On May 22, 2015

When the well runs dry

By Dom Cioffi

There are certain things in the developed world that are easy to take for granted: the relative safety we experience, the medical care available to us, and the food we have access to. But the one thing we always count on without much thought is water.

In this country especially, we turn on our water faucet and think very little about where it comes from or how clean it is. We simply expect a healthy, unending supply at a low cost.

And yet, across the planet millions of people’s days revolve around not only finding water, but also making sure that the water they find is clean enough to consume.

Statistics show that over 750 million people around the planet lack access to clean water – that’s two and a half times the population of the United States (or 1 in every 9 people who live on the Earth).

And here’s another staggering fact: 2,300 people die every day because of issues related to inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene.

But the real kicker (as far as interesting facts are concerned) is that more people own cell phones on Earth than toilets. Now that proves where our priorities are!

The truth is, it is almost unfathomable for the average American to wake up in the morning and feel anxiety about where or how they will obtain potable water. However, this faraway problem is now lurking closer to home.

Do a quick Google search for “water levels” and “Hoover Dam” and you’ll be astonished by the photos highlighting the dramatic drop in the water table in the western United States.

Images of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States (which accounts for most of the drinking water for the southwest portion of our country), clearly show how far the levels have dropped due to increased water consumption and a devastating 14-year drought.

The defining image is what locals call the bathtub ring, an enormous deposit of salt that has developed on the face of the previously submerged rock. This ring clearly shows where the water once reached. And with a quick scan of the adjacent topography, even a child can get a sense of the massive amount of water now missing.

And just to add to the drama, the World Economic Forum recently released their “2015 Global Risk Report,” which stated that the current water crisis is ranked the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), and the #8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within 10 years).

That doesn’t sound good on any level.

So, with an abundance of statistics, alarming reports, and physical scars like Lake Mead’s bathtub ring, it’s hard to believe that more people aren’t aware of the impending water shortage.

As a solution, many people point to the abundance of sea water (which accounts for 97 percent of the water on the planet) and the process of desalinization (taking the salt out of salt water so it’s fit for human consumption).

There are approximately 7,500 desalination plants in the world (60 percent of which are in the Middle East) and yet their output only accounts for less than 1 percent of global demand.

This is because desalination is an expensive and energy intensive technology that only wealthy countries with serious water shortages consider as a viable option. However, a recent innovation using nanotechnology has the potential to decrease the cost of desalination by 75 percent, which could make it a more viable approach in the future.

Water is what makes life on earth possible. With the population continuing to grow at a rate of 1 billion people every 15 years, the Earth’s capacity to support human life is being severely strained. This is a problem that cannot be ignored. Science needs to step in and take the lead. Otherwise we’re going to end up in a post-apocalyptic world not too far removed from what’s presented in this week’s feature, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

The reboot for the Mad Max franchise has been years in the planning and beset with financial difficulties for creator and director George Miller. But the wait and struggles have been worth it as the result is an action-packed extravaganza of Mad Max insanity.

In this installment, Max is held prisoner by the warlord Immortan Joe. However when a transporter goes rogue, Max finds himself facing a chance at survival.

I have to admit, I was impressed with this film on many levels. First of all, it held true to the original films both in style and execution. Secondly, it was one of the more masterfully filmed action movies I have ever seen (without exaggeration, this picture was running at top speed for three quarters of the screen time).

And finally, while lead actors Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy do a wonderful job portraying the lead characters, it is the abundance of low-level, highly demented roles that really carry this picture.

However, as well crafted as this film is, it is not for everyone. Obviously, fans of the original films will have to revisit the franchise for nostalgic reasons. But folks who do not have a penchant for dystopian backdrops may want to save their theater dollars for other fare. “Mad Max” is an acquired taste that is not swallowed easily. And if you’re not careful or wander in aimlessly, you may end up choking.

A dehydrated “A-” for “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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