Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2021 6:48 pm 
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Wealthy, plentiful California's exploitation foreshadows the world's decline

The story behind water is about politics. In a big drought in 2015 Governor Jerry Brown told citizens to cut their water use by 25%. But he didn't mean "ag," big agriculture. It uses 80% of the water, a lot of it for things like almonds (which take a lot of water to grow) for worldwide consumption, not local. Ag is big money and big influence. During drought years its cultivation was higher than ever. Everyday Californians are dupes and pawns here, and the intricacies of this story take us back to Polanski's Chinatown and forward to the dubious future of the overpopulated, mismanaged planet on which we all must live.

This film is in chapters, and the first of them is about a key fertile crescent: "The Delta is the big story." The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers form the California fresh water system. Outsiders don't even know where it is. It provides water to 25 million people. The farmers of The Delta are small, sustainable, sensitive to the environment, and their families have farmed there for generations. A fifth generation pear farmer says his grandfather told him "There may come a day, son, when you'll have to go sit on that pump with a shotgun." They are being impoverished and their precious legacy is slowly wasting away.

The film explains how overuse of The Delta's water is ruining Bay Area salmon fishermen (also many-generation profession) and the depletion of salmon is killing orca wales off. The large factors are governed by wealthy men who are manipulating sources to produce their agricultural products for outside sale. It is not sustainable.

Chapter three is about the tunnels. This is a dubious "fix" of building two massive tunnels under the Delta supposedly saving the ecosystem of the Delta. More likely this might destroy the Delta. Newsom, the new governor, announced his is against the twin tunnels but okay with one tunnel. (Later we hear that the one tunnel would be bigger than 1/2 of the two tunnels.) Chapter Four is the fear of the locals. They fear the Metropolitan Water District of southern California, a massive organization that wants the north's water however they can get it. (Westland is another feared engine for gaining water for big agriculture.)

The Owen's Valley case, on which the plot of Roman Polanski's Chinatown is based, is a precursor to the "fix" issue with The Delta, but on a smaller scale. Comparing these two shows that taking out water for L.A. leaves ruined regions and people in its wake.

The film finally turns to the "agricultural cornucopia," the Central Valley. This major ag district is impressive, but it uses 80% of all the human-consumed water in the state - and the ag industry however isn't that kind of proportion of the state's economy; it's only a %50 billion/year industry in an over $2 trillion/year economy. The Central Valley is a guzzler, using, again 80% of the water for 2% of the state economy. (See the [url=""]CA economy breakdown[/url].) Maybe some of the other state "industries" are destroyers of the state's ecosystem and moral integrity too. But here's the favorite statistic of those who question the Central Valley's dominance: the biggest crop is almonds, over a million acres, and it takes a gallon of water to grow one almond. It is the biggest crop, of the mega farms, because it is the most profitable. Almonds are sold outside the US. It is not a locally necessary product even for the US as a whole.

Chapter Six is about big ag, like William Bourdreau of Harris Farms, which grows both cattle and almonds. The film explains these people focus heavily like other corporations on gaming the political system to get the most water, manipulating laws. We glimpse Bourdreau looking on approvingly at Trump. This documentary was made during the Trump administration. It points out how Trump was good for the big ag and bad for the environment all along the line. As with other matters, Trump used a lie that freshwater is being sent into the sea to save "a three-inch fish". The truth is that the Delta Smelt was once the most numerous fish in the region and now has become rare, and water isn't being thrown away into the sea. This false argument was used to make "Met" and Westwater sound like the wise water managers, when they are really the servants of big agriculture.

All in all, this film helps the viewer to understand a little better the issues behind California's conflicts over water and how water fits into the whole picture of economics, politics, and the future of the planet. For the latter, and for a sustainable culture, it is not looking good. But there are plenty of individuals who speak for sustainable water management, and they are whom we mainly hear from. Unfortunately they are not dominant in Washington, where money talks louder than reason.

River's End: California's Latest Water War, 81 mins. , will be released on VOD in the US, Canada and UK Nov. 2, 2021. VOD Platforms: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu (US, Canada, UK) Cable Platforms: InDemand TVOD (Comcast, Spectrum, Cox), DirectTV/AT&T and more (US)

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