MAJOR PROBLEMS IN AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY
Videos and Films
Films emphasize the environmental history, nature, and ecology of various North American regions, how Indians used the land and its resources, the impact on the land by Europeans since Columbus, slavery, and the conservation and environmental movements. Films are coordinated with the chapters in Major Problems in American Environmental History and illustrate the themes of the text.
Chapter 1 The Columbian Exchange
Interchange of horses, cattle, corn, potatoes, and sugar cane between the Old and New Worlds and its impact on people. 1991 60 min. (Video from Columbus and the Age of Discovery series, 1-800-441-3000.)
Chapter 2 Living on the Edge
Missionaries in the Southwest and their impact on Papago, Pima, and Apache peoples. 1991, 58 min. (Video from Land of the Eagle series, No. 6, 1-804-266-6330)
Chapter 3 Confronting the Wilderness
Huron, Ottawa, and Cree Indians and the French in the Northeast; beaver trade. 1991, 58 min. (Video from Land of the Eagle series, No. 2, 1-804-266-6330)
Chapter 4 The Great Encounter
English in the Chesapeake Bay area and the Powhatan and Cherokee tribes. 1991, 58 min. (Video from Land of the Eagle series, No. 1, 1-804-266-6330)
Chapter 5 Old Sturbridge Village
Life and work in nineteenth century Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts, as reconstructed and reenacted. 30 min. (Video from Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts, 508-347-3362)
Chapter 6 Talking with Thoreau
Imagined conversations with Thoreau at Walden Pond as visited by David Brower, B.F. Skinner, Rosa Parks, and Elliott Richardson. 1975, 29 min. (Film, Humanities series, Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation, 1-800-554-9862)
Chapter 7 Roots of Resistance: The Story of the Underground Railroad
Pre-Civil War slave resistance and northern underground railroad; underground railroad museum and freed slaves history. (Public Broadcast System video, 1-800-434-7963)
Chapter 8 On the Edge: Nature's Last Stand for Coast Redwoods
Attitudes and relationship of the California Indians to the redwoods; Gold Rush, growth of California, and the cutting of 95 percent of the redwoods by 1989; history of conservation efforts over the past century to protect the redwood forests. 1991, 33 min. (University of California Extension Media Service, 510-642-0460)
Chapter 9 Battle for the Great Plains
Indian/white encounters on the Great Plains; environmental transformation of the plains. Jane Fonda, narrator. (55 min)
Chapter 10 The Wilderness Idea
John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the battle over the Hetch Hetchy Valley of California (with Roderick Nash, William Cronon, Annette Kolodny, Michael Cohen, Stephen Fox, and others. 1991, 60 min. (Direct Cinema Limited, 310-396-4774)
Chapter 11 Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven
1851 diary of a California militiaman recounting first visit to Yosemite and encounters with Chief Tenaya and Miwoc Indians read by Robert Redford juxtaposed with present day campers and managers of Yosemite National Park. 1988, 50 min. (Direct Cinema Limited, 310-396-4774)
Chapter 12 Frederick Law Olmsted and the Public Park in America
Explores the urban parks and landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his invention of the profession of landscape architecture through reenactment of Olmsted's life. 1990, 58 min. (Public Media, 1-800-323-4222, ext. 388)
Chapter 13 Wild By Law: Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, and Howard Zahniser
Dust Bowl, New Deal conservation, tourism, wilderness issues, Wilderness Act of 1964; Leopold and Zahniser's sons and daughters; historians and environmentalists William Cronon, Roderick Nash, Wallace Stegner, Max Oelschlager, Baird Callicott, Floyd Dominy, and David Brower. 1991, 60 min. (Direct Cinema Limited, 310-396-4774)
Chapter 14 Rachel Carson and Silent Spring
Rachel's Carson's life and work; writing and reception of Silent Spring. 1993, 60 min. (Produced for The American Experience by Peace River Films, 617-492-7990)
Chapter 15 Waste Not, Want Not
Garbage, toxic dumping, landfills, and sewage pollution of coast waters. 1990, 60 min. (Race to Save the Planet series, 1-800-LEARNER, the Annenberg/CPB Project)
Possible Paper Themes based on the Films
1. According to the films, what has been the impact of the Columbian legacy in North America? Critically assess the way the films present this impact.
2. How have native and non-native Americans differed in their perceptions of nature?
3. How have people in Native American, European, and African cultures related to animals and plants?
4. Can or should a balance between humans and nature be restored?
5. What spiritual themes and meanings do you find in the films?
6. Do men and women have different or special ways of knowing nature?
7. How are differing ways of life of Native African, and European portrayed in the films?
8. How are environmental values conveyed through the medium of film and video? What can or cannot be transmitted through this medium?
9. What kinds of assumptions about society, people, and nature underlie the stories portrayed in the films?
10. Can we enter into and absorb native peoples' values in trying to resolve environmental problems?
11. How is history portrayed through film and video? What techniques are successful? Unsuccessful? Why? What methods would you use to improve the films?
12. What are your own emotional and critical responses to the films? What is it about the images that brought out your responses? Are they compelling? Why or why not?
13. Put yourself in the shoes of a film-maker. Use the films to reflect on how you would communicate your own ideas and values about nature, Native, African, and European Americans through film? What kinds of images would you use? Would you include interviews, narratives, poetry, music?