Ages ago — in April 2006, to be precise — I started off an essay about depictions of ecological disaster on film that I published at the Internet Review of Science Fiction like this:
I remember seeing a short film in elementary school—this would have been in the mid to late 70s—in which an elderly man tends a greenhouse in which he is carefully cultivating what may be some of the last plants on the planet. The air outside the greenhouse, the air in the “real world,” is toxic—it is absolutely essential that the plants be kept in this controlled environment. And the key moment of the little film comes as a gang of idiot kids throw rocks at the greenhouse, breaking the glass and killing the plants, and the man is devastated.
Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I was devastated by this, too, even as a little kid.
Every once in a while I get an email from someone who had a similar experience and is wondering whether I’ve been able to figure out what the film was called and whether it’s available. I never was able to do that… but reader Scott was.
And here’s the film, a 1970 short called “The Ark”:
The film isn’t quite as I remember it: it’s more philosophical than I recall, and the world depicted seems slightly less horrific than I remember. Though I suspect that may be because now I’m much more accustomed to seeing environmental disaster on film (and in the real world) — and film has gotten better at depicting it in horrific ways — than I was as a little kid.
If this seems similar to the 1972 film Silent Running, well…
Universal Studios held the script for Ark for six weeks and then passed on it. One year later they released the film “Silent Running” starring Bruce Dern, which was essential the same story.