Artists for the Earth

10 environmental documentaries to stream this summer

Environmental documentary films offer a way to absorb educational and entertaining content while teaching us how to Restore Our Earth from the comfort of our own homes. However, with a wide variety of streaming services available, the diverse array of nature documentaries can make it difficult to find one to your liking.

Whether you’re an avid documentary film fan, or simply trying to broaden your content horizon, here’s a rundown of some of the most extraordinary and impactful environmental documentaries that may pique your interest.

1. 8 Billion Angels (2021)

8 Billion Angles – OFFICIAL TRAILER

This award-winning documentary examines the effects humans have on the planet. Our multiplying numbers are impacting our oceans, land, rivers, and air while accelerating climate change. Director Victor Velle and Producer Terry Spahr use breathtaking cinematography and startling emotion to take the viewer on an immersive and emotional journey into the lives of farmers, fisherman, and others as they witness an unfolding global crisis. 

From August 10-17, when you make a $10 donation to support our work to safeguard our planet, EARTHDAY.ORG supporters will receive a complimentary viewing of the new film.

2. Earth Definition (2021)

Earth Definition | The New Standard In Streaming

We can’t talk about streaming without talking about carbon emissions, and Earth Definition does just that. Streaming high definition (HD) on your phone releases almost four times more carbon emissions than necessary. This animated short film shares a greener alternative to HD that helps you stream responsibly.

3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet | Official Trailer | Netflix

It was inevitable that Sir David Attenborough would make an appearance on this list. In this documentary, the 93-year-old renowned natural historian not only narrates, but also delivers what he calls “his witness statement” by reflecting on his vast professional life spent investigating countless corners of the Earth. Attenborough’s first-person narrative is at the heart of this documentary film, where he shares not only his experiences, but also his hopes and fears for the future of our planet if humans are to continue to ignore pressing environmental issues.

4. My Octopus Teacher (2020)

My Octopus Teacher | Official Trailer | Netflix

The winner of the 2020 EarthxFilm Festival, this film documents a year-long relationship between filmmaker and conservationist, Craig Foster, and an octopus he befriended in the kelp forests near the coast of South Africa. This incredible, uniquely shot film sheds insight on animal intelligence and the intricacies of human-animal and human-nature relationships as a whole.

5. Night on Earth (2020)

Night on Earth | Official Trailer | Netflix

This six-part Netflix series captures exactly what the title says: Night on Earth. Utilizing various forms of infrared technology and moonlight camera techniques, the series illuminates different terrains and creatures in never-before-seen ways. Narrated by actress Samira Wiley, engaging commentary is added to the description of the behaviors and happenings among these nocturnal beings.

6. Extinction: The Facts (2020)

Extinction: The Facts – Trailer | BBC Trailers

Extinction: The Facts is a dire call to action. Another Attenborough production, this documentary explores the consequences of biodiversity loss, such as the increased presence of diseases and viruses. In contrast to some of the past documentaries Attenborough has narrated, this one explicitly addresses large corporations as the drivers of consumption and states the economic changes that must be made.

7. Public Trust: The Fight for America’s Public Lands (2020)

Public Trust Official Trailer | The Fight for America’s Public Lands

There are 640 million acres of public land in the U.S., but the threat of privatization from politicians, extractive industries, and big business corporations looms heavy. Through the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, this documentary focuses on how the fierce competition for land in the U.S. came to be, and how citizens are fighting back to protect access to their ancestral or historical lands for future generations.

8. Mossville: When Great Trees Fall (2020)

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall Official Trailer | Alexander Glustrom Documentary

To educate yourself about long-standing issues of environmental racism in the U.S., this 2020 W Festival’s Spirit of Activism award winner is a good place to start. The film centers on Mossville, Louisiana, a once-thriving town home to generations of African American families that has been decimated by petrochemical plants. Stacey Ryan is one of the few who has refused to be pushed out of the area, and it is through his bold defiance that we witness the undeniably destructive symptoms of environmental inequity and racism.

9. 2040 (2019)

2040 – Official Trailer

For something a little more optimistic, Damon Gameau imagines our planet in 2040, if regenerative processes, innovations, and inventions to curb climate change are widely implemented. Changing the pessimistic and hopeless narrative of the future of our planet, this documentary focuses on the economic, political, and scientific solutions and practices, such as energy subsidies and regenerative farming, that could solidify real change for our planet and future.

10. Jane Goodall: The Hope (2020)

Jane Goodall: The Hope – Trailer | National Geographic

Continuing Jane Goodall’s story, Jane Goodall: The Hope explores Goodall’s life beyond her best-known gorilla behavioral research work. We learn how her advocacy, activism, and non-profit work dedicated to inspiring the younger generations has remained strong, due to her persistent optimism and awe of nature.

Environmental documentaries have the powerful potential to influence the narrative of conservation by educating audiences on the complex threats to nature and how to actively participate in environmental protection efforts. EARTHDAY.ORG’s Artists for the Earth program highlights artists that communicate complex environmental issues through their work.

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