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Shocking Fracking Film ‘Unearthed' to Premiere at UK's Sheffield International Documentary Festival

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Shocking Fracking Film ‘Unearthed' to Premiere at UK's Sheffield International Documentary Festival

Jolynn Minnaar had no intention of making a documentary exposing the evils of fracking. In fact, the Karoo, South Africa native viewed the arrival of a shale gas extraction industry as an exciting opportunity for development and employment in home district.

Her opinion changed after visiting the U.S.

There, she learned about the fires, dark brown, methane-infused water and many more by-products of fracking. She documented her findings in the appropriately titled, Unearthed, which receives its world premiere June 10 and 11 at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in Sheffield, a city in the United Kingdom's South Yorkshire county.

If its stunning, action-packed trailer is any indication, Unearthed should live up to the production team's claim of it being the most extensive collection of material covering fracking. It has already been nominated for Audience and Green film awards.

"Despite my optimism for shale gas, after visiting the United States to cross-check the promises made to South Africa, I now gravely admit that fracking stands to hurt the ones it claims to help the most," Minnaar said in a press kit. "I dedicate Unearthed to the rural, marginalized communities who are least able to withstand the arrival of the shale gas industry, whether in the Karoo, Europe or the United States."

She and her team interviewed nearly 400 subjects, including U.S. senators, professors, geohydrologists, chemical engineers,  medical practitioners,  gas company workers and residents in impacted areas.

"With an expanding global population and excruciating demands on natural resources, it is no secret that the world is in trouble," Minnaar said. "The world, as we know it, urgently needs to hit the refresh button. May Unearthed become a catalyst in that endeavour."

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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