The Hospital at the End of the Earth

The Hospital at the End of the Earth, 2001, 52 MINUTES, 16mm Colour.

The Aral Sea is suffering the death of a thousand irrigation canals, victim of the Soviet plan to turn Central Asia into the greatest cotton producing region in the world. The disappearing Aral Sea is one of the worst ecological disasters of the last century. “The Hospital at the End of the Earth” is the tragic human story of an environmental collapse.

This was my first documentary for the CBC series The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. I got to the subject through Ian Small of Medecins sans frontieres. Ian started the MSF mission around the Aral Sea and his partner Michelle Oser did a great job as our fixer. This environmental decline happened so fast and it’s irreversible. For me, it was a terrible warning about just how badly we can screw things up and once we do there’s nothing we can do to regain what’s lost.

Dina was the most beautiful young woman and Oral’s spirit was unbeatable. They both passed away a few months after filming.

This is the site of an ancient Zoroastrian burial ground that overlooks the Amu Darya river that once reached the Aral Sea. This is Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region of Uzbekistan.