This post was originally published on the Huffington Post on June 19, 2012
Let’s face it. In the U. S., most of us have every expectation that when we turn on our faucets, a clear, crisp stream of cold (or hot, or any other temperature that our hearts’ desire), water will gush forth. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to imagine life in our country under any other circumstances.
Well, it’s time for a wake-up call. As with the Gold Rush, Big Oil, Infinite Timber, and more, in spite of our tremendous capacity to deny the facts, Earth’s resources are, sadly, limited. They must be properly managed to assure their availability for the long run. Even in our beloved land of plenty, we are now forced to confront an ever-increasing list of water challenges, from polluted rivers and lakes in the East, to water shortages in the West, and from prolonged drought in the South to contaminated groundwater, well, all over the place.
As a professor of hydrology, this is the heavy stuff of my teaching and research. It is a difficult message to deliver, both to my students and to the general public. It’s not a pretty picture, and it should not be sugar coated. Thankfully, I find that just a tiny fraction of my audience is apathetic, while the vast majority is typically motivated to take some sort of action, no matter how small. I’ve come to appreciate that the public cares deeply about water (consider the bottled water craze, the market for in-home water filters, the rising popularity of reusable water bottles and more sustainable lifestyles), and wants to maintain that reliable flow to our homes and farms, while still preserving our environment.
But as a teacher and researcher, my reach is small, yet people want and need to know what’s going on with their water. And that’s where enviro-docs like Participant Media’s (An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., Waiting for Superman)/ATO Pictures Last Call at the Oasis come in. Given my personal commitment to communicating our critical water research findings to the public, when Academy Award-nominated Producer Elise Pearlstein (Food, Inc.) contacted me about contributing to Last Call, it was a no-brainer.
What Pearlstein and Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien) ultimately delivered is a masterful work that paints America’s water landscape in all of its harshly realistic glory. Last Call gives us no-holds-barred insights into several of the world’s key water issues, including how they are already impacting us here in the United States.
But, Last Call at the Oasis is not all doom and gloom. It’s smart, it’s zippy, it’s honest, and it’s at times gut wrenching. It’s a wonderful blend of expert opinion with stunning cinematography, clever editing and an original, hauntingly elegant score. And Yu and Pearlstein remind us that laughter is good for the soul, even when our environment is under duress: Last Call is funny, and it’s okay to laugh. And, Last Call gives us hope that we can manage our water future, but only if we begin to act now.
But I’m not writing this post to review the movie. That’s been done by the press, and they like Last Call very much. I’m writing this as a teacher who has used several films through the years to supplement classroom learning. Let me be clear about this: you, your families, your neighbors and your co-workers all need to see this eye opener of a movie. It will make you think. It will make you talk about how much we’ve taken the availability of clean, fresh water for granted. And it will probably convince you that those days are coming to a rapid close.
The trouble is that Last Call is not playing in many places. It is a documentary after all, and this is the season for action, entertainment and summer fun. Enter TUGG, an innovative new platform for movie distribution that allows any person, group or organization to bring Last Call to a local theater. Interested parties can request a screening through the TUGG website, and if a threshold number of tickets is sold in advance (often around 50) then the screening is confirmed. As an incentive, organizers retain 5% of ticket sales, and also have the chance for their organization to be featured on the DVD release of Last Call.
An important subtext of Last Call at the Oasis is that it is no longer socially, politically or even legally acceptable to trash Earth’s waters in the name of economic growth and ‘progress.’ We now know too much about how our environment functions to continue to overtax our water supply and to use it as our national dumping grounds. It’s time to move past that phase of our growth as a nation. Please spread the word about Last Call, including opportunities for local screenings using TUGG, to help this message reach the widest possible audience.