August 26, 2019  (Web Review)

A Concerned Citizen: Civics in Action

(2019) 41 min. DVD: $250. Bullfrog Films ( PPR. SDH captioned. ISBN: 1-948745-19-4.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

In 1969, a Wisconsin man named Fred Ott successfully sued his state over its use of the pesticide DDT. Three years later, the United States officially banned DDT, with Wisconsin’s decision having brought crucial momentum to the national cause. The late Ott’s daughter, Dr. Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist whose focus on the oil industry and its sickening record of environmental and human destruction is the focus of this documentary by Bo Boudart, says that her father’s citizen activism was simply democracy in action. A Concerned Citizen centers on two intertwined themes in Riki’s personal and professional mission: getting the facts out about the impact of oil spills (and equally lethal chemical dispersants), and pointing out how ordinary Americans can do something about the chokehold that Big Oil has on all three branches of government. Drawing on horrifying archival news footage and interviews, the film traces Ott’s research into the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and its continuing damage, followed by numerous other spills, including BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, and the much-less-reported Exxon spill into the Kalamazoo River, which both occurred in 2010. Ott and others explain that crude oil (including tar sand) never really leaves bodies of water, and that dispersants merely hide spillage while actually killing even more wildlife. Still, there are glimmers of hope, as viewers see Ott speaking to community groups about the necessity of linking science and civics, reminding people that having the facts will help them to confidently fight for their children’s future. Highly recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (T. Keogh)