Harvey Richards’ environmental documentaries started in 1960 with his film Perch of the Devil made in Butte, Montana about the 1960 United Mine Workers strike against Anaconda Copper Company. This strike was the swan song of under ground mining worker unions as open pit mining with mechanization on an immense scale began to dominate the mining industry, displacing deep tunnel miners who formed the core of union’s strength. The filming of Perch of the Devil came about amidst the anti-communist witch hunt of that era. Harvey told me stories of being followed by two or more FBI cars as he drove around Butte going from miner’s home to home. But having been a union organizer he was familiar with police tactics and managed to get the filming and interviewing done in spite of it.
When he went back to the subject of mining again, at the end of his filming career in the 1970’s, it was to document the great open pit mines that were devouring the earth. He brought together film he had shot in the US and Africa into his last film, Tale of Ruin: Capitalism and World Resources. By the 1970s, when he was in his late 60s, he turned his attention to defending the earth itself against the corporate foes he had fought all of his life.
Two years after completing Perch of the Devil, Harvey produced his second film on environmental devastation, this time at the hands of the corporations in the logging industry. This first logging film he called The Stump Makers. The following year he released Wasted Woods which documented the destruction of the last of the old growth redwood forests, a process which Earth First’s Judi Barri called “Ripping the Lungs out of the Earth.” In 1971 he released Timber Tigers which displayed footage he had taken on a national trip to record the rapid advance of forest devouring mechanization and its destructive impact. His last film on logging came out in 1975 when he collaborated with conservationists at Arcata University in northern California to produce Vanishing Redwoods which explored the delicate balance of nature being disrupted by mindless corporate logging practices..
Save the San Francisco Bay
In 1970, to support the Save the Bay movement, and to express his concern for the escalating land fills and pollution of San Francisco, Harvey Richards made Warning! Warning! which documented the environmental threats to the San Francisco Bay. The film was distributed by the Sierra Club and contributed to the Save the Bay movement that later put a halt to the systematic filling of the Bay by municipalities, and corporate and real estate interests.
The environmental, logging and mining films:
- Perch of the Devil
- Stump Makers
- Wasted Woods
- Vanishing Redwoods
- Warning! Warning!
- Timber Tigers
- A Tale of Ruin