Tuesday, September 09, 2008
not a drop
I've just watched this documentary, called A World Without Water, which seems to have been recorded off of British television almost commercial free.
In case any of you didn't know, over the past fifteen months or so, I've watched several hundred documentaries. This is in my top ten. To be fair, this is the first I've seen that dealt exclusively with the global water crisis, which is pretty compelling material. Still, even if there is a better version of it out there, this is. . . well. . . compelling.
I think the most interesting thing about it is how it neatly skirts the basic ideas of economics, sort of grazing them as it passes by. It abandons them in favor of a foundational assumption which it never quite articulates, but which, I think, lies near the center of a lot of controversy.
That assumption? That we both can and should make a moral choice to maintain certain things outside the reach of the market. In itself this is not a controversial idea, at least in most quarters. Outright chattel slavery is perhaps the clearest example; as a culture we seem to have come to the conclusion that it's not OK to legally own each other, no matter how profitable it might be or how much it might benefit the common good.
The case this film makes, then, is that water should fall in that same category--that as a matter of human decency, it should not be so commodified.
I'd have liked to see more about how the river privatization "irrigation schemes" had been "fabulously successful" in Africa, and otherwise heard more about the other side, but however biased, this is really an interesting and thought-provoking film.
If you're looking for a particularly striking/thought-provoking experience, do as I did and watch it right after the first part of Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke, an exceptionally well crafted telling of the Katrina disaster. Between them they do wonders in broadening one's perspectives on water.