Levinson's Eco-Horror Film 'The Bay' Highlights Need to Protect Our Water
By Paul E McGinniss
911. What are you reporting? There's something really wrong. Help me!
Fourth of July. A quaint, idyllic, small town on the Chesapeake Bay, the largest inlet on America's Atlantic coast, prepares for annual Independence Day festivities. Little does the quintessential American town know something is seriously wrong with the water. First there are dead fish floating everywhere in the bay as isopod parasites eat the fish from the inside out.
Next the isopods get into the towns drinking water supply, and swimmers and people drinking the water start getting infected. Suffice it to say, the rest of the story isn't pretty.
The Bay, Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson's new film inspired by the plight of the Chesapeake Bay opening in theaters tomorrow, lies somewhere between the mesmerizing horror film 28 Days and AMC's The Walking Dead. It echoes Steven Soderbergh's realistically haunting, nowhere is safe film Contagion, and makes the audience think, yes, this could happen to us.
Importantly, the creative genesis of the film was when Levinson was asked to direct a documentary about the environmental crisis affecting the Chesapeake Bay, which as a local Baltimore, Maryland native he knows well. But, instead of making a documentary, Levinson thought making an eco-horror film might have more of an impact on raising consciousness about the fragile health of the Chesapeake Bay. Despite wanting to entertain as a filmmaker, the acclaimed director is not hiding his eco-agenda: a title card in The Bay states that the Chesapeake Bay is 40 percent lifeless.
While The Bay is certainly an exaggeration meant to frighten people, like any good horror flick should, the water we swim in, fish in or drink from can make people sick. Levinson says 85 percent of the film is drawn from scientific facts.
“We certainly don’t think the conditions described in the film are within the realm of possibility,” said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in a New York Times article. “But they are a literary exaggeration of real issues that the Bay does confront.”
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. and the third largest in the world. Its watershed encompasses the District of Columbia, as well as six states, including Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Massive pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is seriously degrading the environment and adversely impacting the health of people and other species in the region. Pollution comes from industrialized agriculture and urban sprawl. Besides run off from roads, pesticide and herbicide laden lawns, toxic manure waste from factory farms leech into the environment containing a foul mixture of pathogens, antibiotics, cleaning fluids, heavy metals and pesticides.
The movie is presented as a whistle blower documentary depicting the town being infected by the flesh eating organisms which take control of the inhabitants minds and bodies. The horrific story unfolds as pieces of information are strung together from digital recordings, cell phone videos, voice mails, surveillance cameras, police dash-cams and footage from a young journalist, all of which was confiscated by the government in attempts to cover up the incident.
The trailer of The Bay ends with the words of a character saying: "I am going to show the world what happened here. If you find this tape, please get it out."
In a way, Levinson might have meant these words as a message about revealing the truth and showing the world we must clean up the grossly polluted Chesapeake Bay.
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
Paul E McGinniss is The New York Green Advocate. He is a green building consultant and real estate broker in New York. He is pretty much obsessed with all things environment and has lately become a resiliency addict.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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