The Four Corners: A National Sacrifice Area? documents the cultural and ecological impacts of coal stripmining, uranium mining and oil shale development in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona – homeland of the Hopi, Navajo and Mormon cultures. It examines Peabody Coal Company’s massive Black Mesa stripmine and the history of uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau, including the 1979 Church Rock tailings spill on the Navajo Reservation, where high levels of lung cancer and birth defects have resulted from decades of radiation exposure. The film challenges the U.S. government policy of locating destructive energy projects in remote “national sacrifice areas” and illustrates serious “environmental justice” issues — ten years before that term was coined. Concluding that the extraction of coal and uranium involves huge hidden costs, Four Corners argues for development of alternative energy from solar and wind along with a major conservation initiative.
Distribution: Seven-week tour of the Southwest, spring 1983; Congressional screening sponsored by Friends of the Earth, November 1983; EPA (DC) and UN (NY) screenings.
Broadcast History: PBS national broadcast, November 1983; the Learning Channel, 1985.
Awards: Academy Award, Best Student Documentary; Best Documentary, San Francisco Native American Film Festival; Best of Category, National Association for Environmental Education Film Festival; CINE Golden Eagle.
Produced by Christopher McLeod, Glenn Switkes and Randy Hayes. Written and Directed by Christopher McLeod.
“Four Corners is a beautiful, impressive and thoroughly honest film.
I hope millions of people see it.”
— Edward Abbey