last collar workers maintain these ships and anticipate the day when they can return to a climate controlled Earth whe re economic and technological progress have eliminated disease, poverty, and unemployment. subsist on synthetic food in the absence of natural agriculture. Most of these space crews look forward to the d ay when they can return to their planet, and when a government official orders the
Starks 56 demolition of the domes by nuclear explosion, the exultant forest program crews eagerly begin their work. G overnment budget cutbacks, discontinuation of corporate sponsorshi p, and presu mably a lack of public interest all The film focuses on Freeman Lowell, a naturalist who advocates refoliating the sterile Earth, and the crew of space freighter Valley Forge Lowell, a caring custodian of these orbiting forests, immediately responds negatively to the demolition order and implores his crew members to reconsider their enthusiasm. The crew dismisses Lowell as the one remaining forest dome. Lowell murders his three colleagues and pilots his himself with caring for the forest. However, the forest begins to die from a lack of sunlight, but Lowell oddly fails to realize this crucial deficiency until a search party from the fleet approaches to "rescue" him and the Valley Forge. To save the land in his care, Lowell sacrifices himself and jettisons the last dome into deep space manned by a single drone. He then explodes the Valley Forge freighter with a nuclear device. Before the sendoff, Lowell equates the space dome to a message in a bottle with the hopes of one day restoring some form of wilderness to the Earth: Lowell: You know when I was a kid, I put a note into a bottle and it had my name and address on it. And then I threw the bottle into the ocean. And I never knew if anybody ever found it [ presses button on nuclear charge, destroying his ship ]
Starks 57 Reception Receiving audiences of Silent Running Several reviewers understood the conservation message of Silent Running while some protection versus economic development. home its perfectly reasonable plea Film Quarterly William Johnson praised the poetic nature of the work, discovering metaphors comparing the greenhouse domes to the eyes of a do dome's moorings, blast it away from the freighter, and reduce it in a flash to atomic dust, makes the fragility of the editors for Science News reported on the wood famine in Asia, Africa, and Central America, noting that while the world was somehow able to relegate its forests to space bound greenhouses in Si lent Running as a reference point for their argument, the editors advocated conservation education for populations of developing nations. Cultural Context Silent Running represents another questionable government and industry
Starks 58 future government projects and programs. Companies initially app ear environmentally responsible in the film, but the project ends after budget cutbacks and the freighters return to commercial use. Sponsorship seems moot once the funding ends and the project is scrapped so that logos plastered all over the set and chara cters have become obsolete. The actual like Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, Ditch Witch, and American Airlines who also bankroll the preservation project in the real film itself. During pro throughout the set. Dow Chemical created props for the film and its logo appears prominently because of a deal with Turnbull, who suggested to spaceship, American Airlines Space Freighter Valley Forge, f or advertising purposes. The American public represented in Silent Running chose economic development Economic growth versus environmental protection became a controversial top ic during the decade Since the end of World War II, the quality of American life had rested upon a foundation of indust rial production and superiority, but a s globalized trade increased and market conditions changed, the promise of future prosperity becam e uncertain in the Throughout the decade, Americans experienced heightened unemployment rates and layoffs sometimes occurred because of industry failures to maintain environmental standards e threat of losing 15,000 jobs because of failures to meet air quality standards (Peterson A18). While the
Starks 59 oil industry sporadically failed to supply gasoline and began raising prices in an attempt to recoup their losses citizens and politicians criticize d large companies such as Mobil for attempting to diversify its operations by expanding into fields other than energy (Smith 64) As environmental legislation increased throughout the decade, some economists argued that the measures hindered the national e conomic growth (Shabecoff 140 ; Cray F15 ). According to economist Paul Portney, environmental laws discouraged investment in industrial facilities because of expensive pollution control costs (Shabecoff 140). On the other hand, many Americans of the 1970 Freeman Lowell and supported the idea of environmental protection regardless of economic impact or cost and later action. Lowell defends his forests by pointing to and asking whether their children will experience nature The protagonist pleads with his crew to spare the forest, but they laugh at his attempts: Freeman Lowell : Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute... I don't think you guys unde rstand what this means, please don't blow up the domes. Crewmember Andy Wolf first? Crewmember Marty Barker Freeman Lowell : But they're not disposable! Crewmember John Keenan : We don't have any choic e Lowell. Freeman Lowell : [pleading] But they're not replaceable! crew members and kills them in order to preserve the final dome. Freeman Lowell operates on principl in 1973 when Arne Nass, a
