The Issue for Our Time?


“At the Toronto Film Festival, program director Thom Powers called Last Call at the Oasis a “feel-angry movie,” which he later amended to “feel-smart movie.” I was rather partial to both labels, since they emphasize the “feel” part. We wanted to make Last Call an emotional film as well as an educational one. One hope was for people to connect viscerally and personally to the water crisis. We wanted to bring water problems into the open, to show the impact on the lives of real people — to bring oft-hidden abstractions into the light of day where we can finally see what’s going on.” — Director Jennifer Yu

Less than 1% of the world’s water is fresh and drinkable, and thanks to drought, climate change, waste, and population growth, water is likely to be the most critical global issue for many years to come. On May 4th, a new documentary film from Academy Award winning director Jennifer Yu takes on the complexities of water in our lives. A companion book, Last Call at the Oasis: The Global Water Crisis and Where We Go From Here, has just been released, and features the analysis of scientists, policymakers, and writers such as Peter H. Gleick, Robert Glennon, Alex Prud’homme, and William McDonough. Reading this collection has put Jennifer Yu’s forthcoming film on our must-see list!

Knowing how central water is to our lives and future, the Land Library has slowly build up a considerable collection on this issue. We’ve especially focused on studies of North American watershed and rivers. Books such as these:

river in ruinhudson
River in Ruin: The Story of the Carmel River by Ray A. March (only thirty-six miles long, this California river is also one of the top ten endangered rivers in North America), and The Mightier Hudson: The Spirited Revival of a Treasures Landscape by Roger D. Stone (building a new economy around the health of the river).

elwhario grande
And from the Pacific Northwest, Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha by Jeff Crane, and from the Southwest, Reining in the Rio Grande: People, Land, and Water by Fred M. Phillips, G. Emlen Hall, and Mary E. Black.

And here’s the subject of one of our earlier posts, and one of four books selected for the Water 2012 Book Club:

colorado river
The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict by Peter McBride and Jonathan Waterman.

“From the beginning, I was fascinated by the whole psychology behind the water crisis. Problems such as drought, pollution, contamination, competition for resources, and privatization aren’t new; they’ve existed since before civilization….In the movie, we wanted to explore this paradoxical behavior: Why don’t we act in ways that are in our own self-interest, especially when it comes to something as crucial as water?” — Director Jennifer Yu


Chasing Water in the Arid West

river at risk

In the two years it took to complete this book, I flew the length of the Colorado River nearly twice with a wonderful collection of pilots ranging from my father and friends to a U.S. border patrol officer, a crop duster, a retired civil engineer, and a large-animal veterinarian. Whether we flew at 200 feet (my favorite elevation) or 2,000 above the river, the perspective of our mighty and ancient western river was always spectacular, awe-inspiring, and humbling.” — Peter McBride

The Colorado is the great life-giving river of the American West. It provides vital water to more than 30 million people living in our arid southwest. It is also one of the most dammed, diverted, and heavily litigated rivers in the world.

Photographer Peter McBride has produced a stunning and disturbing new look at the great river, The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict. McBride (and author Jonathan Waterman) follow the river’s epic 1,450-mile journey from its headwaters high in the Colorado Rockies to its dried-up delta touching the Sea of Cortez. McBride and Waterman document both great beauty and incredible environmental abuse along the way. This is a terrific book if you want an up-to-date report on the Colorado River — it does justice to the majesty of one of the world’s great rivers.

Keep this book handy in the next year ahead! As we mentioned in an earlier post, the Rocky Mountain Land Library is one of several organizations that have joined together to celebrate our most precious natural resource. Water 2012 is still in its planning stages, but the next year will see a statewide collaborative effort to promote awareness of the history, use, protection, and stewardship of Colorado’s water. Stay tuned (and for more on Pete McBride’s wonderful book, please treat yourself to aerial images galore, in the inspiring film attached below!).

And here’s a few more classic Colorado River books from the Land Library’s shelves!

running dryadler
Running Dry: A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River by Jonathan Waterman (author of many books in our collection, and Pete McBride’s river companion), Restoring Colorado River Ecosystems by Robert W. Adler.

Water and the West: The Colorado River Compact and the Politics of Water in the American West by Norris Hundley, Jr., Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West by James Lawrence Powell

For more on Pete McBride, be sure to visit his website, and please, take a look at this film — as visually engaging as the book!

And here’s a link to our earlier post:

Water 2012 & Beyond

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of the planet.” — Carl Sagan