Angela Bassett Takes On The Water Apocalypse

Video highlights from Breakthrough

The Academy-Award nominated actress talks about the crisis affecting our greatest resource

It’s easy to take water for granted, especially on an island continent like Australia. You turn on the tap – it’s there. You head to the beach – it’s there. But in other parts of the world, and even our own, it’s not always that simple.

California is on the brink of an apocalypse. The state faces a future of drought that will cost billions in lost farm revenue and thousands of jobs.

The challenges facing the state are not unique: all over the world, governments are struggling with bigger populations and a diminishing supply of fresh water.

In this exclusive interview, Angela Bassett, director of Breakthrough: Water Apocalypse, talks to National Geographic about what can be done to solve the water crisis.

Before coming onboard Breakthrough, what was your level of knowledge about the water crisis? Had the Californian drought impacted you?

The drought was the extent of my knowledge. In your everyday drives, you see the signs that say we [California] are in severe drought, that sort of thing. Or, El Nino’s coming, and you hope that will aid the drought situation. But that was really about it.

I didn’t know about how it was affecting agriculture and the farmers here in California and the food that’s grown here, I mean, it’s for the entire country, shipped to the entire country. The lives, the jobs, livelihoods that are affected because crops such as walnuts need a great deal of water. So some of those crops are being dug up because they require too much of that resource, that valuable resource.

It’s really interesting just to gain a greater awareness and consciousness about the issues. And also, not to be fatalistic, which you can feel that way, but working with the scientists, and hearing the scientists, those who are innovating and coming up with solutions, being so hopeful. It makes me hopeful.

Has your perception of water as a resource that we often take for granted, changed through the filming process?
I think I always knew; it’s kind of hard now to imagine what you knew before. I didn’t know how dire it was but I think I always appreciated it. I have always appreciated it as a vital resource, whether it’s knowing we’re physically made up of it, or, looking at this great planet from afar and looking like there’s plenty of it but then learning that only 1% is usable, drinkable. There’s just a greater appreciation for it, most definitely. And a hopefulness that there are solutions and the situation doesn’t have to be dire but it really does require our effort and our consciousness in the matter.

Do you see a solution to the water crisis?
For a lot of solutions, you need resources, money behind it. Or the government has to come in and give their okay. People in their homes also need to be mindful. So I think the solutions are varied, and we can all have an input into them.

Do you hope this film will inspire viewers to take action?
I hope so. I came to it not knowing very much but coming away at the end knowing a little bit more and just being more aware. You never know where inspiration comes from, and passion, and perhaps my Breakthrough episode along with the others will be so accessible to audiences. It’s certainly something I try to talk to my kids about. Conservation and being mindful of their water usage and energy usage, a lot of things like that, not being wasteful. But I think these episodes, my episode as well as all the others, will be accessible to a varied wide audience, including my kids. Maybe some inspiration, you never know if that will be what wakes up a part of their brain.

Breakthrough premieres Tuesdays at 9.00pm AEDT from 17 November. For more scientific discoveries and innovations, click here.

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