January 4, 2009 -- A documentary about a global water shortage with an overtly socialist slant. Primitive people, good. Corporations and chemicals, very bad. The film makes a convincing case for better oversight of public water systems, water conservation, better water treatment systems and better control of industrial pollution which contaminates water supplies. Who knew there was rocket fuel in drinking water?
There is a funny bit clipped from Penn and Teller's TV series “Bullshit” about how nonsensical it is to buy bottled water. The film's credibility is hurt by a couple of things. People in the film make a number of unsupported statements such as alleging that private corporations cannot operate municipal water supplies as efficiently or as effectively as governmental entities can. The film supplies only anecdotal evidence on this, which is pretty worthless. Poor scholarship is also evident in one scene where a man reads a poetic environmental speech attributed to Chief Seattle (real name Sealth), leader of Suquamish and Duwamish tribes. The speech is a well-known fabrication actually penned by screenwriter Ted Perry for the 1972 film “Home,” produced for the Southern Baptist Convention's Christian Radio and Television Commission. There is no proof that Chief Sealth ever made any kind of public speech which contained any of the material attributed to him in the film. Here is a link to the Snopes article on the phony Sealth speech (sometimes cited as a letter dictated by Sealth).
The film also fails to point out the elephant in the room: namely overpopulation. There would not be any significant shortage of water (or fish) if there weren't six billion people in the world. Most of the water being consumed by humans is consumed by agriculture and it takes a lot of agricultural production to feed six billion people. The film attacks the use of pesticides and fertilizer as harmful to water, but the use of fertilizer, especially, is needed to produce the kind of crops needed to feed the ever-expanding population of the world. The film attacks a number of large corporations for being short-sighted water users and poor providers of water services, companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé. It essentially beats up straw men. Yet the environmental degradation caused by the Soviet Union, a socialist country, was far worse that anything done by any private company (the USSR destroyed the Aral Sea and gave us Chernobyl for God sakes!). Public ownership of water, a commons approach, is no guarantee of good stewardship of the resource. Vigilance and action are called for, and the film makes a good case for those, at least. This film rates a C+.
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