Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate I saw an environmental film called Suzanne’s Lament. The images stuck with me.
I was reminded of it again as we approach the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day.
I went on a quest to track it down. (It’s something librarians do…)
I did some digging and found that the film is still available.
This program is based on detailed field work carried out in 1969 and 1970 along the south-central coast of Alaska by a team of coastal geologists associated with the Geology Department of the University of Massachusetts. Miles O. Hayes, the originator of the concept, took some outstanding photographs of the Alaska coast in February 1970. By then, Hayes and his team, who up to that time had worked on developed coasts in Texas, New Jersey, and New England, after seeing the pristine conditions along the Alaska coast, began to compare it to the previously studied developed coasts. Then, they started thinking about how to preserve the Alaska coast in its natural state as much as possible. Accordingly, Hayes used the slides taken during the February 1970 field trip and compared select ones of them with photos of developed coasts. Read more…
One of the songs in a story on NPR on Sunday morning about the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, was Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.
Big Yellow Taxi — Joni Mitchell
Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot https://youtu.be/ZgMEPk6fvpg
That got me thinking about other environmental protest songs. And that brought to mind an environmental film from the 70s called Suzanne’s Lament, which used the Leonard Cohen song as part of the soundtrack.
“…this film shows the wild, unbelievable beauty of Alaska contrasted with the inhabited areas where man has despoiled land and water.”
So I’m creating my own environmental playlist.
Suzanne — Leonard Cohen
Now, Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river She’s wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbor And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever While Suzanne holds her mirror And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind And you know that you can trust her For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind https://youtu.be/RF3SJerPG7g
Paradise — John Prine
And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County Down by the Green River where Paradise lay Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking, Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away https://youtu.be/DEy6EuZp9IY
Pollution — Tom Lehrer
..if you visit American city you will find it very pretty just two things of which you must beware don’t drink the water and don’t breathe the air pollution, pollution we got smog and sewage and mud turn on your tap and get hot and cold running crud
Burn On — Randy Newman
There’s an oil barge winding Down the Cuyahoga River Rolling into Cleveland to the lake… Burn On Big River, Burn On https://youtu.be/6oUZzI0-a9I
Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology) — Marvin Gaye
Oh mercy, mercy me Oh things ain’t what they used to be What about this overcrowded land How much more abuse from man can she stand? https://youtu.be/CShUISLYLGY
And a bit of hope…
Of Time And Rivers Flowing — Pete Seeger
Of time and rivers flowing The seasons make a song And we who live beside her Still try to sing along Of rivers, fish, and men And the season still a-coming When she’ll run clear again. The circles of the planets The circles of the moon The circles of the atoms All play a marching tune And we who would join in Can stand aside no longer Now let us all begin. https://youtu.be/zUrBHyWAxgE
Sailin’ Up, Sailin’ Down — Pete Seeger
Garbage here (garbage here), garbage there (garbage there) Here (there), there (here) – up and down the river Sailing on—stopping all along the way The river may be dirty now but it’s getting cleaner every day https://youtu.be/da8kcFEaoAI