Starks 60 Norwegian philosopher and founder of the deep ecology movement, rejection of environmental anthropocentrism, and biospherical egalitarianism as the equal importance of all living things (Nass 4). In a 1972 scholarly essay entitled Should Trees Have S tanding? Christopher D. Stone had argued similar beliefs that natural objects adical groups such as Earth First also as justifications for environmenta l monkeywrenching and industrial sabotage (Steinberg 257) In a more moderate response to the prevalent American debate, j ournalists reported on the growing industry of pollution control and found increasing employment opportunities made possible by legi slative regulation. The New York Times reporter, Gladwin Hill, found in 1975 that 81 plants had closed because of pollution legislation enacted after 1970, a much smaller number than had been previously expected (Hill 150). Furthermore, the Council on Envi ronmental Quality reported the addition of one million jobs to the US economy because of environmental protection measures established since the beginning of the decade (Hill 150). While no one acted as extremely as Freeman Lowell in Silent Running Americ protection even at the risk of economic uncertainty. Finally, Silent Running addresses the apathy of previous generations to protect environmental elements from the abuses of industry and negligent population s. Early in
Starks 61 complacency. Lowell then continues his tirade, blaming the entire population of Earth for the lack of environmental concern: Lowell: On Earth, everywhere you go, the temperature is 75 degrees. Everything is the same. All the people are exactly have the argument, you always tell me the same three But do you know what else there is no more of? There is no frontiers left to conquer. And you know why? Only one me in this room here today a nd that is: Nobody Cares! Defending the preservation of the forest domes, Lowell argues that there is still a chance to make a difference back on Earth. But, in a disheartening scene, the crewmember ested, something would have In contrast to Silent Running rapid developments in environ mentalist organizations, legislation, and activity, the Dr. Herbert Needleman observed the degenerative effects of lead exposure in his fellow al plant in Deepwater, New Jersey; in 1974, he began researching the long term effects of lead on children (Rampton and Stauber 95). In a 1979 New England Journal of Medicine article Needleman published his findings that children exposed to standard level s of lead displayed impaired mental development, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, and delinquency. These findings were American public accepted his findin g that for every 10 parts per million increase of lead
Starks 62 nuclear power and weapons facilities across the United Sates, prompting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reevaluate the proposed Seabrook, New Hampshire site in 1978 (Ivins 26). The environment al passivity of Americans in Silent Running does not represent Conclusion Silent Running The science fiction genre allowed for another futuristic extrapolation of contemporary conditions. In the film, consequences of efficient economic development appeared potentia lly damaging to the environment, just as inefficient overpopulation and consum ption caused the disastrous situation in Soylent Green Taken together, these films represent criticism of inadequate solutions to environmental problems often offered by joint efforts from way into popular films predicting dire environmental consequences from the irresponsible activity of politicians and business leaders. Commodifying Nature in King Kong anxieties that
Starks 63 decade, a rise in concerns for wildlife and ecology led to questions about the commodification of nature, corporate management of natural resources, and t he impact of tampering with ecosystems. The 1976 remake of the science fiction film, King Kong perils of removing a species from its natural habitat without considerat ion of future protect the natural environment, films like King Kong appeared with strong warnings against corporate negligence in natural ecosystems. This section begi ns with a brief summary of the film and then examines its unique approach to resource extraction in the age of oil crises. The section continues with a commodification in the fil m. Finally, viewing Kong as the ultimate exotic pest, this section explains the rising importance of ecological studies and invasive species King Kong resonates with the general su Content King Kong begins with an a ssembly of random characters finding their way on board executive Fred photographer after the cr ew discovers him hiding in a lifeboat. A rescued castaway
Starks 64 morale. Once the tanker reaches the mysterious island, the crew finds a primitive civilization performing sacri fices to save themselves from an unseen menace. The natives kidnap Dwan and offer her up to a gigantic gorilla known as Kong. The animal appears to be bloodthirsty and filled with rage as he takes Dwan away. The expedition arrives shortly after the sacrifi ce and only sees the massive footprints and destroyed forests Kong left in his wake. Several members of the expedition, including Prescott, attempt to track down the assumedly dangerous animal in an attempt to save Dwan. ions, the film depicts Kong as a more sensitive animal during his possession of the woman. He protects her from danger, brings her food, and grows emotionally attached to her. However, this relationship ends abruptly when the rescue effort retrieves Dwan a nd captures Kong. After Wilson learns that the oil resources found on the island are unusable, he decides to bring the gorilla back to the United States. Wilson plans to use Kong for company advertising to make up for his sunken investment in the expeditio n. Wilson mistakenly relocates Kong, a gigantic monster capable of damaging the normal operation of civilization, from a primitive island to New York City for a confusing and frightening spectacle, the ape quickly breaks free and begins destroying the metropolis, searching for Dwan. Because of his disastrous relocation, Kong rampages across the city, damaging cars, trains, buildings, and people until he finds her. Once the gor illa regains the woman, he climbs to the top of the highest building he can find in
