A person I follow on twitter ( @JathDeist ) recommended a documentary to me that was made just over 2 years ago, ‘Last Call at the Oasis’. The trailer is above and its available on Netflix. I’m always game for a new documentary, and this was no exception.
Probably the thing I found the most useful is it gave me context and a deeper understanding of the ongoing situation in the American southwest. Although this was not a climate change documentary, climate change is figured prominently as one of the stressors with regards to the drought.
The documentary centers on the critical issue of the human need for water. From drought, climate change, overuse and environmental degradation, the viewer is taken through these situations on how they are manifesting at this time. This was made over two years ago before the drought in California had hit the level it is today. News articles are quite limited in their scope. I appreciated how the doc gave me a deeper understanding of the issues associated with water.
The difficulty I had was I felt that like many documentaries, they try to end hopefully. This ‘part’ revolved around how water issues can make people work together and they illustrate this by giving an example from the middle east. If people in the middle east can work together on an issue, certainly we can.
This is where I began to feel uneasy. As we know, the situation in California has gotten worse. There was a quote in the documentary, “We humans have an infinite capacity to deny reality”. I agree with that 100%. I believe the problems that we experience today are because we have consistently denied reality. A reality that carbon energy is not only detrimental to the environment and climate, but its a finite resource. The documentary suggests that ‘human ingenuity’ will come to the rescue. With the water crises, human ingenuity can’t solve everything. They are pretty accurate when they say the desalination process requires a tremendous amount of energy and creates an increase greenhouse gasses. Its a dirty cycle.
The same with Canadian tarsands. The amount of energy and resources to produce this dirty oil is only now becoming feasible because the price of oil continues to grow. It continues to be detrimental to the environment. Instead of us dealing with the issue of a decreasing supply of oil and shifting to cleaner, yet not as powerful energy, people would rather pay for higher prices rather than address the underlying addiction.
The documentary suggests that recycling waste water will be a feasible option. I’m sure it can be. Our societies refuse to address our addiction to oil by changing to a weaker, yet sustainable, energy source like solar or wind because it means we will have to give up some of the benefits and luxury of oil. I don’t believe that people in this country will ever accept recycled waster water. Herein lies the problem. I don’t think western societies are willing to give up their ‘luxuries’ until they are forced to.
I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t have a lot of hope for human civilization. I don’t think the outcome to our situation is going to end happily. One thing I like about ‘some’ climate scientists is they are open to talking about human extinction. If I was the director of this documentary I probably would have explored the worst case scenarios. It frightens people to such a degree that talking about these scenarios becomes somewhat blasphemous. It is as if we are making ourselves extinct because we refuse to ‘go to that place of what might happen’. Its only when it becomes a crisis that it is impossible to ignore. We wonder why we hadn’t done something about it before. Our human need to see the positive in everything, I believe, is to our detriment.
There was a line in the documentary about how the EPA is rendered impotent because budgets have been cut to such a degree. The rhetoric I hear all of the time is how much tax people are paying and how ‘bloated’ they think the government is. That is until we experience a crisis and we then blame governments for not have taken action. This was a situation that happened here in Ontario. A government was elected twice on lesser government and lower taxes. People thought that was the right way until ‘smaller government’ also meant water testing was cut back and this resulted in a human tragedy.
If you want to have an understanding of what is happening in the American southwest, I highly recommend this documentary. You’ll learn like I did that this didn’t just happen over the past few months. This situation has been happening for some time and its getting worse. If you think there is a happy ending, that won’t happen, although, the documentary wants you to have some hope.
If you take that aspect of it (hope) with a grain of salt, then you will be more enlightened as to this ongoing, increasingly, tragic situation which did not just happen this winter, but has been in the making for the last several years.