Gasland II: From Broken Promises to Renewable Solutions
Sometimes people tell me, “If you cover fracking, you really need to see that film—that film, what’s it called?”
“Gasland?” I’ll offer helpfully.
“Yes, that’s it.”
It kind of charms me that people less immersed in this issue, than many folks I know, would imagine that I could cover the topic without knowing the film that started it all. Fact is, I’ve seen Gasland nine or more times, usually because I accompany people I feel must see it. And now, we can start all over because of the release of Gasland II.
When I sat in an HBO screening room in June 2010 to cover the first Gasland, I was moved and shocked. But I hardly dared to hope that the film would play such a powerful role in this country's wake-up call about fracking.
The new Gasland II premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21. It delves even deeper into the transformation of the U.S. from a first world nation to a country in fossil fuel limbo. Josh Fox and his team have followed the well pads through a land of broken dreams, deserted homes and betrayed rights, tracking the painful discovery by average Americans that governmental protections have failed them. Capturing half a dozen or so families from Australia to Wyoming to Pennsylvania, Fox's camera accompanies their journey from disbelief to indignation to disillusionment—when no one in government seems willing or able to make industries accountable for fracking harms.
The oversized whirlpool tub in Steve Lipsky's million dollar dream house sits empty, gathering dust ever since test results showed water contaminated following nearby fracking activities. Officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency privately advised the family never to drink the water or even use it to water the lawn, but rejected key opportunities to rein in Range Resources, the offending company.
Although the film is about fracking, its deeper subject is America in the early twenty-first century. What used to happen in the far away Third World or indigenous regions, is now going on in the U.S. Call it karma.
As the film documents, seducing the populace with promises of "energy independence," a government that once vaunted democracy as its prime export, now disenfranchises citizens in places like Dimock, Pennsylvania, in order to supply raw resources to foreign countries. The film traces the history of the town's aquifer contamination, which affected the drinking water in many homes. The Pennsylvania government first offered a pipeline of potable water to be constructed at industry expense, but later nixed that plan and left numerous townsfolk permanently without water.
As a result, many were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in exchange for rock bottom buy-outs. In one poignant scene, Fox films community leader Victoria Switzer, as she "practices" being silent. No fan of democracy likes to see grassroots leaders like Switzer muted. Some of those profiled in Gasland II have been forced by their own or their children’s health to abandon homes with decimated property values. Many have accepted buyouts in exchange for silence. What the film omits mentioning is whether any of its subjects are former lessors or drilling proponents.
This sacrifice of environment and community, seen in Gasland II, is said to create “energy independence.” In the film, economic analyst Deborah Rogers explains why that’s not likely to happen. Once the export terminals and pipelines criss-crossing this country are built, and after the gas is liquefied for export to China (where gas prices are high), what could possibly happen? The currently low U.S. gas prices will mount, Rogers predicts. Americans will have invested their tax dollars in gas infrastructures for the sake of cheap energy. But that energy won't be there.
Fortunately, there is a solution to our energy problem, and that is renewable energy technology. As Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson explains in the film, the technology for renewables has evolved so thoroughly that by 2030, 100 percent of U.S. energy needs could be supplied by wind, complemented by some use of solar and water energy. Jacobson and his colleagues on the Solutions Project are devising a detailed plan for New York state.
Gasland II zooms in on the early stages of social disruption due to extreme energy extraction. Its subjects are real and their voices still count. Unless the concerns the film highlights are heeded, more extreme forms of devastation, involving greater numbers of people could lie ahead. Gasland II questions undertaking such risks when economically viable ways to meet our energy needs exist.
Gasland II will debut nationally on HBO this summer.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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