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The Early Years

The Post-War Years
The years following the war were marked by economic growth, which affected the environment. In the Prairie provinces, demand for water grew while resources diminished. Water for the Prairies (view an excerpt) was produced by the NFB with the co-operation of the Eastern Rockies Forest Conservation Board and the Alberta Forest Service, and released in 1951. The film argues that a number of factors are leading to a water supply crisis: depletion of aquifers, uncontrolled forestry on the eastern slopes of the Rockies (the Prairies’ chief source of drinking water), and melting glaciers. Water supply requires action from the federal government and the Government of Alberta.

Propaganda and Faith in Science
Despite its warnings, Water for the Prairies (view an excerpt) spends little time on the nature of the problem, seeking instead to reassure viewers that the Eastern Rockies Forest Conservation Board understands the issues and has the situation well under control with an effective action plan. Thanks to science and new technology, the Conservation Board is introducing a program of selective cutting and reforestation, along with programs to reduce the risk of forest fires, improve access to wooded areas, battle diseases affecting trees and fight insect pests. There is a certain propaganda element to the film, reminiscent of documentaries from the war years, along with faith that humans can easily impose their will on nature with the help of science.

Science Film Unit
At the end of the 1950s major technological innovations (such as the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I – the world’s first artificial satellite, launched October 4, 1957) led to increased interest in science, and greater demand for science-related films. The NFB’s Studio B, founded in 1948, strove to meet this demand through its Science Film Unit. The Unit’s films were meant for the education market, and would be viewed in Canadian primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions for more than 20 years.

A Film Shot North of the 70th parallel
During winter 1958, the Science Film Unit sent a small film crew to the Queen Elizabeth Islands, north of the 70th parallel, to capture the way flora and fauna in the Arctic have adapted and fought to survive in an extreme climate. The result was High Arctic: Life on the Land (view an excerpt), which was available in schools and universities throughout the country in spring 1959. Never before had an NFB crew travelled this far to capture images of the Arctic.

See film excerpts
Timber Front
Excerpt  (2:59) 1940, production : Frank Badgley
A look at forest preservation from a strictly economic point of view. Canada must preserve its forests because they provide a major source of income from tourism, regulate the flow of waterways that power hydro-electric plants, and supply timber. Despite the war, the nation must not compromise its forest protection program, to ensure a sufficient wood supply for the future.