Starks 65 military helicopters attack the gorilla atop the World Trade Center. After placing Dwa n with a crowd of news reporters and photographers surrounding the gorilla while corporate executives try to placate the hysterical and grieving Dwan. Reception Critica l reception of King Kong demonstrates audience awareness of thematic in the film Having studied the film, philologist Thomas Vogler explained the Fred Wilson character as a metaphor for a society faced with an energy crisis. According to give his career a form of renewal. His individual problem is a perfect analogue for a society in th when he brings the gorilla back to America as an advertising symbol (Vogler 113). In a N ew York Times review of several films with ambiguous heroes, critic Richard Eder found King Kong large audience (Eder 56). The critic also noted the shift from a pure adventurous spirit driv oil company representative, Fred Wilson, to find a gusher; his greed in trying to convert Cultural Context
Starks 66 Ame King Kong during an age of resource scarcity and extraction problems. Restrictions of oil supplies by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1973 74 nearly quadrupled the price of oil, worsening the high inflation and low economic growth rate experienced in the United States (Clapp 57). All through the decade, oil tanker mishaps occurred, wasting the valuable commodity and damaging coastal zone environments. The Petrox Oil Corporation engages in a differe nt commercialistic use of Kong for Petrox promotions reconceptualizes the extraction of natural resources by using the gorilla instead of oil. Wilson character represe transgressions of commercial interests pursuing financial gain at the expense of indigenous wildlife. to save his job. Earlier in the film, Jack Prescott : Even an environmental rapist like you wouldn't destroy a unique new species of animal. Fred Wilson : Bet me. Prescott argued that American environmentalist youth would burn every Petrox gas station in the country in retaliation, but the idea would have failed to save Kong. The he notion of immoral profiteering through endangerment of wildlife remains. measures Fred Wilson was willing to take. Americans became aware of species endangered by corporate acti vity and increased their membership and donations to
Starks 67 environmentally protective groups. Actions against whaling occurred throughout the decade from the nascent Greenpeace group founded in 1971. Through dramatic actions and publicized media, Greenpeace help ed change the public conception of whaling from a feat of heroism into a detestable form of slaughter (Clapp 79). Greenpeace accomplished this through the anthropomorphization of whales, highlighting their intelligence, family structures, and communication abilities (Shabecoff 172). In another example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) began a large effort to protect Indian tigers in 1973 through public education ( WWF.org tactic ever since, offering literature and media p romoting the preservation of many endangered species. Through an immense example of invasive species, the gigantic gorilla of King Kong management of resources and respons ibility. In 1972, the United States Department of Agriculture first defined invasive species as any non native organisms introduced to a specific ecosystem causing economic, human, or environmental harm. According to the USDA, human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions (USDA NISIC). In King Kong the Petrox oil company relocates Kong to the United States for advertising purposes, and the ensuing destruction suggests that tampering with natural creatures by removing them from their habitats is significantly dangerous. of his exotic and ornamental commercial value. As public interest in ecology increased throughout the decade, many stories appeared in th e press about various exotic pests threatening ecosystems and disrupting commercial activity and agriculture. For example,
Starks 68 Clara Valley in 1975, requiring officials to int roduce over 25 million sterile fruit flies to prevent further reproduction ( Times 31; Riding 51). The Medfly was potentially dangerous to over 200 fruits or vegetables and unwelcome in the agriculturally dependent state of California. Medfly invasions occu rred five times in the United States before 1977, and eradication measures cost taxpayers over 20 million dollars (Carr 61). USDA returning from Hawaii with illegally imported fruit (Davis 58; Carr 361). In the American South, a continuing battle with invasive Kudzu vines received attention in The New York Times on several occasions. The rapidly growing vines, imported earlier in the century as ornamental plants for shade, and later used for cattle grazing, soon became unmanageable (Ayres C7; Ayres 43). In a special for the Times in 1974, B. Drummond Ayres reported that Kudzu vines had covered an entire mountain in Georgia, threatened southern American roads and their signage, and required air surveillance funded by electric companies attempting to protect their power lines from In another example, Russian wild boars imported to stock a North Carolina game preserve in 1912 escaped and da maged enough indigenous vegetation by 1977 that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park began to trap and sterilize the animals ( Times 8). Hawaii experienced similar problems with invasive feral hogs, but used extensive and costly fencing programs to protec t indigenous ecosystems (Baskin 74 76). Altogether, ecologically interested Americans.
