The great indoors: 50+ green-themed books, films and shows to enjoy in lockdown

Staying safe at home during the Covid-19 lockdown? Here's a crowdsourced array of environment-themed books, films, TV shows, podcasts and other curious pursuits to keep you going during the long evenings and weekends.

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Greenpeace supporters have been taking to social media to share their eco-themed books, films, TV shows, and podcasts they’re enjoying while staying at home due to the Covid-19 measures. Here are their recommendations – well over 50 of them.

While some of these are free to access, many of the TV shows and films require access to a pay-monthly service (and the BBC shows may not be accessible to audiences outside the UK). 

Books can be purchased as ebooks or audiobooks, second-hand from online bookstores, or from national bookshops with an online offering. Try to support your local bookshops – you might find them taking email orders, for example.

Fighting for a better world

In summer 2019, a Brazilian TV drama series about four women activists who work for an environmental campaigning organisation called Aruanas was released.

The dramatic adventure spanning the first series takes the protagonists deep into the Amazon, investigating and fighting a gold mining company which appears to be polluting the local water supply. It’s a rip-roaring ride through some of the heaviest issues in eco-activism on the planet (with the outfit bearing no small resemblance to Greenpeace Brazil, who were consulted during production).

Sometimes it’s not easy to get the current Covid-19 crisis out of our heads – and for many environmentalists, this is on top of the clamouring climate crisis too. If this is the case for you, two books might be of interest: Naomi Klein’s famed The Shock Doctrine – about how corporate interests co-opt disaster recovery efforts for private profit – and Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell – about how people come together, and even look back fondly, on the community spirit found in aftermath of a storm or earthquake.

Around the world from your sofa

Race Across the World Season 2 sees pairs of travellers (cousins, siblings, couples and a mother-and-son) UK race, flight-free – and on a tight budget, based on the cost of the flights – from Mexico City to Argentina’s southernmost town of Ushuaia. Vicarious travel is here!

For less of a time commitment but with a similar true-travel feel The Beach (based on the novel written by Alex Garland who also wrote the BBC’s new show DEVS) is an adventure classic that will have you dreaming of the palm-fringed shores of Southeast Asia.

Fancy learning about the world’s forests and their people? Bruce Parry’s Tawai and Tribe series could be the ticket. If you’re interested in Indigenous issues, learn more about Brazil’s Yanomani from The Falling Sky, a book by Bruce Albert written with Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa. 

Humans in harmony with nature

There are numerous nature documentaries and films, but what about those that specifically focus on how humans interact with nature? The BBC’s excellent Human Planet is one – the series tells the story of humans and wildlife surviving in the most extreme environments on Earth. 

Then there are fascinating figures like rock climber Alex Honnold, featured on his quest to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan in June 2017 in Free Solo

Maybe you’ve been thinking of packing it all in and becoming a small-scale farmer once this is all over? Start by watching The Biggest Little Farm, about a couple who did it. For a bit of US conservation history, try Green Fire: A Land Ethic for our Time, about conservationist Aldo Leopold’s call for moral responsibility to the natural world. And from the BBC, Forest Field and Sky: Art out of Nature is a series on how humans create art from nature.

If grappling the seas at the land’s shore is more your thing, don’t miss Resurface, a short documentary film about how surfing has changed – and saved – US veterans’ lives. There’s also the Lockdown Surf Film Festival by London Surf Film Festival – streaming surf films free (for a limited 24 hours only) from April 2020.

Dreaming of total immersion in nature in the form of a dip in a pond or lake, either now as a form of daily exercise, or farther afield once it’s permitted? The compendium for the UK’s best spots – Wild Swimming by Kate Rew – is the essential reference book.

The devil and the deep blue sea

There are obviously many quite terrible encounters between humans and nature. Sea of Shadows, the Sharkwater Extinction films, and the iconic documentary about SeaWorld, Blackfish were all recommended by supporters. These documentaries exposing the dark side of human interaction with the oceans and its creatures. 

Mission Blue tells the story of world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she travels the globe on an urgent mission to shed light on the dire condition of Earth’s oceans.

And Chasing Coral shows the impact the devastating damage done to our oceans has on coral.

Amazing animals

On a continuing theme, many savvy supporters very rightly recommended the Blue Planet series – or indeed “anything by Sir David Attenborough”. 

There’s more than enough to see you through, with Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Our Planet, but – choosing a favourite – Blue Planet II is particularly special, with some truly amazing sea creatures with such extraordinary features, you’ll wonder what planet you’re on.

Back on land, you can watch clips from the BBC’s Great Bear Stakeout, which follows the astonishing lives of grizzly bears.

And last but not least, Chris Packham’s Primates is now showing, also on the BBC – a wonderful way to feel connected to some of our closest cousins in the animal kingdom.

Just for kids (not really!)

Even if you don’t have children to keep busy all day, the following recommended films are also highly suitable for locked-down grownups.

Wall-E, an animated sci-fi classic, follows the last robot on Earth designed to tidy up all the waste left by humans, until he falls in love with another machine called EVE.

