Whether the glass is half full or half empty isn’t the point of the effervescent “Last Call at the Oasis”: It’s whether there’ll be anything in the glass at all. A sobering but somehow upbeat examination of the looming catastrophic global water shortage, Jessica Yu’s latest docu can be seen as the final installment in Participant Media’s Crisis Quartet — “An Inconvenient Truth” (climate), “Food, Inc.” (agriculture), “Waiting for Superman” (education) and now, a look at the Earth’s most precious, and perhaps most endangered, commodity. The film should fare as well as its predecessors: Everyone, after all, gets thirsty.
A well-made argument that Americans should be much more concerned about water issues than we are, Jessica Yu's Last Call at the Oasis
sits in that rank of Big Issue docs that are both convincing and attractive enough to catch on in theaters, given the right distributor and more than a little luck.Read more
Not only is there a looming water shortage, but nearly all of the so called “fresh” water we do have is contaminated by chemicals, many of which cause cancer, birth defects and a variety of other horrific diseases thanks to irresponsible industrial practices, EPA approval of chemicals without thorough testing and a lack of pharmaceutical filtration. Jessica Yu's new doc pulls back the veil on a little talked about problem that is literally apocalyptic is scope. Things are looking bad folks, but before we can change things we as a society must acknowledge the problem, or, in the words of Jay Famiglietti, a hydology scientist working with NASA, “We're screwed.”Read more
“...But don’t let that happy thought comfort you too much. As one scientist the filmmakers interview concisely explains, “We’re totally screwed.” I really don’t think that I can fully convey in words (but saying that helps, right?) the absolute necessity that everyone on earth see this film, surely the most important documentary of the year...
...Seriously, though, the essential work of protecting our drinking water shouldn’t be left solely to brave, tireless environmental activists like Erin Brockovich, Lynn Henning and Tyrone Hayes, all of whom you’ll have the pleasure of meeting in “Last Call at the Oasis,” a film that you should see as soon as possible so that you can better grasp the deadly seriousness of the problems we currently face in regard to our water. And then, finally, you can start thinking about what you might want to do to help.”Read more
Tim Barnett - Research Marine Geophysicist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California
Tim Barnett is a research marine geophysicist in the Climate Research Division of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the physics of climate change and long-range climate forecasting. Barnett investigates global atmospheric and oceanic conditions and uses computer models to understand global climate fluctuations such as climate prediction (including El Nino forecasting), the effects of land processes on climate change, and the recognition of greenhouse gas signals (such as sea- level rise). He also specializes in the detection of anthropogenic signals associated with global warming.
“You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that if you take more water out of the bathtub than you put in to the bathtub, the bathtub will eventually go empty.”
“The amount of water being taken out of the Colorado system is maxed out right now, and yet there’s going to be less. If we don’t do anything, Las Vegas is a dead city. Period.”
Erin Brockovich - Environmental Activist and Legal Consultant
Erin Brockovich-Ellis is an American legal clerk and environmental activist, who, despite the lack of a formal education in the law, in 1993 was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California. Since the release of the film that shares her story and name, she has hosted Challenge America with Erin Brockovich on ABC and Final Justice on Zone Reality. She is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, a consulting firm.
Brockovich's work in bringing litigation against Pacific Gas and Electric is the focus of the 2000 feature film, Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts in the title role. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards. Brockovich has a more extensive role in the 2012 documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which focuses not only on water pollution but also on the overall state of water scarcity as it relates to water policy in the United States.
“We’ve seen what happens in other parts of the world and we just always think that never can be me. It already is you.”
“We might find ourselves in a pivotal moment here where we can do the right thing. I always feel hopeful that things work out where...everything converges at once. Maybe that moment’s happening now.”
Jay Famiglietti - Professor, Earth System Science & Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Irvine; Director, UCCHM
Professor James S. Famiglietti holds a joint faculty appointment in Earth System Science and in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, where he is the Founding Director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling. His research group uses satellite remote sensing to track water availability and groundwater depletion on land, and has been working for many years towards improving hydrological prediction in regional and global weather and climate models. He studies — and tries to raise public awareness about — the rapid depletion of water supplies caused by agricultural overuse, rampant development and global climate change.
