We don’t mean to sound alarmist, but the environment is in pretty bad shape these days. The climate is changing in destructive ways, pollution is overtaking us, resources are running low, and entire habitats are being destroyed. With Earth Day 2021 just around the corner, it’s more important than ever for us to understand the gravity of these problems, and these Earth Day documentaries offer a rare and illuminating insight into the plights now facing our planet.
The best documentaries to watch on Earth Day:
These eight documentaries highlight some of the most important environmental issues of our day, making them the perfect thing to get yourself educated before this coming Earth Day arrives on April 22.
Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World
Greta Thunberg has become the preeminent voice in the modern fight against climate change. This three-part documentary series chronicles the young activist's worldwide journey to study the effects of climate change firsthand and sees her meeting with leading climate scientists in an attempt to spread the word about this very serious issue. Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World begins streaming in the U.S. on April 22 on PBS.
Cher & The Loneliest Elephant
Cher & The Loneliest Elephant is a surprising documentary about conservation and compassion. Featuring one of the world’s most memorable personalities, the story focuses on Cher’s journey to rescue Kaavan, a bereaved male elephant as he makes his way to a Cambodian animal sanctuary. Cher & The Loneliest Elephant begins streaming on Paramount+ on April 22, and on the Smithsonian Channel on May 19 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Seaspiracy is a cold, hard look into the way that humanity affects marine life. Tackling everything from overfishing to plastic pollution, Kip Anderson’s followup to 2014’s Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, is a divisive documentary hit, rife with hard truths and hard-to-swallow notions about the fate of our planet’s dwindling marine ecosystems. Seaspiracy began streaming on Netflix on March 24.
The Cloud Forest
The Cloud Forest is a documentary that explores the delicate relationship between man and nature. It focuses on the small, rural community of Veracruz, Mexico, and illustrates how such communities can change their ways so that they can live in harmony with nature, rather than attempting to master or eliminate it completely. The Cloud Forest is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
The Race to Save the World
The Race to Save the World follows the trials and tribulations of a group of environmental activists who are fighting to protect our planet’s future. Their passion, personal sacrifice, and single-minded focus are an inspiration to watch, and a call to action for anyone who might be considering a career in activism. The Race to Save the World releases in theaters nationwide on Earth Day, April 22.
Blue Planet and Blue Planet II
Blue Planet and its sequel represent the best of what modern documentary series has to offer. Narrated by the incomparable David Attenborough, this series focuses on the unique marine ecosystems that exist on our amazing planet. Featuring stunning images of nature at its most primal, Blue Planet shines a bittersweet light on the creatures and habitats that are put in danger by our species’ own meddling. Blue Planet and Blue Planet II are now steaming on Amazon Prime Video.
The Year the Earth Changed
David Attenborough once again steps in to narrate what might be one of the most timely and important documentaries of the past decade. The Year Earth Changed is a documentary about the drastic changes that have happened on our planet in the past few years. It has a particularly poignant focus on the coronavirus pandemic, and illustrates how that crisis has affected not just humanity, but the planet itself. The Year Earth Changed begins streaming on Apple TV+ on April 16.
2040 by Damon Gameau
Australian director Damon Gameau’s 2019 documentary 2040 is coming to American audiences this Earth Day, as it will show on the CW on Thursday, April 22, at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. You can also rent it via YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu for $3.99. In the film, Gameau investigates what the year 2040 could look like if humans actually adopt the practices needed to fight the climate crisis, such as renewable energy and regenerative agriculture.
This article is part of Green Matters’ 2021 Earth Day programming, #GreenMattersGreenlight: A week-long campaign spotlighting ways you can protect the planet for Earth Day and beyond. We’re celebrating planet Earth giving us the greenlight to take climate action.