The Stump Makers (1963)

Deforestation of the West Coast: Uncontrolled Corporations at Work

Giant Machines for Forest Giants

1963, Humboldt County, California. Giant Redwood Grave Yard. Photo by Harvey Richards

This brief clip of cutting down an ancient tree comes from The Stump Makers (1963), a 22 minute film made by Harvey Richards during the height of the deforestation of the west coast of the United States in the 1960’s. Having just restored this film for the new 2014 edition DVD, I feel grateful that it actually survived to this day. The Stump Makers gives us what Harvey really thought about the impact of corporate logging on our country. The following year he revised the film, made it shorter and changed the script to appeal to a wider audience, and reissued it as Wasted Woods. In the archive’s holdings, the only remnant of the Stump Makers that survived this revision was a 16 mm release print which I found in the 1990’s and transferred to video and then to digital format. No copy of the script exists outside this one release print. No original film or sound elements exist outside of what went into Wasted Woods. The value of this film, for me, is the statement it makes about the unbroken record of devastation left to us by the corporations that now rule the country.

Harvey felt passionately about the western forests, reflecting his upbringing in Oregon and he was witnessing the deforestation of the west coast. His left wing union organizing militancy brought him squarely up against the corporations that he witnessed and photographed. In the 1960’s, in spite of the political awakening taking place during those years, a frontal attack on corporations and private property was hard to sell. Mainstream media, of course, would laugh it off as communist propaganda. The left wing liberal organizations who were fighting for conservation of our natural resources were not sympathetic to the radical anti-capitalist views that Harvey espoused.

Now, in 2014, 50 years later, the anti-corporate, anti-capitalist message rings more true than ever.  Due  to the corporate hegemony of the last decades, the devastation to the environment has surpassed anything Harvey had witnessed. Global warming and climate change no longer allow us the luxury of trying to make nice with the out of control billionaires that the corporate era has given rise to. From Occupy Wall Street to the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking comes new voices adopting the anti-capitalist, anti-corporate point of view that Harvey espoused 50 years ago and held to steadfastly until his death in 2001. This film presents his views in their clearest form. They are as incisive and instructive now as they were 50 years ago. I would celebrate this fact were it not for the dismal condition of the planet and the difficult times that we face ahead.


The Stump Makers (1963) — 1 Comment

  1. You did a great restoration job but the message remains prophetically sad and the same, the only difference is that today more people are aware of this- thanks to the work you are doing. .

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