It’s not easy trying to be green

‘Green Green Water’ exposes the truth behind renewable energy and where the power comes from

by Emily Garber

Sure, you can check the box. Go right ahead. But how can you be so sure that, by checking a tiny box and paying a small fee each month, you’re assuring that the energy that comes to your home is clean, renewable and humane?

The documentary “Green Green Water,” directed by Dawn Mikkelson, attempts to tackle this question by showing “renewable” hydropower at its source – in the backyards of members of the Cree communities in Manitoba, Canada.

“Green Green Water”
DIRECTED BY: Dawn Mikkelson
RATED: Not rated
PLAYING AT: 7 p.m. at the Bell Museum of Natural History, $10 suggested donation, panel discussion after the film

Manitoba Hydro is a water power plant that feeds its energy almost directly to the Twin Cities, among other places. It has had a major part in the construction of hydroelectric dams along the rivers where Native Americans live and make their livings. But, because of these dams, the water levels fluctuate so much that land is disappearing, species are dying and the Cree people are taking notice.

“Green Green Water” follows Mikkelson on her quest to find the truth about where her power comes from. She interviews professors, energy officials and indigenous people, some of whom hadn’t even seen money until their land was used to reap profits for Manitoba Hydro.

The making of “Green Green Water” might have been sparked by Xcel Energy’s recent decision to buy more hydroelectric power from Manitoba Hydro to meet increasing customer demands.

EcoWatch has teamed up with Amnesty International of Minnesota to help show “Green Green Water” on the University campus.

“If environmental damage has happened,” said Diana Heim, officer of Amnesty International at the University, “it’s not too far off to guess a human rights violation is not far behind.”

The Cree Nation has made its living off the land, hunting and gathering as people did long before the dawn of agriculture. But the documentary shows people boating over where houses used to be and measuring the immense distance between water marks on boulders. In a community that had always seen the land as simply a way of life, acre amounts and dollar signs were suddenly shoved into the equation.

As one indigenous person put it, “I would like (Manitoba Hydro customers) to know what goes into them turning on their light switch.”

“Green Green Water” depicts an overall sense of helplessness. Customers have few other renewable options, since wind and solar power infrastructures are still being developed, and developing water power takes money away from researching other alternatives.

“This energy isn’t harmless,” said one Cree member interviewed for the documentary. “You are invited to come to my community and witness clean, harmless energy in the making.”