Film: Last Call at the Oasis (2011)
Cast includes: Erin Brokovich-Ellis, Jay Famiglietti, Peter H. Gleich, Tyrone Hayes
Writer/Director: Jessica Yu (Ping Pong Playa)
Genre: Documentary (105 minutes)
"My father said, someday water will become more valuable than oil," Erin Brokovich tells us, and it's happening now. "By 2025, half of the world's population will not have adequate water."
NASA has been evaluating global water depletion for decades, and it's clearly a crisis. Yet in America, the water is flowing. Consider Las Vegas, a desert city with man-made rivers, gardens, fountains, etc. The government turned on the tap in the 1930s when they built the Hoover Dam, enabling Las Vegas to flower using water from Lake Mead. But there's a magic number, and it's 1,050. Lake Mead has 36 feet to go before it reaches 1,050. And at this rate, it'll happen in four years. That's when water will no longer flow through the dam. The proposed pipeline to Baker, Nev., looked like a solution until the folks in Baker started asking, what happens when Baker is drained dry? The community meetings get really heated,pitting environmental issues against financial concerns.
Water shortages are hard for us to wrap our heads around. After all, the planet is mostly water. Every drop of water that was on earth in the beginning is still here today. Water is a constantly renewable resource. The problem is that only 1 percent of the world's water is drinkable. And it's not just a matter of using it faster than it can be renewed. There's also the problem of pollution. Our water treatment facilities were never designed to handle all the chemicals that are now going into the water. Plus, industrial chemicals often go into the water supply directly. In the late 1960, Ohio's Cuyahoga River actually caught fire repeatedly from industrial pollutants, leading to the formation of the EPA. But today, the EPA is so underfunded that only five of 80,000 industrial chemicals in our water have been regulated. The evidence of the crisis is everywhere. It's an OMG moment, but "we humans have an infinite capacity to deny reality."
The film is excellent in showing us the issues, but it's painful to watch. Einstein once said, "Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act." The film isn't just about bad news. It also talks about solutions -- assuming we start acting before it's too late. Desalinization, by the way, isn't the answer. It's time to get serious about recycling water, for example. Singapore turns waste water into drinking water, a concept Americans find repugnant -- for now. Serious conservation definitely has to be part of the solution. But that regularly causes heated conflicts of economics vs. environment. People have to work together, and in some parts of the world they are, even though the solutions can cause great hardships. The film shows us cattle ranches in Australia where they're losing everything because the government's had to redirect the water for human usage. It'll take more than this film to convince most of us to be part of the solution. But a good dose of reality is easier to swallow in a movie, than when the spigot runs dry.
4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A serious and disturbing look at what's in store if we don't get serious about water. It's not a feel-good movie.
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Not that kind of film
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & thought provoking
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