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America ReFramed | Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

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Watch Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 8pm on WORLD.

Once known as the "California Riviera," the Salton Sea is now called one of America's worst ecological disasters: a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, that coughs up dead fish and birds by the thousands in frequent die-offs that occur. However, amongst the ruins of this man-made mistake, a few remaining eccentrics (a roadside nudist, a religious folk artist, a Hungarian revolutionary, and real estate speculators) struggle to keep a remodeled version of the original Salton Sea dream alive. 

Accidentally created by an engineering error in 1905, reworked in the 50's as a world class vacation destination for the rich and famous, suddenly abandoned after a series of hurricanes, floods, and fish die-offs, and finally almost saved by Congressman Sonny Bono, the Salton Sea has a bittersweet past. The film shares these people's stories and their difficulties in keeping their unique community alive, as the nearby cities of Los Angeles and San Diego attempt to take the agricultural water run-off that barely sustains the Salton Sea. 

While covering the historical, economic, political, and environmental issues that face the Sea, Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea offers an offbeat portrait of the peculiar and individualistic people who populate its shores. It is an epic western tale of fantastic real estate ventures and failed boomtowns, inner-city gangs fleeing to white small town America, and the subjective notion of success and failure amidst the ruins of the past. 

America ReFramed presents a rich and fascinatingly important conversation on water, with special guest Professor Upmanu Lall, Director of the Water Center at Columbia University's The Earth Institute.

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