Five Environmental Documentaries to Celebrate Earth Week With



If you are looking for a way to learn more about environmental issues in honor of Earth Week, read along to see if any of these films are of interest to you!

With Earth Week rapidly approaching, I have found myself looking to learn more about environmental issues through my media consumption. In an attempt to do so, I researched environmental documentaries pertaining to five major elements of the environmental crisis, watched the most-suggested ones which I could find for each category, and outlined some of my thoughts and recommendations below. If you are looking for a way to learn more about environmental issues in honor of Earth Week, read along to see if any of these films are of interest to you!

FOOD: Rotten TV Series (Available on Netflix)

Rotten is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Each episode focuses on a particular aspect of food systems and exposes an element of corruption in the way that it is produced. Some of my personal favorite elements of this show are how well-shot and produced it is and how much space it devotes to the effects of these food systems on communities and individuals as well as the environment. The show does focus on these issues in a very singular capacity and struggles to make connections to larger industry-based problems, however, the specificity of each episode also provides a lot of space for reflection on the issues associated with particular food items that are a part of an everyday diet but rarely get very much individualized attention. I would recommend this show to anyone interested in learning more about food systems and the corruption associated with them.

WATER: There’s Something in the Water Documentary (Available on Netflix)

This relatively new film from Elliot Page, based on Ingrid Waldron’s book There's Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities, offers an examination of environmental racism in Nova Scotia. The film focuses primarily on two communities, documenting the ways in which health, community, and land-based concerns relating to polluted water have gone ignored and unaddressed on both the local and national scale. Although I had consumed media telling similar stories about water contamination (like Tom’s River and A Civil Action) in the past, the majority of this media has focused on predominantly white areas, so I appreciated that this documentary highlighted how these issues disproportionately and in unique ways affect communities of color. I would recommend this documentary to anyone interested in learning more about environmental racism and the pollution of water.

OCEANS: Chasing Coral Documentary (Available on Youtube and Netflix)

This documentary highlights the journey of a team of scientists and photographers on a journey to document the disappearance of coral reefs during a major bleaching event in 2016. When I first read about this premise, I was not I especially drawn to it, however, after watching the film I can definitely say that it was one of my favorite movies that I have watched recently, and that I fully understand why it received so much critical acclaim. Although the film is, at its most basic level, just a documentation of the journey to document the loss of coral reefs using timelapse photography, I appreciated how the film adeptly showed how the emotional journey was about not only the coral reefs, but more broadly, the interconnectedness of all ecosystems and life on Earth. I found this movie to be a perfect balance of urgent and hopeful and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about climate change, its impacts on ocean ecosystems, and what these impacts mean for all of us.

CAPITALISM: This Changes Everything Documentary (Available on Youtube)

Content Warning: This film contains some fairly graphic depictions of violence

This film follows a loose narrative thread of condemning state-supported environmental violence throughout the world, focusing on the efforts and projects of several community-based environmental activists. Unlike some of the other films on this list, This Changes Everything does not hesitate to name the economic system of capitalism as one of the most important core causes of environmental degradation and climate change. It also provides valuable insight into the work of seven different environmental activists doing community-based work throughout the world. The primary drawback of this movie is that these groups are not particularly well-connected throughout the narrative of the film, which can make it a bit hard to follow or to find its central point at some parts. However, I would still recommend this documentary to anyone interested in learning more about community-based environmental activism from a more radical political standpoint than is offered in many environmental documentaries.

ENERGY: “The Future of Energy: Lateral Power to the People” Documentary (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

This is probably the film with the lowest production value on this list, however, this brief documentary does provide some valuable hopeful and educational insight into the future of renewable energy in the United States. It is a more positive film than many of the others on this list, highlighting the work of individuals, communities, and organizations in facilitating the transition to renewable energy and how these movements have transformed their relationships with the Earth and with each other. I would recommend this film to anyone interested in learning more about the future of renewable energy in the United States and how individuals and communities are leading this transition.

I learned so much from these films over the course of the past week, and hope that this list helps you to find a piece of environmental media to connect with as well. Happy Earth Week!


Susannah Budd is a junior Geology major at Pomona from Bow, New Hampshire. She is especially interested in agriculture, food systems, and sustainable soil science.