Starks 69 Conclusion King Kong illustrates the American crisis of confidence in the ability of businesses to protect the environment. Appearing during a decade of renewed public concern for ecology, King Kong criticizes the corporate commodification of nature and the unethical treatment of animals. King Kong also depicts an almost absurd example of and havoc ensues. While thrilling audiences with its impressive special effects, King Kong also presents contemporary issues about the relationship between comm ercial operations and the environment. The China Syndrome and the Risks of Corporate Negligence with Nuclear Energy American confidence in corporate environmental responsibility dwindled in the gy. Several films of the decade dealt with the fear of nuclear accidents; The China Syndrome stands out among these because of its peculiar synchronicity with the near meltdown at Three Mile Island (TMI). ear power industry for what would theoretically happen in the event of a total reactor meltdown. The film explains that, in crust and burn all the way down to China. Ho wever, the core would most likely melt down only to the water table, causing an explosive reaction where radioactive steam would be rocketed into the atmosphere and render an area the size of Pennsylvania
Starks 70 uninhabitable. In a bizarre coincidence, The China Syndrome appeared in theaters shortly before the Pennsylvania Three Mile Island plant experienced the worst nuclear accident to occur in North America (Behr 4). The China Syndrome safe environmental energy crises. After a summary of the film, this section examines the responses of Americans and nuclear energy representatives to The China Syndrome before and after the incident at the energy crises follows. Finally, the section explores how the film illustrates another instance of the debate over environmental protection versus economic development. Sensati onalized by the event at TMI, The China Syndrome warns of the dangers from corporate negligence in environmental affairs. Content The China Syndrome follows an investigative reporter uncovering the dangerous operations of a nuclear power plant in Califor nia. As part of a series on energy production, television news reporter Kimberly Wells and her camera operator Richard Adams visit the Ventana nuclear power plant outside Los Angeles. During their first visit to the plant, the crew observes the control roo m while the plant experiences a reactor SCRAM (emergency shutdown). Plant supervisor Jack Godell feels an unusual vibration during the SCRAM while a faulty needle in a water level gauge nearly prevents discovery of the almost uncovered nuclear core. Backup systems are able to raise the water levels in time, however, and the reactor is brought under control, preventing a meltdown.
Starks 71 Throughout the tense situation, Adams secretly films the events from the observation room. When Wells and Adams return to the te levision station, the station's news director refuses to air the footage, fearing criminal prosecution. Meanwhile, Godell, suspicious of faults in the construction of it s shield. While the plant goes off line for regulatory of profits and pass through safety hearings for the construction of an additional plant. Godell, who fears tha t another SCRAM might create a larger problem, asks the plant foreman to delay restarting the reactor until a more thorough inspection is conducted, but the foreman refuses, under pressure from the plant's owners. Godell then contacts Wells, asking her t o help publicize his concerns. Wells and Adams agree to present Godell's evidence at the safety hearings for the new plant. To save his job, Godell asks to remain anonymous, but a news team messenger carrying his information to the hearings is run off the road by hit men presumably hired by the plant's owners. Godell then attempts to present the information himself, but he too is chased en route to the hearings by hit men and drives to Ventana for protection. When Godell arrives, he finds the plant operatin g at full power. Convinced of the potential danger, he operation level. To protect himself from interference, Godell threatens to open valves and flood the containm ent building with radiation, essentially ruining the plant. He also demands a live interview with Wells.
Starks 72 While Wells and Adams set up for the interview, plant technicians find a way to cause a reactor SCRAM. In the middle of the interview, the divertive S CRAM begins, the camera's cables are physically cut, and a SWAT team forces its way into the control room, fatally shooting Godell. Proving Godell's fears true, however, the SCRAM causes significant damage to the plant, and portions of the cooling system p hysically collapse. The reactor is eventually brought under control by the plant's automatic systems. Outside the plant, reporters and television crews await word on the events inside. The plant spokesman suggests that Godell was "emotionally disturbed" an d that he "had been drinking," but Wells immediately refutes this. She brings one of Godell's co workers out to admit that Godell was rational and took drastic steps to prevent a major catastrophe. Reception The China Syndrome articulated American concer ns about the safety of nuclear ever nuclear plant crisis at Three Mile Island (TMI). The film, thematically addressing the weakened confidence in afely, became eerily sensationalized by Fonda who played Kinberly Wells. G.E decided that supporting a televised discussion of release, an energy trade journal, the Reddy News devoted nearly half an issue to attack the film, and the Atomic Industrial Forum, an association promoting the peaceful use of
