“There’s Something in the Water,” and it’s not just in Nova Scotia

One movie that just recently made it onto my list of environmental/climate movies to watch during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders is “There’s Something in the Water,” a documentary based on the book by the same name by Ingrid R. G. Waldron.

The book focuses on environmental racism and health impacts in the Canadian province Nova Scotia, where communities are getting poisoned by big oil and other industries.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary, which is directed by Ellen Page.

Some interesting takeaways and quotes from the movie, in case you aren’t going to watch or want to discuss!

“Where you live has bearing on your wellbeing.”

This is extremely true across the entire planet, you could say.

Canada is no stranger to environmental racism, as shown through this documentary. And across the U.S., oil companies build refineries near marginalized populations, several cities do not have access to clean water (ahem, Flint and Newark), and indigenous communities are grappling with the years-long side-effects of federal drilling permits (despite the recent victory at Standing Rock).

And across the world, numerous studies have shown that the poorest places will be hit the hardest when it comes to climate impacts like extreme heat, heavy downpours, and natural disasters. In the U.S., the Southeast will be the hardest hit.

“It’s killing us. We didn’t put that there… now we’re reaping the fallout from that by losing the ones we love. They’re gone” 

In the beginning of the film, an activists walks the viewer through her down, where a dump’s contents are leeching into the groundwater. Soot from the fires are also falling into their yards.

Many in the community have died from cancer, and wonder what the lesson is here:

“If people learn anything from this, I hope that people learn how to use stuff — that way there’s no stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a way to, everytbing that we need, can be used again and again and again and again? How nice would that be? So we could never have this issue of people dying of the things that we’ve consumed and set fire?”

…How about they don’t make it in the first place? Last week, I wrote about the deception of big oil and the plastics industry. In retrospect this is running rampant here. What if we never had use for dumps in the first place?

The community is, rightfully so, concerned about what is buried in the dump. Whatever is in there, it is leeching into the ground water and making people sick, and their elected officials don’t seem to care:

“It’s your God given right to clean water. We shouldn’t have to fight for this. And the people that we vote for should be fighting side by side with us for clean water. But wake up, they’re not even… it’s not an issue… it’s not affecting them.”

“We shouldn’t have to continue to fight. We shouldn’t have to be out there saying ‘what the fuck is wrong with you.’… Why is the government ok with that? After knowing full well the devastation we’ve been through? Our history? We’re never gonna be free of it.” 

The next story in the film follows a community where effluent from a factory is ruining their community waters.

In short: The factory knew they were polluting, they lied about what it would do to their community, and they are not held accountable for their consequences. Sound familiar?

The community was fighting for the plant to shut down their effluent ponds, lobbying for government intervention, and eventually won: “We’re not doing it to be troublemakers. We’re doing it because we need a future.”

“If we didn’t start taking care of our Mother Earth, our lands and our waters, our food and our medicines, and our animals and the flowers, and everything that sustains us, one day, an ounce of water is gonna cost us more than an ounce of gold… you can’t drink gold. You can’t drink money.”

The last story in the documentary is about a group of women who is protesting Alton Gas polluting their sacred river due to proposed plans for the company to frack brine into the river.

The women say they have no choice but to protect the river, as it is for all human beings, and all mankind, and “they have to tell their grandchildren that they did everything they can to stop the destruction and pollution.”

Some have even gotten arrested!

One takeaway? Community is very powerful.

It may not seem like it, but we are the only voices we have to stand up to injustice. And even though it may seem like a long slog, standing up for what is right, through protests and actions, might be the only path forward.

Watch “There’s Something in the Water” on Netflix, streaming now.

Cover photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash

2 thoughts on ““There’s Something in the Water,” and it’s not just in Nova Scotia

  1. Wow – I hadn’t heard of this film before. Sounds like a powerful documentary. Thanks for sharing and calling attention to it.

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