“The view from the ground is muddied by the politics. The view from space is clear and undeniable. If we go back to 1998, the aquifer has lost about one and a half times the volume of Lake Mead. That’s a huge amount of water.”
“We need to start planning for the future and it’s a future in which we’re not going to have a huge snowpack in the Sierras or the Rocky Mountains...it’s not going to be there.”
Peter Gleick - Co-Founder and President of the Pacific Institute
Peter H. Gleick is an internationally recognized water expert whose work addresses the critical connections between water and health, the human right to water, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and ways of reducing conflicts over water resources.
He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, among them the prestigious MacArthur “genius” Fellowship in 2003 for exemplary contributions to water resources. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006, named “a visionary on the environment” by the BBC, and identified as “one of 15 people the next President should listen to” by Wired magazine. Gleick serves on the boards of numerous organizations and journals and is the author of over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and book chapters, and eight books, including the acclaimed series The World’s Water: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources and Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.
“The biggest mistake in thinking about water has always been thinking about it as disconnected from everything else.”
“There’s been a lot of talk about peak oil. When the production of oil reaches a peak and then inevitably starts to decline. Like peak oil, there is peak water. We’re reaching the limits of what we can use.”
Robert Glennon - Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Arizona; Author, Unquenchable
Robert Glennon is the Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy in the Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. A recipient of two National Science Foundation grants, he serves as Water Policy Advisor to Pima County, Arizona; as a member of American Rivers’ Science and Technical Advisory Committee; and as a commentator and analyst for various television and radio programs.
Glennon is the author of the highly acclaimed Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters (Island Press, 2002). His latest book, Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It, was published in April 2009. Since then, he has been a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Diane Rehm Show, C-SPAN2’s Book TV, and numerous National Public Radio shows.
“People think that the problem is merely drought and that once the drought is over, we can go back to business as usual. It's the hydro-illogical cycle.”
“We humans have an infinite capacity to deny reality, to think that there's some oasis out there, somewhere that we can go to get more water.”
Tyrone Hayes - Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley
UC Berkeley Professor Tyrone Hayes was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina where he developed his love for biology and frogs. Hayes has since transformed that childhood passion into studying the impact of endocrine- disrupting herbicides and other contaminants on amphibian populations, the environment, and public health. He is known for his research demonstrating that the herbicide atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor that demasculinizes and feminizes frogs. He is also an advocate for critical review and regulation of pesticides and other chemicals that may cause adverse health effects. He is particularly concerned about the role of environmental chemical contaminants in global amphibian declines and their role in the health disparities that occur in minority and low income populations.
“The US Geological Survey says they can detect it [Atrazine] in the rainwater in Minnesota from when they’re applying it in Kansas.”
“It was Albert Einstein, actually, who said those who have the privilege to know had the duty to act.”
Lynn Henning - Family Farmer and Sierra Club Water Sentinel
Lynn Henning has emerged as a leading voice calling on state and federal authorities to hold livestock factory farms accountable to water and air quality laws. With her husband, she farms 300-acres of corn and soybeans in Lenawee County within 10 miles of 12 CAFO facilities. Henning helped create the community organization Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM) and joined forces with the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter first as a volunteer Water Sentinel in 2001, and then a staff member in 2005. With their support, Henning has led efforts to develop water quality monitoring programs to measure pollution levels from CAFOs and document their impact on local watersheds. Her data and aerial documentation have been used by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to better evaluate CAFO permits and levy hundreds of citations for environmental violations. She was recognized for her efforts as the North American winner of the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize.
“Within a 10 mile radius here, we have over 60 lagoons that hold over 400 million gallons of waste.”
“You have your antibiotics that they give to the animals, growth hormones, chemicals, and now you’ve got a toxic waste that they’re spreading untreated on the land.”
Pat Mulroy - General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority
Pat Mulroy oversees the operations of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, which serves more than 340,000 accounts, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is responsible for acquiring, treating and delivering water to local agencies that collectively serve 2 million residents and 40 million annual visitors.
Mulroy joined the Water District more than 20 years ago and began serving as its general manager in 1989. She was a principal architect of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which has served as a model for other Western water agencies since its creation in 1991.
