A Look at Films Conveying Environmental Awareness in the 1960s

With environmental risks of air pollution a major global issueDr. Jennifer Peterson, Chair of Woodbury University’s Communication program, recently published an essay, “Darkening Day: Air Pollution Films and Environmental Awareness, 1960–1972,” for the National Library of Medicine’s “Medicine on Screen” project in Washington D.C. 

The essay reviews six films about historical air pollution held by the National Library of Medicine that were produced or supported by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) between 1960–1972. The timely piece was also reviewed by the Washington Post (see Erin Blakemore, “Educational films reflect evolving views in 1960s about the health dangers of air pollution,” Washington Post, September 19, 2020).  

According to the National Library of Medicine’s site, “In examining these historic films, DrPeterson brings forward the work of scientists and others in the Public Health Service, and how their findings and priorities shaped health policies and public communications during the era.”  

As Dr. Peterson writes, “Air pollution was certainly not a new problem in the 1960s (urban air pollution dates back hundreds of years), but it became a newly urgent topic in this period.” Moreover, these historical air pollution films have taken on renewed resonance today as we are facing the return of poor air quality with the fires in California and all over the western U.S. this season.  

Medicine on Screen is a curated portal to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) historical audiovisual collections. The site showcases unique, rare, and important medical films enriched with contextual information, scholarly essays, and related resources.  

 Last Updated on September 28, 2020.  

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