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10 Stunning Things You Should Know About the Environmental Movement -- 'A Fierce Green Fire' Film Inspires

You won't be able to go back to business-as-usual after seeing this hell-raising documentary.

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Despite those odds, mammoth progress has been made, said Kitchell. There are a multitude of solutions and changes that have been accomplished during the environmental movement's extensive history of hell-raising. It doesn't take more than a cursory glance around our warming Earth to find citizens engaged in beating back the ravages of environmental devastation.  

"I could point to all sorts of signs that things are changing," he said. "Forty years after photovoltaics first emerged, they're finally showing up in big arrays around California. I love what is happening in Germany, which is not only getting off of fossil and nuclear fuels, but doing distributed generation -- quite literally, power to the people. California and lots of other places are moving toward zero waste. There’s a long list of chemicals and synthetic substances that have been banned one after another."

That said, we're still in a race against time, added Kitchell. Global warming is an exponential, existential nightmare, and it's quickly outpacing our comparatively sluggish efforts at righting the many wrongs of our unsustainable production and consumption, which have seemingly proceeded at light-speed since the Industrial Revolution. If we don't get our earthly priorities straight by the middle of this century, all of our significant advances might not make the slightest bit of difference in the final analysis. 

"The smart people I know who are really thinking about this think that 2050 or so is the nadir, when things get really bad," Kitchell told me. "By 2100, they think we are turning the corner. Depending on how bad it gets -- climate, resource depletion, economic and social collapse and instability -- population and carrying capacity may drop, perhaps drastically. We don’t know and we won’t be around to find out. Hell of a way to run a planet, and a movement. This is new territory."

For those new to the expansive territories of environmental activism, here's a list of 10 stunning things the movement has faced, fought or said in its substantial history and battles.

1. IRS Stands For Irrational Resource Sellouts

Founded in 1892 by John Muir, the Sierra Club, which commands A Fierce Green Fire's first act, is the oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in history. By the '60s, however, it had become a pernicious disseminator of "propaganda," according to the IRS, which revoked the Sierra Club's charitable status as pathetic payback for a series of popular protests against dams that would flood the Grand Canyon. It's but one birth pang of many that A Fierce Green Fire uncovers in the Sierra Club's outstanding history.

"It has been too conservative or made bad choices at some points," Kitchell admitted. "But it has survived and thrived. What stands out for me is the democratic nature of the club: It is membership-driven and chapter-based. And I’m really pleased to see the Sierra Club’s evolution under a new generation: Executive director Michael Brune is showing up at Keystone XL protests and taking a lead in a powerful alliance. I’m really jazzed about Beyond Coal’s success and its successor campaign, Beyond Oil. Talk about the main event! I think it’s going to be the most important campaign of the next decade or two."

2. Make Way For Earth National Park (Again)

Much of A Fierce Green Fire's act on Sierra Club focuses on its controversial former leader David Brower, who served as its first executive director from 1952-1969, before being ousted in a dispute over nuclear power, which he opposed. But despite many militant opinions, it is perhaps his polarizing conception of Earth National Park -- in which "all nations...unite against the one real common enemy: rampant technology" -- that may prove most prescient.