Shalini Kantayya will talk about her film <i>A Drop of Life</i> and the global water crisis at Isthmus Green Day 2014.
In A Drop of Life, Shalini Kantayya's award-winning 2007 short about the impact of water scarcity and water privatization in India, the filmmaker and eco-activist imagined a "near future" in which prepaid water meters determine how much drinking water individuals receive.
"Water meters did not exist in India at the time of my film's production, but they do now," Kantayya tells Isthmus from the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based headquarters of her company, 7th Empire Media. "This is not a film I meant to be a prophecy, but it ended up being a dark one. It's nothing that I'm happy about, and it means we have a lot of work to do."
And fast. Some estimates claim that four billion people -- more than half the world's population -- will not have access to clean drinking water by 2027.
Kantayya, a self-professed Star Wars and sci-fi fanatic, will speak about the film and the world's water crisis at Isthmus Green Day on Saturday, April 26.
"Science fiction is a reflection of the present. Sometimes it can even be a reflection of the truth, so the lines blur," says Kantayya, who finished in the top 10 out of 1,2000 filmmakers in On the Lot, a 2007 reality television series about filmmakers produced by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett. "Some of the things we're living with today feel like science fiction -- fracking, spills in North Carolina and West Virginia that prevented 300,000 people from having drinking water, bottled water companies basically stealing water from poor countries to sell water to us."
In other words, the water crisis has gone global.
In New York alone, fracking -- the controversial mining technique of injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the earth to release gas -- has the potential to negatively affect drinking water for 15 million people, Kantayya says. Here in Wisconsin, fears about the privatization of the Great Lakes continue to escalate.
"Every community has a different reason for why water is in danger, because water is such a local issue," she says.
Kantayya's next film, Chasing the Sun, will be a documentary that explores the possibility of building a clean energy economy in the United States. It received a 2012 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant and is currently in post-production, with a 2015 release date expected.
Ideally, she argues, the United States will look for inspiration to Germany -- where it is profitable for the majority of citizens to use solar energy, thereby making them power producers instead of power consumers. Changes in that country have happened quickly, she explains, because policies have been implemented as a direct result of people making their voices heard.
"There's such global movement in the clean energy direction that if the United States doesn't take some sort of definitive stance, we're going to fall behind. It is the greatest economic opportunity of this century, and other countries are making massive investments," Kantayya says, refusing to give up. "All of the things I care about can be saved. All of these problems are solvable, and that's what excites me. That's what gives me genuine hope. It's just a question of political will, which to me is a question of the people's will."