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The Early Years
Marc St-Pierre has studied film, theatre, and philosophy. He has been a collection analyst at the National Film Board of Canada since 2004.

In the 1940s and 1950s the way environmental issues were addressed was closely linked to the context in which the films were made. These first films were marked by the Second World War, post-war economic growth, the development of science and the arrival of television.

The Second World War
NFB films produced during the war years were essentially meant to counter Nazi propaganda. They promoted democratic ideals, kept Canadians informed about the country’s war effort as well as the progress of the war in Europe, and promoted national unity.

Our Forestry Resources
A number of films from this era touch on subjects that may not appear to be directly related to the war effort. Forestry is one such topic and the subject of the film Timber Front (view an excerpt) – one of a number of works to promote preservation of our natural resources. Produced by the NFB in 1940, the film seeks to convince viewers of the importance of protecting the forests. As a supplier of timber, Canada must do its part for the war effort – but we must also think about the coming post-war period. The country must not deplete its supply of wood, because Canadian forests represent a major source of potential income. The film declares that we must preserve these forests to get the most out of them economically.

An Economic Perspective on a National Issue
It is interesting to note that Timber Front (view an excerpt) looks at the question of forest protection purely from an economic point of view. There is no talk of maintaining an ecological balance, or preserving rare species, but rather of maximizing economic exploitation of the resource. However, the film’s target audience goes beyond the forest industry and forestry workers, promoting the message that the forests are a collective resource – and that caring for them is an issue for the country’s population at large.

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See film excerpts
High Arctic: Life on the Land



Internet connection

Each film on this site is available for viewing at low speed or high speed.

  • Low speed: recommended if your Internet connection uses a dial-up modem (56 kbps or slower). Low-speed viewing results in lower quality image and sound.
  • High speed: recommended if you have high-speed Internet (DSL, cable modem) or are connected to an institutional network. Viewing in high-speed mode may cause occasional jerky images and sound interruptions if the speed of your connection is not fast enough.

If you're not sure which speed to use for viewing the films, try high speed first. If the results are not satisfactory, switch to low speed.



Films can be available for viewing in either Macromedia Flash or QuickTime. Image and sound quality are similar for all these formats.

  • Flash: lets you view the film directly in the Web page without launching an external application. Requires the Flash plug-in (download for free at Macromedia Flash Player).
  • QuickTime (alternative format): requires QuickTime, version 7 or more recent (download for free at QuickTime).

Closed captions (CC)

Translation of the audio portion of a film into subtitles, for example, dialogue, narration, sound effects, etc. These captions let hearing-impaired viewers read what they cannot hear. Closed captions are available for a few films. To access them, you must select QuickTime (under Format) and With closed captions (under Accessibility).


Described video (DV)

A narrated description of a film's key visual elements to enable the vision-impaired to form a mental picture of what is happening on screen. Described video is available for a few films. To access them, you must select QuickTime (under Format) and With described video (under Accessibility).

Excerpt  (2:27) 1958, production : Dalton Muir
This 1958 film on the High Arctic uses the term "ecology" to refer to the complex web of inter-connected natural relationships present within a given ecosystem. The word is now in general usage, reflecting our growing concern with the environment, and the prefix "eco" appears with increasing frequency throughout our language.