State and local organizations are demanding an explanation for the University of Minnesota’s decision to suddently cancel the viewing of an environmental documentary just two weeks before it was scheduled to premiere on that campus.
Producers of the documentary, “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story,” a film about farming, pollution and the Mississippi River, say that UM vice president of relations Karen Himle made a terrible mistake when she canceled the airing without informing any of its nonprofit and public funders beforehand.
The film, which was produced with $500,000 in state lottery proceeds and foundation grants, was scheduled for broadcast Oct. 5 on Twin Cities public television by the University’s Bell Museum of Natural History (AgWeek).
The McKnight Foundation reports that “the pollution that destroys the watershed of the Mississippi River is not intended by farm policies or by the farmers, but nevertheless, it’s a predictable result.
“Decades of bad farming practices in the heartland of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri have caused sediment, fertilizer, and pesticides to be carried by rainfall runoff from farm fields into creeks and rivers that feed the big Mississippi River.”
Using a spokesperson, Himle stated that she made a late-hour decision to pull the broadcast after faculty and administrative staff members voiced concerns about its portrayal of conventional farming as one of the main causes of river pollution as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.
The University of Minnesota has yet to explain who voiced the concerns or when.
It’s not hard to imagine that the school’s long history as a land-grant institution which exists partly to serve agriculture could have had something to do with the late-hour cancelation.
As the Twin Cities Daily Planet alleged earlier this week, influence from big agriculture could have played a part.
The dean of the U of M’s School of Agriculture (the Bell Museum is part of the School of Agriculture) supported these fears by saying one reason the film was pulled was because it “vilified” agriculture (MPR).
Bell Museum Director Susan Weller said in a statement last week that she would establish a panel of scientists to review the film, but so far there has been no clarification about what the panel would review, who would do the reviewing, and when they would be required to come to a conclusion.
Mississippi River at Riverwood in Minnesota
Image Credit: Flickr - christina.hope