Tag Archives: Earth Day

Suzanne’s Lament

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.

Suzanne’s Lament

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…



Earth Day Playlist

Earth Day 50 years later

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

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.

I couldn’t find the film itself initially—more about that in another post—only a reference in WorldCat.



“…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

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

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

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?

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.

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

Happy Earth Day!