Fracking documentary rallies for student awareness

Students gathered in Sweigart Auditorium for a viewing of Josh Fox’s Gasland II, which showed the harsh realities of fracking.


By Sarah Bergen

A lot has changed since Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland exposed Rider students to the horrible effects of hydraulic fracturing in November 2012. Students returned to Sweigart Auditorium on Feb. 11-12 at 7 p.m. for an update on the destruction in Fox’s sequel, Gasland II.

In a quick recap for the newcomers, hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” is the process of pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and a mixture of 596 chemicals into the ground, creating cracks that allow natural gas to be extracted for energy use, according to the film.

While the expansion of the natural gas industry has caused oil production to drop to a 20-year low, the side effects are far from insignificant, the film argues. After its release in 2010, Gasland unveiled the dark side of fracking and was the spark that lit the flame under what is now a hot debate around the world.

“The ‘f word’ isn’t in the dark anymore,” Fox said.

Gasland focused mainly on the immediate consequences of fracking. After drilling a fracking well, natural gas surfaces in a mixture of “waste water,” which is later heated to evaporate the chemicals, leading to acid rain and toxic ozone clouds. Also, the film stressed that the massive pressure created by drilling often causes the wells to crack, allowing toxic chemicals to leak into the ground and into the natural water supplies.

As a result, Americans far and wide are suffering from horrid health issues, lighting their wells and taps on fire because of unsafe levels of methane in the water, and spending their life savings on bottled water to drink and bathe in, Gasland shows.

While Gasland II also demonstrated stunning instances of water wells shooting flames, the sequel provided a long-term, global perspective on the issue.

Fox continued to feature desolate Americans dealing with the effects of fracking around their homes, but the storylines of these families were gloomier and less hopeful than before.

A particularly unique story featured self-made millionaire Steve Lipsky, whose massive mansion could not protect his family from the looming wells surrounding his gated community in Texas. After having their water tested, the Lipsky family was told not to use their water for anything — not even to water the grass — for fear that the entire property could explode.

After an unsuccessful fight against the drilling company, with little help from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Lipsky family is spending $1,000 a month on bottled water. Meanwhile, the less fortunate are being forced to abandon their un-sellable homes.

Fox also featured Bob and Lisa Parr of Texas. Because they lived in the center of 21 wells, contaminated air engulfed their lives and resulted in horrifying health issues for the entire family. Head-to-toe rashes, difficulty breathing and nosebleeds led them to the doctor. After being told that they would waste all of their money on medical bills, the Parr family was forced to leave their home behind.

Even Calvin Tillman, former mayor of Dish, Texas, was forced to leave his home behind when his children began experiencing nosebleeds and asthma complications. Gasland II truly showed that, wealthy or poor, no one is safe from the effects of fracking.

Fox broadened his horizons as he traveled to South Africa and Australia and revealed that fracking is wreaking havoc globally. He also brought into light a new “groundbreaking” side effect: earthquakes.

According to the film, a study carried out by The National Research Council concluded that the pumping of waste water deep into the ground significantly increases the chance of earthquakes. So, what better place to drill than the largest fault line in the western United States?

Fracking is occurring all around the San Andreas Fault, including in Inglewood Oil Field in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles. As Californians await the overdue “Big One” — a quake with a magnitude of eight or larger — gas and oil companies may be speeding toward the end of the golden state as we know it.

In Gasland II, Fox revealed that fracking has grown to be an uncontrollable monster on a global scale. The industry is leaking poison into the homes and bodies of people all around the world — and it seems that not even democracy can stand in its way.

The documentary says that fracking is occurring in 34 states — an increase of six since the release of Gasland — including New York and Pennsylvania. This is far too close to the Delaware River Basin, which provides water to 15.6 million people in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, including everyone at Rider.

As fracking continues to lurk just outside New Jersey borders, it is vital that Rider students join the growing crowd of protestors.

Timothy Hoffman, junior neuroscience major, was disturbed by the documentary.

“The movie was a little hard to watch for me because things like that upset me,” Hoffman said. “People always say guns don’t kill people — people kill people. Well, I would have to apply the same here.”


Printed in the 2/19/14 edition

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