According to The Unforseen (2007), farmers are losing everything in West Texas. But Real Estate developer Gary Bradley believes Austin is the best place to construct homes, even though his home building will ruin trees, water, and farmers’ fields and prospective crops. The Edwards Aquifer is of most concern for both townspeople and farmers. If the Aquifer is polluted and depleted, there will be less water for residents, for recreation, and for farmers. To argue against Bradley’s claims, the film contrasts the Austin of 2007 with that of the 1970s. In the 1980s, controls were lifted from banks, the film illustrates, and developers more easily borrow money and loan it to boomers until the Savings and Loan collapse.
Bradley is painted as one of the most corrupt of those developers, seeking profits no matter the cost to the environment. For example, during the 1980s, the film reveals, Bradley invests his money into a gold mine in Papua, Indonesia, where 3 billion tons of tailings go right into the water. He also invests in phosphorus mining in Florida, which strips away square miles of land and Louisiana fertilizer plants, the number one discharge of toxic contaminants.
In response to both the new housing developments and the vile reputation of its owner, Gary Bradley, protestors oppose unit development along Barton Creek in Austin. According to protestors, developers are destroying the creek and its natural pool and want the 4000 acres of land to be protected. The preserve will comprise of six square miles, 1500 acres of which will go for parks and 860 for a bird sanctuary. They want to protect the Edwards Aquifer.
Throughout the film, farmers, geologists, and other experts demonstrate the importance the Barton spring and its aquifer. According to the film, the city council denied the development in 1990. But because the developers still seek to build along Barton Creek, activists, including Robert Redford, advocate for their opponents, protestors and farmers in Austin and areas surrounding the city. Geologists demonstrate the negative effects of urbanization on water quality. From 1996 to 2004, the spring becomes very polluted because of Bradley’s initial home constructions sites, because housing developments block natural filtration through soil and plants by covering them in concrete. Developers had grandfathered in permits from the 1980s in the 1990s, and Senate Bill 1704 led to loss of local control in 1995. Bradley and other developers take advantage of the opportunity to buy up failed developments from 1983-5 when George W. Bush became governor after Ann Richards. The development is compared to cancer metathesizing.
As of 2011, the area along Barton Creek has become part of Austin’s Green Belt park system, and Barton Creek Wilderness Park protects at least part of the Edwards Aquifer. Unfortunately, however, development continues along the creek, including resorts, spas, golf courses, and luxury apartments. The Unforeseen documents negative environmental consequences (externalities) of real estate development. It also illustrates the continuing conflict between residents and farmers and the developers who strive only for profit rather than environmental justice for all.