An ominous voice rings out from the darkness, “We’re going to be okay for a year or two. We’ll be okay for a decade…but the house will burn down…and we have to be prepared.” Images of wildfires, parched plots of land, and dried-up riverbeds flash across the screen; but are they omens of our future, or the reality of our present?

Jim Thebaut’s eye-opening documentary, “Beyond the Brink,” premiered September 14th at the Merced Theater. The film opened with the foreboding line warning us to be prepared for what comes next for California: water shortages, uncontrollable wildfires, and the collapse of the agricultural industry–unless something changes. The documentary centers itself around our very own San Joaquin Valley and features three UC Merced professors, Roger Bales, Martha Conklin, and Joshua Viers, all of whom are experts in water conservation. The film is broken up into a variety of topics of concern within the Central Valley such as food scarcity, water rights and regulations, agriculture, disadvantaged communities, and extends further outwards to include water conservation efforts in various countries across the globe. A short discussion panel of local water specialists followed the premiere.

Overall, “Beyond the Brink” is a hauntingly realistic film that successfully brings the Central Valley out from the shadows and exposes how important the San Joaquin is, not only for California, but also the nation. The San Joaquin Valley provides “about half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables” says UC Merced Professor Joshua Viers.

Similarly, “Beyond the Brink” showcases the groud-breaking research that is conducted at UC Merced. In fact, it is the research efforts of UC Water, led by the three UCM Engineering Professors featured in the film, that captured the attention of filmmaker Jim Thebaut in the first place. The three professors are laced throughout the film, along with scenes featuring the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, making “Beyond the Brink” a shining display of UC Merced’s success as the newest research institution in the nation.

See the trailer for “Beyond the Brink” here.



Photo Credits: Justin Gonzalez


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