July 20, 2019

The Countdown to Day Zero in South Africa

“What happens when a major metropolitan area runs out of water? The 4.5 million residents of Cape Town are hoping they won’t have to find out. The South African city has been experiencing a severe water crisis since early 2017, when the municipal government began pleading with residents to conserve water. In October of that year, as the situation worsened, the city enforced water restrictions and mandated household rationing, a program that then-Mayor Patricia de Lille called the New Normal. “As a permanent drought region,” de Lille announced in a press conference, “we have to change our relationship with water as a scarce resource.” The program was aimed at preventing an outcome that seemed more and more inevitable: Day Zero, when taps across the city would run dry.

Simon Wood and Francois Verster’s short documentary, Scenes From a Dry City, depicts Cape Town at the height of its water crisis. Residents scramble to circumvent restrictions in order to maintain their livelihoods. Families endure long lines at water-distribution points. Protests spring up across the city, drawing attention to the inequities associated with the privatization of water. The film, created with Field of Vision and premiering on The Atlantic today, is a deeply revealing observational portrait of a city struggling to adapt to scarcity. In many ways, it is a harbinger of things to come.

“We were both intrigued by the way hidden social dynamics were coming to the fore,” Wood and Verster, who are both residents of Cape Town, told The Atlantic in an email. “We saw a great opportunity for a film that looked at Cape Town through the vehicle of a crisis.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."