Starks 73 nuclear energy, sent film critics packets of information about nuclear power with excerpts of supportive speeches by prominent public figures (Harmetz D1). In a New York Times fashioned Sunday Indeed, the threat came true with the event at Three Mile Island cancelled his appearance on the late night Johnny Carson show. While Columbia Pictures, which released the film, lowered promotion efforts for the film so as not to appear to be capitalizing on the TMI incident, the film still grossed over $5 million (a Cultural Context As inte rest in the The China Syndrome increased, so did public rejection of nuclear power. In a post TMI editorial for The Nation McKinley Olsen condemned nuclear power as an unacceptable risk, arguing that the industry minimalized the dangers of radiation at an y level (Olsen 387 388). Victor Gilinsky, a commissioner with the those who cla groups of Americans protesting against the use of nuclear energy, like the Sound and Hudson Against Atomic Development (SHAD), experienced increases in membership after TMI (Willia ms WC1). These large bodies of Americans protested the development of nuclear plants through forms of civil disobedience. After a large number of arrests
Starks 74 during a protest at the Shoreham Nuclear Facility in Long Island, New York, a judge dismissed the char ges against the demonstrators because of their moral commitment (Williams WC1). Connie Hogarth, the leader of SHAD, believed Three Mile Island was the turning point in American resistance to nuclear power, and many in her group supported the development o f solar energy as the answer to the energy crises of the The China Syndrome criticizes the use of nuclear power as a response to the argument against the unacceptable risk posed by the industry. Using examples of industrial malfeasance, the film challenges the overall safety of nuclear energy. Plant owners attempt to suppress public information about the accident and push for a quick restart of the plant after a hasty inspection. What the film does not consider, however, is eight nuclear reactors had been ordered around the time of the first oil embargo of 1973, eleven of these were cancelled by 1978, with only two new orders for that year (Norton 24). Contributing to the staggering $1 billion price for a new nuclear reactor were revised safety standards, court interventions delaying construction for up to ten years, declin ing United States about half as much energy as wood, is rightly perceived by i nvestors in the regional cases, nuclear power became economically unfeasible before the The China Syndrome
Starks 75 The China Syndrome answered the debate of environ mental protection versus economic development with a graphic argument for the safety of the Earth before the creation of jobs through nuclear power. In the film, the jobs created by the power plants are overshadowed by the possible catastrophe that might o ccur at the Ventana facility. Contractors who build the plants are portrayed as equally concerned with their livelihood, but also willing to cut corners and thereby jeop construction and operation of nuclear power plants had offered a new source of employment and energy for many Americans. Labor interests often ran contradictory to environmental concerns (Tucker 38). The China Sy ndrome positioned itself on the side of environmental protection, providing what nuclear power critic Dennis Ford called: a major corrective to the myth that was drilled into us as children, that nuclear energy is a beautiful, endless, cheap source of elec tricity. The movie shows how that dream has been perverted by companies that operate the plant and how susceptible the program is to human error and industrial malfeasance. (Burnham D1) John Taylor, an executive of Westinghouse, which made nuclear react ors in disagreed with Ford an overall character assassination of an Conclusion The TMI accident and The China Syndrome may have helped reinforce public opposition to nuclear energy pro grams, which virtually stalled in growth after 1979. The film enjoyed a popular reception by American audiences and portrayed the industry in a negative light, positioning the nuclear power industry as a negligent and corrupt villain.
Starks 76 The incident at TMI r einforced the plausibility of a nuclear meltdown occurring in the United States, contributing to a lack of faith in nuclear power as a panacea for the energy construc tion plans were cancelled and 122 were delayed (Nader and Pollock 142). A Harris poll conducted in 1980 found Americans split between nuclear power: 47 percent were for it, 47 percent against, and 6 percent undecided (Velocci 149). Finally, by the end of 1 979, President Jimmy Carter told the nation that nuclear power should be the energy source of last resort and not the wave of the future (Berkowitz 129). Conclusion responsibility of industry in environmental affairs: Silent Runing King Kong and The China Syndrome While examining the environmental practices of industry, Americans considered the importance of environmental protection versus economic development. During a decade o f increased public environmental awareness, questions about corporate commitments to preserving natural ecosystems while providing jobs appeared in Silent Running treatment of animal s and paid attention to the practices of industry in nature. King Kong portrayed a negligent corporation tampering with nature by relocating a dangerous habitat reminded A mericans of the dangers resulting from commodifying nature and importing invasive species. Finally, The China Syndrome resonated with Americans
Starks 77 concerned about the environmental hazards posed by a nuclear power accident, especially after the accident at Th ree Mile Island. The film alarmed audiences with its presentation of crooked and careless nuclear industry officials abandoning environmental safety for the sake of profit. Altogether, these films emphasize the American crisis of confidence s capability to conduct environmentally safe operations.
