Saturday, July 12, 2008

Only 15 Million Gallons

A few months ago I saw a 1964 film, "Woman in the Dunes."

I guess it's sort of a foreign cult classic -- won some awards, lost some -- I read it compared to Sartre somewhere... Guy gets kidnapped to work in the middle of a big sand pit and live with a beautiful young woman. He eventually chooses to stay -- though his life is an endless daily movement of sand... it's unclear if his change of mind is due his having been worn down by slavery or love...


I didn't love the film. Maybe it was different in 1964 -- but for me, in 2008, it felt kind of predictable -- less character driven than ending driven.

Still, I think about it all the time. Here's why:
In the beginning the professor comes to the sand area well rested, fed and hydrated -- he uses the resources his hostess shares with him as though he were home -- as though they were unending. He eats everything and quickly.

He washes his face spilling water everywhere. Drinks spilling out both sides of his mouth.
But water, it turns out, is hard to get. The movie takes place in a deep pit in the middle of a sand dune -- it must be brought in by pulley. Furthermore, it is withheld from the couple as a means of punishment, torture, control.

Later he learns to be careful -- pay attention to every drop -- value and keep and cherish.

This is what I think about.
My own taking for granted of resources.
My own waste.
When I do the dishes. When I drive to the corner.
What we waste before we begin to lose it...

Today there was a disturbing editorial in the Wall Street Journal. I need to look in to the facts of it all more tomorrow, but here's the headline --
"Environmentalist Say Yes to Offshore Drilling."

It was a graph almost at the end of the piece that really caught my eye:

"A joint study by NASA and the Smithsonian Institution, examining several decades' worth of data, found that more oil seeps into the ocean naturally than from accidents involving tankers and offshore drilling. Natural seepage from underwater oil deposits leaks an average of 62 million gallons a year; offshore drilling, on the other hand, accounted for only 15 million gallons, the smallest source of oil leaking into the oceans."

I read this about seepage a while ago --
still, it's that last sentence that has me thinking about Woman in the Dunes this morning.
Even if you believe claims of safety and cleanliness --
"only 15 million gallons"

-- when the oceans are dead --
-- when we are looking back at the progress --

He drank the water greedily and hungrily and she watched him use all her water for the week without saying a word because he had to learn for himself.

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