In the documentary Unforeseen a link is made between unrestricted housing development and the growth of cancers in the human body. Though by no means subtle, I still feel that the audience was given the right to draw their own conclusions. This is an incredibly well made film that really forces the issues out into the open. You follow the course of events with a developer, Gary Bradley, whose star rises big and bright in Austin, Texas, and falls just as spectacularly. It’s a tribute to the director that you actually feel for Bradley even though he’s a crook and dangerous to the environment.
Of particular interest was how the municipal will of the people of Austin was crushed by the State legislature which was influenced by land speculating lobbyists. How the greed of a few can manipulate the lives of the many. Discussion after the film made the link between events in Guelph and the power of the Ontario Municipal Board.
Wendell Berry’s poem Santa Clara Valley is featured at the beginning and end of the film with the poet reading his own work. It very beautifully book ends the film.
Another image which sticks will you is of an elderly farmer walking through the concrete and asphalt of ultra developed parts of the city. Just walking. But such a powerful statement about man’s place in nature.
The documentary is centred on a spring-fed pool in Austin that is under the threat of development. The juxtaposition of this little bit of paradise and the rank and file, mud-surrounded suburbs that are being built brings out the values so well. Inverviews with Robert Redford (who spent time in Austin when growing up), William Greider and Gov. Ann Richards, and lobbyist Dick Brown provided balanced reporting all around.
Another image that is seared into my mind is that of growth-minded Texans marching with their signs ‘Birds don’t pay taxes’ shown marching to defend their right to despoil the Earth to the death. And that’s exactly where that attitude will take us. Good Christians all, I’m sure. Never mind taking seriously the responsibility of being custodians of the Earth: “It’s mine, God damn it!” And God may not have much to damn by the time we’re all done with it. There will be no consideration of lilies or birds either. They don’t pay taxes.
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