Starks 78 Thesis Conclusion am algamation of societal events, beliefs, and actions; that meaning was then reflected, reinforced, or reconsidered on film. Many films of the decade reflected a cultural to production, and reception, which indicate a notion of American uncertainty concerning Jimmy Carter observed this uncertainty in a speech to the American public on July 15, erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America a majority of our people believe that the next fi ve years will be decade many Americans felt suspicious and uneasy about their leaders in business and government, and that feeling extended into environmental issues. This thesis relied on an examination method that considers the importance and cultural context of production and reception. Film historians Jan determining the historical impact and meaning of film within a specific culture. Cultural
Starks 79 inter messages produced by filmmakers more broadly and variously than intended; many ecological ideas can be interpreted from each film. ive view of the American cultural response to environmental, political, and economic problems. The opening chapter American concern for environmental issues became a The first chapter reviews the ecological disasters of the period that reinforced the urgency of environmental protection. Because audiences often attend films with relevant cult ural content, and filmmakers often attempt to reach their viewers through familiar contemporary material, films often offer a glimpse of cultural imagination. The film industry began to change at the beginning of the decade, and directors received more aut onomy in production and content; controversial social concerns appeared in films. The first chapter builds an historical foundation for understanding the meaning of films discussed in the project role in the environment, which becomes apparent in The Candidate Soylent Green, and Chinatown In the wake of American disillusionment, political movies like The Candidate addressed the impotence of elected officials in environmental protection Throughout the decade, Americans constantly received news of scandals involving elected officials, and new political action groups monitored the legislative voting records
Starks 80 of congressmen on environmental issues. Cultural concerns about overpopu lation, exhausted resources, and pollution received attention from scientists, novelists, and other notable Americans. Soylent Green visualized the consequences of government incompetence and corruption in a world suffering from pollution, overpo pulation, and resource scarcity In another response to government corruption experienced during the decade, Chinatown follows its ineffective protagonist as he attempts to prevent a greedy oligarchy from controlling the Los Angeles water supply. Public criticism of and failures to prevent environmental disasters, and this appears in many films of the decade responsibilities, particularly visualized in Silent Running, King Kong and The China Syndrome development or environmental protection was more beneficial to the progress of the nation. Sile nt Running visualized this debate by showing the results of siding with economic development at the expense of nature. The film casts doubt on the ability of corporations to protect nature if it is no longer economically profitable. Contemporary cultural c oncerns about increasing globalized trade, energy crises, and corporate negligence all receive treatment in King Kong and carelessness while exploiting nature, the gorilla Kong, a gigantic example of invasive species ends up destroying parts of New York City. The cultural memory of The China
Starks 81 Syndrome is inextricably linked to historical events like the near disaster at the nuclear plant Three Mile Island. This memory occasionally reappears in present day resistance a gainst new nuclear power plant construction. The films of the third chapter severely castigate industry for its actions in the environment historical cultural studies. Envir onmental film analysis supplies another area for future research. Several film historians discuss the difficulties often encountered when making an environmental film and reasons for the absence of some environmental issues. In Wildlife Films (2000), film historian Derek Bouse argues that film and television often depict the natural world unrealistically, conflicting with science or outdoor experience. expectations often alt Green Screen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema of engagement with environmental issues has always been within its own convention of melodrama that is fundame ntally anthropocentric, oversimplified, and technophobic. Ingram suggests that cultural environmentalism suffers because of these conventions and that a more pluralistic view would expose audiences to more issues. Luis Vivanco an article for American Anthropologist not all forms of media are consumed equally and knowledge of environmental problems mediagenic m
Starks 82 therefore, only the most visually dramatic messages receive the majority of film attention. Altogether, these studies are important for understanding the possible inaccuracy of f the complete environmental ideology of a specific culture. The study of films allows for an understanding of a cultural response to environmental problems. Films often reflect the culture of the era in which they occur. Environmental awareness of Americ ans can be examined through films of almost any era, and this presents historians with a number of research opportunities. Moving from the past into the present, one observes the nascent contemporary environmental movement in films after the first Earth D ay, but after the intense activity of the 1970's, a counter revolution period occurred. A conservative American government reversed some of the environmental progress of the 1970's. New groups such as the Hard Greens and Sagebrush Rebels, formed to challen ge the necessity of environmental regulation. In response to the period often labeled the Reagan Counter revolution, films begin to reflect ambivalence towards environmental issues (Shabecoff 205 207). For example, the antagonist in Ghostbusters (1984) is an aggressive, increased tensions of the Cold War led to a resurgence of films depicting the disasters of Nuclear warfare. In a popular documentary, The Atomic Caf (1982 ), and a televised fictional account of nuclear war, The Day After (1983), American audiences saw a world,
Starks 83 House, the new President George H. W. Bush promised Americans Fern Gully increased awareness about the destruction of Wall E returned to wide range of environmental topics have turned up in documentaries in the past two decades. Former Vice President Al Gore rec eived an Academy Award for his Inconvenient Truth (2004), a documentary warning about climate change and global warming. Popular action films like The Day After Tomorrow analogous to King kong of severe climate change to damage New York City. Suspense films like The Happening (2008) have used revenge of nature themes to create audience fear that some unknown force may one day eradicate human beings. As present day environmental reports from govern ment organizations and independent scientists bombard the American populace through media outlets, films continually reveal a cultural imagination with environmental concerns. The films considered in this thesis primarily illustrated the American environme ntal crisis of confidence generated by ecological, political, and social events of Nearly four decades later, American films still promote environmental na tural landscape.
