Climate Corner: Do It Yourself EcoFilm Fest

Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from Fisher Stevens' documentary "Before the Flood.”

By Jenny Noble

Until this long and COVID-y winter is finally over, you are cordially invited to an environmental film festival located right here on your own couch. And since there are so many great documentaries made about the planet, and you’re so busy (doing what exactly, I’m not sure), I’ve tried to select the best of the best.

My criteria? Firstly, that the movie takes you to parts of the world far beyond your couch, preferably involving palm trees, coral reefs, narwhals and/or time lapse photography of polka dotted mushrooms. It has to be educational and entertaining. Many of these films are action-packed and suspenseful (as the climate crisis tends to be). Bonus points if our tour guide is a celebrity. I included a smattering of films about the East End. And they must all offer big solutions, or at least a glimmer of hope.

And just so that you don’t walk away thinking, “Yikes! But what am I supposed to do about that?” each film is paired with everyday ways that you can help out. As noted in the thriller “Racing Extinction” (2015), “Better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness.”

Climate Change 101 (Big and Beautiful Flicks)

“Before the Flood”: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who, in 2014, was designated a U.N. Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change by then-United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, rings the alarm bell as he explores melting ice caps, sinking island nations, and the Vatican.

Most surreal moment: Former president Barack Obama tells DiCaprio in October of 2016: “Even if somebody campaigned on denying climate science, reality has a way of hitting you in the nose.” Great for kids and skeptics alike.


How To Help: Take DiCaprio’s advice — consume differently, invest in renewables and use your vote to fight climate change.

“2040”: A fanciful, but seriously smart film about what the year 2040 could look like if we embraced so many obviously win-win solutions that exist today.

Favorite fact: Seaweed is the fastest growing tree on earth.

Best characters: Miniature policy wonks perched on shovels.

(Amazon Prime and other platforms)

How to help: Figure out what your personal 2040 could look like at

“The Serengeti Rules”: Five scientists, from Tanzania to Oklahoma, piece together the rules of how the natural world functions. When one “keystone” predator is eliminated, there’s a domino effect where everything else begins to disappear.

Favorite Orwellian quote: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

(Available on various platforms)

How to help: Lobby to make venison legal to sell on Long Island. Become a community scientist with Seatuck Environmental Association and help monitor what’s thriving and what’s in decline on Long Island — otters, alewives, bats, coyotes, horseshoe crabs and more.

“No Impact Man”: A publicity stunt, yes, but voyeuristically fun to watch.

Favorite line: No Impact Man’s wife asks, “Are you a fringe wacko?” Saddest moment: Same wife has to give up caffeine because it’s not grown locally and claims she almost lost her career over it. I would have to move to Colombia.

(Available on various platforms)

What To do: What’s not to do? Throughout the movie you’ll be asking yourself, “What would I be willing to give up?” (Junk mail, yes. TP, no.)

More Climate Change 101 (Big and Beautiful):


“Earth: One Amazing Day”

“David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet”

“The Race Is On”

“Years of Living Dangerously”

“The Human Element”

“This Changes Everything”

“Dirt! The Movie”

About Water:

“Chasing Coral”: A sea of eye-candy that will change how you look at coral.

Biggest shock: We’ve lost 80 to 90 percent of coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

Craziest fact: If oceans weren’t trapping heat, the average temperature on earth would be 122 degrees.

(Netflix and YouTube)

To Help: On your next flight to Florida, offset the carbon emissions used for your trip with Delta or United Airlines’ carbon calculator.

“Conscience Point”: The Shinnecock people were the first South Fork whalers. Now, along with other fishermen, they’re losing their traditional means of survival. Pollution from run-off is having a deleterious effects on fish, scallops, clams and drinking water.

Best Labor Day plan: Join the Shinnecock Pow Wow for crafts, ceremonial dancing, and Bluefish Chowder.

(Go to and type “Home Video”)

To Help: Stop using chemical fertilizer on your lawn.

“Long Island Water”: Montauk oyster farmers, North Fork foodies, stand-up paddle boarders and of course fishermen share their stories. (Each mini-movie is under five minutes). Perfect for short attention spans who care about our water and our way of life.

Best mood booster: Their love of Long Island is contagious.

(Google The Nature Conservancy “Long Island Water”)

To Do: Upgrade your septic system. Take your kids crabbing for Atlantic blue crab.

Alternate Water Themed films:



“Mission Blue”

“River Blue”

“Chasing Ice”

“Cold Comfort: Arctic Communities”

“Ice on Fire”

“A Plastic Ocean”

About Land:

“Kiss the Ground”: Actor Woody Harrelson delivers a very inspirational story about how soil can save us (or at least make things much better).

Best insight: When used smartly, herbivores (i.e. cows), can pull down carbon from the atmosphere and reverse desertification.


To Help: Eat better meat and more plant-based food.

“Fantastic Fungi”: Learn how mushrooms are medicinal, spiritual and have the same networking design as the internet. Even if the volume were off, the intensely colorful time lapse photography is mesmerizing.

Sweetest fact: Mother trees recognize their baby trees and “talk” to them.

(Available on various platforms)

To Help: Pick up a Mushroom Hunting Kit, complete with movie CD, guide to mushroom identification, foraging tools and journal from Proceeds benefit environmental film programs.

“Flow: For Love of Water”: Explore water issues around the world.

Best rhetorical question: Why do the poor have to pay for rain?

Funniest bit: Experiment at a California restaurant in which a “water menu” of French-ly named bottles serves water that comes from the garden hose out back.

(Amazon Prime and various platforms)

To Help: Install a smaller shower head to reduce water consumption. Watch Gael Garcia Bernal in the white-knuckle drama, “Even the Rain.”

Poster for “The Pollinators,” Peter Nelson’s documentary about bees and what pesticides are doing to their hives.

“The Pollinators”: Learn to love bees and witness what pesticides are doing to their hives.

Biggest shocker: Bees contribute more than $2 billion to the U.S. economy.

Best quote: “If we put the same economic value on honey bees as we do on cattle, we wouldn’t have a pesticide investigator out here. We’d have the FBI.”

(Available on various platforms)

To Help: Always buy organic produce, which doesn’t spray chemical pesticides on fruit blossoms. Try locally made honey at

OK Planet fans. Put your Fitbit on the dog, pop some organic popcorn, and start the festival. And spoiler alert: It’s up to us to be the happy ending.

Peter Nelson’s documentary “The Pollinators” inspired Sag Harbor’s Shane Patrick to start beekeeping. Ella Patrick photo.

Upcoming Film Festivals:

The One Earth Film Festival screens 21 of this year’s best films about environmental issues. Free with suggested donation of $8. March 5-14, 2021 at

Docs Equinox celebrates pro-environment films this Earth Day weekend (April 22-24). Daytona 500 fans, take note: “And We Go Green” follows race car drivers in electric cars as they race the 10-city Formula E circuit. Go to Docs Equinox at

The Montauk Film Festival features environmentally themed movies, or as producer Jason Ferrante describes it, “The heart and soul of a film has to be about the environment, even if it’s just tangentially related.” This outdoor festival includes local musicians and an organic farmers market. Check at the end of March for July dates.

The Air, Land + Sea Festival, which is affiliated with the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), offers screenings and events year round, focusing on environmental awareness. HamptonsFilm Director Anne Chaisson describes their selections as, “more offbeat, with practical solutions that anyone can do.” Go to

Jenny Noble is a writer and mother who enjoys food, water and clean air.