Jon H. Else’s CADILLAC DESERT
Recently, I revisited Roman Polanski’s film CHINATOWN. I was curious about the California history behind the film and stumbled upon an incredible YouTube find, CADILLAC DESERT, based on Marc Reisner’s book, “CADILLAC DESERT: The American West and its Disappearing Water”.
The Story: Directed by Jon H. Else, this four-part American documentary delves into how we’ve transformed the arid deserts of the American West into agricultural Edens. Beginning with LA Water Dept. Chief, William Mulholland, natural lakes and rivers in the American West were redirected and damned, counties redistricted, and entire communities pushed over the cliff of extinction.
The documentary left me wondering if any river remains in the world whose flow is not controlled by a push of a button in a dam control tower somewhere. I may not go to sleep tonight knowing there must be dozens more Mulhollands, Eatons, and shady Capitalists running in the background, certainly enough incestuous greed to make for many more Chinatown films.
After watching CADILLAC DESERT, it’s clear California, Arizona, and New Mexico are marginal environments that are not suitable to support the large populations we now “enjoy” (yuck). Summer 2015, NASA scientists revealed California is experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years. Surface reservoirs have about one year’s supply left. And the snow-pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains which we rely on to replenish our reservoirs? Let’s just say don’t plan a ski trip anytime soon.
Why watch CADILLAC DESERT?
First there was CHINATOWN, and now it’s looking like the entire Western United States is gonna be a goddamn pu-pu platter. Here’s your chance to see how it all began; I can’t believe it’s on YouTube.
Written by Mich Medvedoff