It was great to see recommendations for much older children’s favourites too, such as the 1992 animated film Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest, featuring the joyful voice of Robin Williams, and Fly Away Home starring Anna Paquin and Jeff Daniels. The film of The Lorax might be worth a look for its animated adaptation of the Dr Seuss eco-classic, starring Zac Efron. The original book is a better bet if you baulk at the idea Hollywood’s treatment of such an iconic tale.

Returning to the sea, the Finding Nemo films and Finding Dory were also recommended, and from there sticking with Pixar and DreamWorks films about humanlike animated animals provides boundless options – such as Madagascar 1–4 and Penguins of Madagascar, with star-studded voice casts. 

Speaking of penguins, if you like your children’s films for the music, Happy Feet is a clear winner in the get-everyone-dancing-in-front-of-the-TV category.

And continuing the dance theme, for a star-studded glitzy fish film which probably tops the charts in terms of great music and a script and plot for all ages, it’s gotta be Shark Tale. See also Zootropolis – which also manages to hide grownup humour in plain sight.

Healthy futures

Documentaries about future, like Demain (Tomorrow) and 2040, may also provide some tonic for these uncertain times – and maybe a reminder to focus on improvements we can make in our own lives, right now. 

Perhaps you’re thinking of eating less meat and dairy, but need a little motivation? Try Simon Amstell’s mockumentary Carnage. Set in the year 2067, when veganism is the norm, the film looks back on meat-eating today. For a hard-hitting vegan favourite, there’s also Joaquin Phoenix narrating Earthlings – about the ethics of eating animals.

There are a number of benefits of eating less meat and dairy for your body – something we’re all considering now, as health is in the spotlight. Find out more in The Game Changers, What the Health, or Forks over Knives.

The Game Changers | Sep 16, 2019 | Get Tickets

“Someone asked me, how I could get as strong as an ox without eating any meat? My response was, have you ever seen an ox eat meat?” 🙅🍖- Patrik Baboumian, German StrongmanThis revolutionary new documentary about meat, protein, and strength will change the way you think about your diet and health. Executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton and Novak Djokovic. Click here 👉 https://gamechangersmovie.com 👈 to pre-order you ticket for September 16th. LIMITED SEATS AVAILABLE.

Posted by The Game Changers on Friday, August 23, 2019

Read through it

If a pandemic amid the climate emergency isn’t dystopian enough for you, Margaret Atwood’s MadAddam Trilogy or The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (which envisions an interesting solution to the problem of where we get our energy) might be among your next reads.

On that note, there are far too many books set in a climate change-ravaged world to list here. But if it’s definitely worth researching books to buy, either now (safely) or in the future. Here’s a list to get you started.

For something more here-and-now and wholesome, one supporter recommended the debut novel by Amy Liptrot, The Outrun – part memoir infused with sublime nature writing, set in the Orkney Islands.

If you find a novel too much, but still are hankering after great storytelling, try any one of the articles by US climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar, such as “But the greatest of these is love”.

For your ears only

If you’re into podcasts (someone delivering knowledge and entertainment into your ears while you clean/garden/cook/exercise? Yes please!), and you care about the climate crisis, try Hot Take, by Mary Heglar and Amy Westervelt. There’s also Drilled, which takes the climate podcast into true-crime territory.

On a continuing theme, the UK Student Climate Network’s new Podcast for the Planet has just been released, so check it out and don’t forget to give them some great reviews! There are three more excellent climate-themed podcasts which you can check out in this article.

One sustainable fashion-savvy supporter recommended the brilliant Wardrobe Crisis podcast by Claire Press. You can follow the unfolding crisis of plastic in our clothes and other household items being found out at sea in the recent 111th episode – “The Slow Travels of Oceans Plastic”.

More suporter suggestions included the This is Love podcast, about animals; an amazing nature podcast called The Stubborn Light of Things; and David Attenborough’s Life on Earth on the BBC Sounds app.

Virtual adventures

Supporters had some creative ideas to pass the time, such as simply typing in an animal name on YouTube and going on an internet adventure. You could start with the video about the world’s smallest cat.

Then there’s the Decorah Eagle cam, and the National Garden Scheme has put virtual garden tours online. And Chris Packham goes live at 9am, Monday to Friday, on Facebook. Why not see if any other inspiring figures that you might follow on social media are running virtual events?

Finally, why not go on holiday to Amsterdam? Not really, of course, but you can enjoy so many aspects of travelling without going anywhere. Try doing a virtual museum tour like this one from the Rijksmuseum (and which many museums now offer). You could find the best photographers from a city you’ve never been to by searching hashtags on Instagram, or cooking up a delicacy from your desired destination.

If it feels a little disappointing, simply turn on Race Across the World Season 1. You’ll be grateful you’re not stuck at a central Asian border just after it closed with only bus terminal seats as beds!

Need more to do still? Sign the petition below and scroll down for Greenpeace’s own eco-entertainment options right underneath it – including the incredible choose-your-own Antarctic Adventure.

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