“People love water. Especially when it’s 118 degrees outside in the summer. We sell virtual reality. People come to Las Vegas to escape their reality and part of that is the cooling sensation of fountains. It looks like prolific waste. What they don’t understand is that the entire Las Vegas strip uses three percent of this community’s water supply and is the single largest contributor to this state’s economic product.”
Alex Prud’homme - Author, The Ripple Effect
Alex Prud’homme has been a professional writer for twenty years. He has written about a wide range of subjects for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Talk, and Time. His books include: Forewarned, with Michael Cherkasky, about terrorism and security; The Cell Game, about the ImClone scandal and biotech; and My Life in France, with Julia Child, a best-selling memoir about how Julia learned to cook in Paris (on which half of "Julie & Julia," the Nora Ephron movie starring Meryl Streep, was based). In June 2011, Scribner published Prud’homme’s latest book, The Ripple Effect: the Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century, which inspired Participant Media’s documentary film, “Last Call at the Oasis.”
The Ripple Effect is about how fresh water will become the defining resource of our time -- "the next oil.” Traveling from a vast new water tunnel beneath New York City to the failed levees of New Orleans, polluted wells in Wisconsin, the arid desert of Las Vegas, flood-prone Sacramento Delta, to a “resource war” in Alaska, the book explores water challenges -- from disputes over pollutants, bottled water, energy, privatization, and sustainability – and solutions -- such as new treatment and conservation technologies, and the growing public dialogue over the value of water.
“Pollution in America is increasing rather than decreasing. In the five years between 2004 and 2009, the Clean Water Act was violated a half a million times.”
“It [desalination] leaves behind it a concentrated brine. It’s not quite like spent nuclear fuel, but it’s close.”
Paul Rozin - Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania professor Paul Rozin specializes in the psychological study of disgust. While his focus is primarily on the psychological, cultural, and biological determinants of human food choice, his unique expertise in disgust has been employed by the Singapore PUB and Orange County Water Department to help understand cultural responses to recycled water and help shape both agency’s public awareness campaigns.
“Disgust is never really rational. The problem is a mental problem and the same thing can be applied to recycled water. The simplest way to get water is to take the water you’ve just used and make it into usable water again. That’s recycled water. It’s safe. It’s efficient. It’s ecologically sound. It makes total sense. But it’s offensive.”
“We got involved, we talked to the people who run the recycled water facilities. The problem wasn’t making the water pure. It is pure. The problem was convincing people to drink it.”
Gidon Bromberg, Munqeth Mehyar, Nader Al-Khateeb - Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME)
Led by Gidon Bromberg, Nader Al-Khateeb, and Munqeth Mehyar, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) is a one-of-a-kind organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. Their primary objective is to promote cooperative efforts to protect their shared environment, as well as advance sustainable regional development and help create the necessary conditions for lasting peace in the region. FoEME has embarked on a multitude of campaigns focused on regional water issues including restoration and preservation of the Jordan River and Dead Sea. Their "Good Water Neighbors" (GWN) project, which aims to raise awareness of the shared water problems of Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis, has created a platform for common problem solving and peace building among communities even in the midst of conflict. FoEME is a recipient of the 2009 SKOLL Award for Social Entrepreneurship and the 2008 TIME magazine's Heroes of the Environment.
“Friends of the Earth Middle East is the only regional organization, very sadly, that exists. There is no other organization that brings together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, as one organization in any field.”
--Gidon Bromberg, Israel
“It’s not that ...if there is a conflict, there must be a war over water, but you will see it the other way around. People meeting secretly to really solve their differences.” --Munqeth Mehyar, Jordan
“You cannot stop a bird from flying across a certain border. You cannot stop the water to flow across borders.” --Nader Al-Khateeb, Palestine
Check out clips with water expert Jay Famiglietti:
Meeting with Farmers:
Water Cycle Change:
We Can Take Steps:
Last Call at the Oasis - Porcelain Springs (feat. Jack Black)
Although it covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface, there is a very real possibility that in the near future, there won’t be enough water to sustain life on the planet.
ATO Pictures and Participant Media - Production Notes
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (TIFF)
This shocking investigation into the world's water crisis, draws upon the work of scientists and activists including the real Erin Brockovich, from Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu and the producer's of "Food, Inc." Read more