Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Big River and Thirst: Water Movie Reviews

This environmental science course I am teaching this summer has a heavy emphasis on water, and so I have been getting into the hydro-spirit and have watched a couple of films on the subject. Both are currently instant plays on Netflix!
Big River is the amendment to King Corn, a hilarious film that I have seen probably 5 or 6 times, yet haven't written a review on it yet. King Corn is the story of 2 guys that decide to trace their roots back to Iowa and grow an acre of corn. In the process, they learn how much corn Americans are actually consuming, how many pesticides are used to grow this corn, and the subsidies put in place to encourage farmers to grow more and yet even more corn. Big River is a short film, about 30 minutes, that talks about the environmental impacts of growing corn, and specifically the high loads of fertilizers and pesticides that are ending up in our water supply. These high nutrient loads create dead zones in lakes and oceans through a process called eutrophication, In short, the nutrients cause algae blooms, which bring in bacteria to eat the dead algae, and the bacteria use up all of the dissolved oxygen in the process of decomposing the dead algae. Aquatic plants and animals are unable to live in areas of ultra-low oxygen.
Water with high nutrients also overloads wastewater treatments facilities. Some plants in the midwest has specialized facilities to deal with high amount of nitrogen, but most don't. This means that heavy rains will overwhelm the wastewater systems, much of the nitrogen won't be filtered out, and bad things can happen, such as blue baby syndrome. On top of that, ammonia (the chemical based version of nitrogen which is used in conventional farming) has an affinity for water, which means that it runs off more easily that an organic fertilizer would during rainstorms or heavy irrigation.
Heavy pesticide use is also taking its toll. Farm families have increased rates of cancer. The film interviews a few families who are losing or have lost members to cancer. The very thing these farmers are doing to support themselves, in the long run, is their end.
This quick film is worth a watch is you have the time. It's not spectacular by any means, and definitely not as comical as King Corn, but it is informative and to the point.

Thirst is a Bullfrog film that focuses on water privatization. I normally love the production quality of Bullfrog films, but this one seemed a bit drab to me. The film did touch on some moving stories of water privatization, like in California and Bolivia, and portrayed grassroots organization, community involvement, political scheming, and corporate crap. I guess I just felt a bit let down with this film as there are some fantastic water movies out there: Blue Gold, FLOW, and Tapped are 3 of my favorites. Many of the scenes from Thirst were repeats from these films, and even many of the same individuals were interview. Thirst just didn't have the production quality or visual appeal that these other films had, and didn't hold much new information. I certainly didn't feel "wowed" after it ended. I wouldn't not  recommend this film, however, I would highly recommend watching one (or all 3) of the above-mentioned films first. Pin It Now!

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