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Starks 93 Hicks, Nancy. "Energy Crisis Impels Many to Study and Erect Windmills as Power Source." New York Times (1857 Current file) May 20 1974: 33. Hill, Gladwin. "Activity Ranges from Oratory to Legislation." New York Times (1857 Current file) Apr 23 1970: 1. Hill, Gladwin. "Candidates Across U.S. Focus on Ecology." New York Times (1857 Current file) Oct 28 1974: 27. Hill, Gladwin. "Earth Day Goals Backed by Hickel." New York Times (1857 Current file) Apr 22 1970: 1. Hill, Gladwin. "Ecology Emerges as Issue in Many of Nation's Races." New York Times (1857 Current file) Sep 27 1970: 1. Hill, Gladwin. "Environment as Election Issue Grows at Sta te and Local Level." New York Times (1857 Current file) Oct 1 1972: 46. Hoff, Joan,. Nixon Reconsidered New York, NY: BasicBooks, 1994. Horowitz, Daniel. Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s : The "Crisis of Confidence" Speech of July 15, 197 9 : A Brief History with Documents Boston; Bedford/St: Martin's, 2005. Huber, Peter W. Hard Green : Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists : A Conservative Manifesto New York, NY: Basic Books, 1999.
Starks 94 The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd. Oil Tanker Spill Statistics: 2007. London: ITOPF, 2008. < http://www.itopf.com/information services/data and statistics/statistics/documents/stats07_000. pdf > Ivins, Molly. "5,000 in Colorado Protest a Nuclear Weapons Plant." New York Times (1857 Current file) Apr 30 1978: 26. Janson, Donald. "Nature Lovers Say Dams Will 'Disfigure' Grand Canyon." New York Times (1857 Current file) May 2 1966: 42. Johnson William. Focus on the Science Fiction Film Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1972. Johnson, William. "Review: Soylent Green." Film Quarterly 26.4 (1973): 62 3. Johnson, William. "Review: Silent Running." Film Quarterly 25.4 (1972): 52 6. Jones, Charles O. An Introduction to the Study of Public Policy North Scituate, Mass.: Duxbury Press, 1977. Kaku, Michio, and Jennifer Trainer Thompson. Nuclear Power : Both Sides : The Best Arguments for and Against the most Controversial Technology New York ; London: Norton, 1983.
Starks 95 Keep America Beautiful. "YouTube Pollution: Keep America Beautiful -Horseback." 9/01/2008.
Starks 96 Lewis, Jon. Whom God Wishes to Destroy -: Francis Coppola and the New Holly wood Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. Lewis, Paul. "European Steel Industry Battles Worst Crisis in Memory." New York Times (1857 Current file) May 23 1977: E41. Lewis, Paul. "Key U.S. Import Decisions Await Ruling in Zenith Suit." New York Times (1 857 Current file) Feb 8 1977: 41. Lewis, Paul. "Oil from Wrecked Tanker Pollutes 70 Mile Stretch of Brittany's Coast." New York Times (1857 Current file) Mar 19 1978: 1. Lewis, Paul. "Steel Reform Plan Reached with Japan." New York Times (1857 Current f ile) Dec 1 1977: 96. Lohr, S. "Many Feel Recession's Effects." New York Times (1857 Current file) May 3 1980: 29. Lovins, A. "Resilience in Energy Strategy." New York Times (1857 Current file) Jul 24 1977: E17. MacDonald, Ross and Robert Easton. "Santa Barbarans Cite an 11th Commandment:" New York Times (1857 Current file) Oct 12 1969: SM32. Mast, Gerald. A Short History of the Movies 2d ed. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1976.
