“A Fierce Green Fire” the Book and the Documentary, Climate Champ–Bullfrog Films!

by | Jan 10, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

“A Fierce Green Fire” the book and the documentary, plus climate champions, Bullfrog Films!



In the book, A Fierce Green Fire, veteran environmental journalist Philip Shabecoff presents the definitive history of American environmentalism from the earliest days of the republic to the present. He offers a sweeping overview of the contemporary environmental movement and the political, economic, social and ethical forces that have shaped it. Shabecoff traces the ecological transformation of North America as a result of the mass migration of Europeans to the New World, showing how the environmental impulse slowly formed among a growing number of Americans until, by the last third of the 20th Century, environmentalism emerged as a major social and cultural movement.  

The efforts of key environmental figures — among them Henry David Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, David Brower, Barry Commoner, and Rachel Carson — are examined.  So, too, are the activities of non-governmental environmental groups as well as government agencies such as the EPA and Interior Department, along with grassroots efforts of Americans in communities across the country.  Philip Shabecoff was a reporter for The New York Times for over three decades. In his last 14 years, he served as its chief environmental correspondent. He then founded and published Greenwire, the daily online environmental news report. 

While not entirely favorably reviewed (one said of it, “If you’re looking for a relatively superficial overview, this may be a good book for you) A Fierce Green Fire is a vital reminder of how far we have come in protecting our environment and how much we have to lose. The book was originally published in 1993 and then republished in 2003, with some updates, including an analysis of how the administration of George W. Bush sought to dismantle a half-century of progress.

Why the title? It’s derived from pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949), which describes his awakening after shooting a wolf while working as a U.S. Forest Service ranger: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.” BTW, the book was made into a feature-length documentary in 2012.

DEEPER DIVE: A Fierce Green Fire



The environmental movement is the largest movement the world has ever seen, it may also be the most important – in terms of what’s at stake. Yet, in the words of Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green” because environmentalists have been reviled as much as revered, for being killjoys and Cassandras. Based on the book, “A Fierce Green Fire” by Philip Shabecoff, the documentary of the same name has been called the first big screen exploration of the environmental movement. The movie is big—it spans 50 years of the environmental/conservation movement. 

Highlights include the battle to stop dam building in the Grand Canyon, halting the dumping of 20K tons of toxic waste in Love Canal to the infamous Greenpeace tactics to save whales. The film is divided into five “acts.” Act one focuses on the conservation movement of the 1960s. Act two focuses on the expansion of the movement through the 1970s. Act three highlights ecology and the actions of Greanpeace. Act four explores global resources issues including crises of the 1980s, including the initial struggles to save the Amazon Rainforest. And Act five addresses the concerns around climate change. 

Why does a Fierce Green Fire matter to us? It’s a comprehensive history of the modern climate change movement. And like anything, those who don’t remember the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. We want to stand on the shoulders of our climate action forebears and learn from their mistakes. Not repeat them. This movie allows us to learn our history, learn from it, and move it into now. A Fierce Green Fire is available for streaming in a number of venues, including Amazon Prime, OVID.TV, and at Bullfrog Films. 

DEEPER DIVE: Trailer, IMBD, Bullfrog Films



In researching A Fierce Green Fire we at The Climate Daily discovered a great repository of films, videos and other climate-conscious media. It’s called Bullfrog Films. According to its website, over the last 49 years, Bullfrog Films has become the leading US publisher of independently-produced documentaries on environmental and related social justice issues that point the way to living healthily, happily, and with greater concern for the other inhabitants of this planet, and for our descendants. Nice. Bullfrog Films was founded in 1973. Its mission is to bring together programs that point the way to a new paradigm for living happily, healthily and sustainably.

Bullfrog is kind of a collaboration between producers at National Film Board of Canada, CBC, Television Trust for the Environment, BBC-TV, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and leading independent producers from around the world. It’s been honored with a retrospective screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and with a special award from Medikinale International in Parma, Italy. Why does Bulldog Films matter to us? Mostly because it’s a reliable source of educational films, DVD and media streaming regarding environmental and related social justice issues.  

And the answer to the question you’re dying to ask, Why Bullfrog Films? The name is a reference to a place with a pond that produced a chorus of bullfrogs in the Pennsylvania Dutch region near the company’s offices in Reading, PA in the good ol’ USA.

DEEPER DIVE: Bullfrog Films