Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and while it's a fantastic idea to do service projects around your community — like cleaning up parks — you could also brainstorm ideas of ways you can "go green" this year, and do fun projects with your kids to teach them the importance of conservation. What else can you do? Educate yourself on environmental issues by watching thought-provoking documentaries. Full disclosure — I'm a documentary buff, and I love them more than regular movies, so I think these fascinating documentaries to watch on Earth Day are perfection. And even better? They won't make you fall asleep, you might actually learn something new, and you might feel compelled to take some action on lowering your carbon footprint or simply helping your small corner of Earth be the best place it can be.
Obviously, you won't be able to watch all 15 of these documentaries on Earth Day, but perhaps you can pick one or two that peak your interest. It is worth noting, however, that it may be a good idea to bookmark a few of these for future viewing. It's always important to be informed, especially about the state of the environment — and especially during this time in America. Almost all of these are available on Netflix and iTunes, or you can watch the full-length versions on YouTube or the documentary's website.
Virunga was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, who's a huge advocate for the environment. This documentary centers on the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What's important about this national park? It's the perfect example of the threats our environment faces. "On one side, the park is threatened by the big oil industry," according to the Netflix website. Additionally, there are conflicts among people in the region that are threatening the park, and then there are those nasty poachers to contend with. It shows how important a national park can be to bring people together for the better.
You can watch Virunga on Netflix.
For those who love watching nature up close and personal, there's not really an "agenda" for this documentary. Life is just showing nature being cool and magnificent — which should make you want to do everything you can to ensure it will be around forever. This BBC documentary is narrated by Oprah Winfrey, and each of the 10 parts focus on different species of animals all over the world.
You can purchase Life (the Oprah Winfrey version) on Amazon for just $6 or catch Season 1 on Netflix.
Compared to being as important as the movie An Inconvenient Truth, Cowspiracy focuses on what the documentary's website says many environmentalists are afraid to discuss — how "animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption, and pollution." The website also noted that animal agriculture is also "a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean dead zones and every other environmental ill." Why is everyone so afraid to talk about it? This documentary explains.
Catch Cowspiracy on Netflix.
4. BBC's 'Planet Earth'
Bask in the beauty that is Planet Earth. According to Netflix, each of the 11 episodes in the first documentary (which was released in 2006) focuses on a different "biome." It's fascinating watching all of these creatures survive their day to day lives, up close and personal. Each of the subsequent parts of this documentary series are just as detailed, vivid, and intense as the first. While I personally have a hard time watching animals eat each other, it will probably keep you on the edge of your seat and make you appreciate all that our planet entails.
You can watch Planet Earth I and II on Netflix.
5. 'Life In A Day'
Produced by Ridley Scott and edited by Joe Walker (12 Years a Slave), you know it's going to be a great flick. And the really awesome thing about this documentary? All the clips are comprised by amateur film makers all over and it shows "life" happening all over the world (192 countries to be exact). While not necessarily environmentally conscious-specific, it shows how intricate the world really is and how different — yet eerily similar — humanity really is. I mean, the first five minutes made me cry, so there you go.
6. 'Chasing Ice'
This film shows real-life, photographic evidence that the ice caps are melting in Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska. Irrefutable proof that climate change is happening and is a very real thing, and it's beautifully filmed to boot.
You can watch Chasing Ice on Netflix.
7. 'More Than Honey'
Bees are so important, y'all. According to The Nature Conservancy, Bees contribute to "80 percent of all crop pollination." More Than Honey focuses on colony collapse disorder, i.e., the bees dying off around the world, why this is happening, and what we can do to help.
Watch More Than Honey on Amazon Instant Video.
Narrated by Glenn Close, Home focuses on the history of us on Earth, and what we've been doing to the planet over the years. Aren't we supposed to be the smart and more evolved beings on this planet? This documentary shows how that's not necessarily the case.
Do you buy a lot of bottled water? Tapped shows that you may want to think twice about this, as its environmental impact is atrocious. The water companies are taking our free water and selling it back to us, claiming it's "safer." This documentary explores why, based on data, we are being played. Yet another example of how our government cares more about corporations than us, no matter which side of the political coin.
You can watched Tapped on Hulu or via Amazon Prime Video for $3.99.
10. 'Dirt! The Movie'
A documentary about dirt may sound boring as hell, but bare with me. Dirt is pretty incredible, and Dirt! explains why we need to do a better job of taking care of it and how industrial farming (among other issues) may be ruining our soil. "Dirt is more alive than we are," according to the documentary, and therefore so, so important. Learn how to compost, why it's important for the fate of our world, and other awesome facts about this often underestimated part of life.
You can rent Dirt! for .99 cents on Amazon Prime Video.
11. 'The 11th Hour'
And another Leonardo DiCaprio documentary made the list (and I swear it's not because I wanted to marry him my entire middle school career). He's made several environmentally conscious documentaries including Before the Flood, Virunga (above), and this one, The 11th Hour. It's terrifying what is going on all over our planet right now, and this documentary sheds light on that while also giving viewers some tips on how to help solve the world's environmental problems before it's too late.
12. 'Forks Over Knives'
While this movie isn't necessarily only about factory farming, it plays a huge part throughout the documentary while showing how having such a meat-centric diet affects not only the environment, but ourselves. According to the Forks Over Knives website, "animal food production is the world's leading cause of climate change," and that is thanks to the transportation industry and greenhouse gases.
Watch Forks Over Knives on Netflix.
Origins shows how far we've come from our roots, and how this isn't necessarily a good thing all the time. Just how out of touch are we from nature and how does that make us, and the Earth we live in, ill? It shouldn't be man versus nature — we are nature, according to the documentary. This documentary tries to show how we can and should combine technology and nature as long as we have a happy balance.
Rent or buy Origins on Amazon Prime for $3.99 and $9.99 respectively.
14. 'Dive! Living Off America's Waste'
While pretty extreme, this documentary shows just how much food is wasted in America. The folks in Dive! eat dumpster food that was thrown out from restaurants, homes, and grocery stores to show how it's still edible and just how wasteful we all really are in America. It touches on how we could help the nation's homelessness problem in addition to reducing the amount of waste in landfills. While I don't think I'll be digging in dumpsters any time soon, I found this documentary extremely fascinating and made me think twice about how much food I'm actually wasting — and if the food we are throwing out is actually "bad."
15. 'The Choice Is Ours'
The Choice Is Ours is based on scientific facts and shows how everything we do, our humanity, directly impacts our environment and the way we treat the Earth. It focuses on the origins of our behaviors and shows the consequences if we keep going at the rate we are going.
I don't know about you, but in addition to doing a cleanup, I will be watching a couple of these documentaries on Earth Day this year. And in the words of Captain Planet, "The power is yours!"
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