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Lois Gibbs and Love Canal are among the stars of ‘A Fierce Green Fire’

Robert Redford, Ashley Judd and Meryl Streep get top billing in TV Topics in the short summary of Tuesday’s episode of PBS’ “American Masters” series.

But the narrators aren’t the real stars of the documentary “A Fierce Green Fire.”

Western New York activist Lois Gibbs is one of the much bigger, lesser-known stars of the film about the environmental movement that premieres at 9 p.m. today – Earth Day – on WNED-TV.

According to a PBS release, “the film’s title is derived from pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” (1949), which describes his awakening after shooting a wolf while working as a U.S. Forest Service ranger: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.”

Gibbs is center stage in the second act about pollution narrated by Judd. The film documents the grass-roots activism around the world from the 1960s-2009 that begins with the conservation movement and ends with the scary danger of very little being done about climate change – except for talk.

The 12 or more minutes featuring Gibbs’ struggle to get the state and then the federal government to accept the fact that the incredible amount of birth defects that children in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls acquired was due to toxic waste should remind Western New Yorkers how courageous she was in battling governmental forces whose denial of the circumstances may be even more mind-blowing today.

In file footage and recent interviews, Gibbs recounts the story of how she and fellow Love Canal residents realized that “if fish and birds are dying, then we’re going to die” because so many chemicals were buried where they lived.