LENGTH: 16 min
CATEGORY: Educational & Instructional, Sound, Color
PRODUCER/PUBLISHER: National Medical Audiovisual Center for the National Air Pollution Control Administration
Film historian Jennifer Peterson analyzes a set of six 1960s-era films about air and water pollution and the growing environmental and human ruin they’ve wrought. The 1960s marked a turning point in the expansion of popular awareness about environmental problems. The six titles, made between 1960 and 1972, show the emergence of modern environmentalist discourses. All frame pollution as a problem caused by human industry. But in the films made later in the decade, we see the emergence of a broader critique of post-World War II consumerism and waste. Co-produced by the U.S. Public Health Service and a range of commercial and nonprofit institutions, the films reflect an era in which government took a leading role in educating the public about environmental health threats. The film opens with a series of testimonials from people (actors) explaining why air pollution is just not their problem. It argues against this passivity, however, listing a host of environmental problems but arguing that air pollution is the most serious threat to the environment. Citizens are urged to attend regional public hearings addressing air pollution, and are cautioned to question industry and government “experts” who will try to obfuscate. Read The Essay
Stills from Don’t Leave it all to the Experts
Other Films Featured in the Essay “Darkening Day: Air Pollution Films and Environmental Awareness, 1960-1972”
In the Collections of the National Library of Medicine
NLM Rare Books & Early Manuscripts Collection
NLM Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection
Pope A. Lawrence Papers 1924-1983. Located in: Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; MS C 539. Series 3: Air Pollution Control Office.
Remarks by John E. Fogarty at the Air Pollution Control Association Dinner, 1958 in Profiles in Science
NLM Prints & Photographs Collection
Related Resources from the National Library of Medicine
Articles and Websites
Orphan Film Symposium 2020: Climate, Water, Migration. Several of the films featured in this essay were presented at the 2020 Orphan Film Symposium. Dozens of other rare titles dealing with the environment were also presented at the international conference.
Watch: Darkening Days, 11:00 am session on “Climate Wednesday,” Orphans Online, May 27, 2020.