Published May 05, 2009In this documentary about the ever-deteriorating state of the Great Lakes, no one says that we are only a decade or two away from Tank Girl world but they certainly imply it. In fact, amongst all of the beautifully shot and entirely absorbing sequences of water life there is an overwhelming sense of impending mortality, with the film acting as an elegy to not only the lakes but also life as we know it.
Most will take this as speculation, however, since we've been raised to believe in happy endings while seeking escape from what is already a deluded justification of life. On the upside, there is no need to mourn, as the planet will be perfectly fine. It will adapt, evolve and bring new forms of life; they just won't be human, which is probably a good thing.
Aside from antibacterial, medicinal and raw sewage components affecting the ecosystem, one of the main issues within the great lakes, as outlined in Waterlife, is that of PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl). Essentially, these organic compounds were used as dielectric fluids in coolants, lubricants, pesticides and so on until they were banned in the '70s for causing an excess of health problems.
In addition to causing genital mutation and death in water-based life, these PCBs link to instances of human illness and birthing abnormalities, such as a community whose newborns are almost exclusively female.
Ironically, some discussion is had about the impact of anti-depressants infiltrating drinking water, potentially creating a legion of dazed human cattle, afraid and unable to feel sad or cope with unknown, inimical elements, such as water pollution. The implication is that while the symptom of this environmental issue is water contamination the cause is generalized apathy and wilful ignorance.
This information may seem dry but McMahon keeps things clipping along at such a solid pace, and with such vivid and engaging visuals, that it's difficult to extricate oneself. Negativity aside, this is a pretty commercial documentary that many should enjoy, even if they deliberately ignore the point. (Mongrel Media)