Starks 97 McNeil Jr., D.G. "Carter Approves Emergency Help in Niagara Area." New York Times (1857 Current file) Aug 8 1978: A1. McNeil Jr., Donald G. "Upstate Waste Site may Endanger Lives." New York Times (1857 Current file) Aug 2 1978: A1. The Happening. Dir. Mercer, Sam, Barry Mendel, M. Night Shyamalan, et al. 20th Century Fox Home En tertainment, 2008. Merchant, Carolyn. The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. The Day After. Dir. Meyer, Nicholas, Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, et al. Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Home Ent ertainment, 2004. Milne, Tom. "Film Reviews: Chinatown." Sight and Sound 43.4 (1974): 243. Mitman, Gregg. Reel Nature : America's Romance with Wildlife on Films Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. "Moonshine a Lure in Battle Against Boars. New York Times (1857 Current file) Feb 2 1977: 8. Morris, Jim, et al. WALL E Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2008.
Starks 98 Ghostbusters. Dir. Murray, Bill, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, et al. Columbia TriStar Home Video, 1999. Nass, Arne. "The Sh allow and the Deep, Long Range Ecology Movement. A Summary." Inquiry 16 (1973): 95. Nash, Roderick. The Rights of Nature : A History of Environmental Ethics Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American M ind New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967. Nixon, Richard M. RN : The Memoirs of Richard Nixon New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978. Nordhaus, William D., et al. "The Recent Productivity Slowdown." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 1972.3 (1972): 493 545. O'Connor, John E. and the American Historical Association Institutional Services Program. Image as Artifact : The Historical Analysis of Film and Television Malabar, Fla.: R.E. Krieger Pub. Co, 1990. New York Times (1857 Current file) Oct 16 1977: 123.
Starks 99 Perrow, Charles. Normal Accidents : Living with High Risk Technologies New York: Basic Books, 1984. Peterson, Iver. "Air Law Prompts 3 Sided Fight in Ohio." New York Times (1857 Current file) Feb 22 1979: A18. "Pollution 2: Next to Motherhood for Votes in California." New York Times (1857 Current file) Jan 25 1970: 150. "Pollution by Government." New York Times (1857 Current file) Feb 7 1970: 28. Quarles, John. Cleaning Up America : An Insider's V iew of the Environmental Protection Agency Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976. The Atomic Cafe. Dir. Rafferty, Kevin, Jayne Loader Pierce Rafferty, et al. Docurama : Distributed by New Video, 2002. Rampton, Sheldon, and John C. Stauber. Trust Us, we'Re Ex perts! : How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2001. Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert : The American West and its Disappearing Water New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1986. Reston, J. "On Misunder standing Vietnam." New York Times (1857 Current file) Jan 6 1971: 37.
Starks 100 Reston, J. "The Vietnam Trap." New York Times (1857 Current file) Jan 19 1972: 37. Reston, J. "Washington: The Politics of Pollution." New York Times (1857 Current file) Apr 26 1970: E 12. Riding, Alan. "Mexico is Taking a Healthy Swat at the Fruit Fly." New York Times (1857 Current file) Jun 3 1977: 51. The Candidate Ritchie, Michael Redford, Robert, and Peter Boyle. S.l. 1 videodisc (ca. 120 min.). Warner Entertainment : 2000. Sarr is, Andrew. Politics and Cinema New York: Columbia University Press, 1978. Schulman, Bruce J. The Seventies : The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics New York: Free Press, 2001. Schumacher, E. F. Small is Beautiful; Economics as if P eople Mattered New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Schwartz, Peter, and Blair Gibb. When Good Companies do Bad Things : Responsibility and Risk in an Age of Globalization New York: John Wiley, 1999. Soylent Green. Dir. Seltzer, Walter, Russell Thacher, Green berg, Stanley R. Fleischer, Richard. Heston, Charlton. Taylor Young,Leigh.Connors, Chuck, et al. 1 videodisc (ca. 97 min.). Warner Entertainment :; Turner Entertainment, 2003.
Starks 101 Shabecoff, Philip. A Fierce Green Fire : The American Environmental Movement 1 st ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993. Shannon, W. V. "The Struggle for Grand Canyon." New York Times (1857 Current file) Apr 25 1966: 30. The Sierra Club. "Highlights of the Sierra Club's History History Sierra Club." 2008. 1/21/2009.
Starks 102 Storey, John, "Cultural studies and the study of popular cultures theories and m ethods." Edinburgh University Press. 1996. Survival of Spaceship Earth. Dir. Summers, Dirk, Ltd United Productions, and Kit Parker Video. 1 videocassette (63 min.). Kit Parker Video, 1990. Chinatown. Dir. Towne, Robert, Roman Polanski, Robert Evans, et a l. 1 videodisc (130 min.). Paramount, 1999. "The Cities: The Price of Optimism TIME." Time Magazine: Environment Section. 8/1/1969 1969. 6/21/2008
Starks 103 United States Department of Agriculture. "Invasive Species: About NISIC What is an Invasive Species?" 2008. 1/21/2009
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