Many environmental documentaries recount the aftermath of a grave disaster. Great Lakes, Bad Lines is refreshingly different in this regard. The film concerns the inevitable erosion and malfunction of Enbridge Line 5, a Canadian-owned pipeline that stretches across over 500 miles and transports 23 million gallons of oil through much of Michigan's Great Lakes on a daily basis. The line was built over 60 years ago, and is in urgent need of repair. Experts agree that something needs to be done, or the region will inevitably suffer one of the worst environmental catastrophes in recorded history. The film is a convincing and proactive effort to raise awareness and provoke change.
You don't have to be a resident of Michigan to recognize the importance of the Great Lakes. Beyond the aesthetic appeal of its beautiful and pristine waters, the lakes constitute a significant percentage of the world's fresh water, and many tens of millions of United States citizens live along its shores and depend upon its natural resources. An oil spill would spell doom for the sensitive ecological balance of the lakes, and their strong and unpredictable currents would make such a spill nearly impossible to contain.
The film follows two environmental activists as they travel along the route of the pipeline, and speak with a series of experts and ordinary residents along the way, many of whom will directly suffer when the impending disaster occurs. There is precedent for such a disaster in the region, as Enbridge's Line 6B ruptured in Michigan's Kalamazoo Lake in 2010 and caused the worst inland oil spill in history.
For its part, Enbridge, Inc. has taken only meager steps to reinforce the existing lines with vastly inefficient support structures. The sluggish response to a potential disaster falls squarely on the shoulders of state officials, who have thus far prioritized corporate interests over the safety of their own citizens. Clearly, further action will not be taken unless these officials are motivated by the vocal insistence of the people. With great urgency and visual flair, Great Lakes, Bad Lines represents an inspiring attempt to organize that movement.