August 17, 2009

Darwin's Nightmare

A couple of years back I went to see a film called Darwin’s Nightmare by Hubert Saupert, a truly disturbing doc about the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria. It has shores that touch Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and to no one’s surprise, it is struggling.

Nile Persh

Nile Perch

This heartbreaking film is about how in the 1960s, the Nile Perch was introduced to the lake as an experiment. Of course, much went awry as the Perch was an able breeder and a vicious predator that wiped out much of the lake’s indigenous fish. The upside was the fish is a big seller in Europe so the local economy got a little boost from the fish industry but that was short-lived and unsustainable. The downside was that the lake’s natural balance was thrown off by the emergence of the perch and it is now slowly dying.Most films about forlorn and forgotten places in the world have some earnest and dedicated character in the film who is trying to do whatever they can to prevent an overwhelming disaster. Not in this film and it was devastating. I very much remember coming out of the theater in a bit of a daze so I walked around Greenwich Village for a while, then got in a cab to go home to Brooklyn. I had the window open as we drove over the Brookyn Bridge and crossed over the Fulton Fish Market - something I had done countless times - but this time, there was the powerful and unmistakable smell of fish, which nauseated me after seeing that film.Monday’s NY Times has an update on Lake Victoria and of course, it is not a pretty picture. - David Holbrooke

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria