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Peril in the Air: Pollution Activism on Film
Thursday, September 9, 2021,
2:00:00 PM Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local
Moving images prove a powerful medium for conveying the impact of polluted air on humans and other living things. This often-invisible menace can have catastrophic effects. In 1948, the Donora Smog in Pennsylvania killed 20 and sickened half of the town’s population, while in the UK the Great Smog of 1952 led to 12,000 deaths—and a Clean Air Act just four years later. Add to these events Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, and the modern environmental movement took root. Legislative and societal changes followed on both sides of the Atlantic. In this presentation of select US and British films on air pollution and the environment, Sarah Eilers and Angela Saward explore the intersection of filmmaking, government, and medicine as they not only respond to, but attempt to drive, this shift of the collective mind. Vivid imagery and dramatic narration make clear the power of film to tell a story that words alone often do not.
Sarah Eilers, MA, MLS, Archivist, Manager, Historical Audiovisuals, History of Medicine Division, NLM, NIH and Angela Saward, Wellcome Collection, London