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Environmental impact docos - a playlist

18 November 2020 at 5:40 pm
Documentary Australia Foundation shines a spotlight on some of the most powerful documentaries on the environment and climate change, and where you can watch them.

Contributor | 18 November 2020 at 5:40 pm


Environmental impact docos - a playlist
18 November 2020 at 5:40 pm

Documentary Australia Foundation shines a spotlight on some of the most powerful documentaries on the environment and climate change, and where you can watch them.

Using film as a tool to create impact is a relatively new concept, but one that is being used increasingly and to great effect. Documentary Australia Foundation has been championing the use of storytelling to drive social change for over 12 years. Here, we give you the rundown on some of the most powerful environment and climate change documentaries – and a sneak peek into what is around the corner. 

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Rent on YouTube

The original impact documentary, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth put a spotlight on human-induced climate change. It reached an audience of millions world-wide, becoming one of the most successful documentaries of all time and ultimately helped Al Gore to win the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to spark action on climate change.  

Aimed at raising public awareness, the film was one of the first to show the large-scale effects of climate change on our planet. It was also accompanied by a dedicated strategy to increase communication and leadership, the Climate Reality Project. A study by the Pew Research Centre showed that the film contributed to increasing public perception that global warming was a result of human activity. It also found that audiences were empowered and motivated to make lifestyle changes. Many were inspired to follow Gore’s example and begin communicating about climate change to their communities, which was facilitated by the Climate Reality Project which was launched alongside the film and trained people as leaders. It now has over 80 chapters across the USA. 



Blue Planet II (2017)

Watch on Stan

Blue Planet II, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, was the hotly anticipated sequel to The Blue Planet (2001). Filmed over four years, the documentary series brings to life our marine ecosystems and the threats they are facing. The series showed both the wonder of the natural world, which has become synonymous with Attenborough documentaries, but also the increasing pressures that our oceans face from overfishing, warming temperatures and plastic pollution.

The final moments of Blue Planet II, which showed the heartbreaking images of albatross parents feeding plastic to their chicks, has been credited as a key moment in sparking action to reduce plastic waste internationally. Following its airing in the UK, there was a spike in searches for the Marine Conservation Society, WWF and Plastic Oceans Foundation. Shortly after, the BBC announced its intention to ban single use plastics in the organisation by 2020.  Research conducted by the supermarket chain, Waitrose, showed that 88 per cent of people who watched the series were inspired to change their behaviour as a result. 



2040 (2019)

Watch on DocPlay

Launched in 2019, 2040 is a story of hope that looks at the very real possibility that humanity could reverse global warming and improve the lives of every living thing in the process. A hybrid documentary, it looks at what the future could look like if we embraced the best of the solutions that are available today. 

2040 was released with a bold and ambitious impact campaign called The Regeneration. It allows audiences to activate their own personalised plan for climate action, supporting many of the solutions explored in the film. 

Since releasing last year, the documentary and its impact campaign have, with their partners:

  • raised over $1.5 million for climate solutions
  • planted 24,000-plus trees
  • encouraged 23,000-plus to activate their climate action plans
  • had 26,000-plus lesson plans downloaded
  • engaged 46 action partners
  • registered 360 farmers for a regenerative agriculture movement. 

You can activate your action plan here: 



Big Weather (2020)

Watch on ABC iView

One of the most recent environmental documentary series, Big Weather (and how to survive it) gives audiences unique access to Australia’s emergency services, first responders and local communities as they grapple with increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather. 

In the wake of a devastating season of bushfires, Big Weather looks at the people fighting on the frontline and the communities most affected. The series aims to give audiences and communities the practical resources they need to be prepared for and to survive extreme weather events. Check out their resource here.



This short playlist shows just how much has happened in the 14 years since an Inconvenient Truth was released. Each day, we learn more about our incredible environment – but also how it is being detrimentally affected. 

Documentary Australia Foundation is committed to continuing to build on the incredible work of these projects. Check out the next generation of environmental documentaries at New Stories for Climate Action on Thursday 19 November. 

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