'Gasland' documentary highlights Marcellus Shale drilling effects

By Eliza Macdonald

Writer

Natural gas drilling destroys the environment and the lives of people in drilling communities, said an Academy Award-nominated director this week.

Josh Fox, writer and director of the documentary “Gasland,” screened and discussed his film in the Elaine Langone Center Forum on Tuesday. The audience was a mixture of town residents and students, largely due to the fact that “Gasland” is based on Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling and manufacturing in the Marcellus Shale formation.

Fox called the process of drilling “industrial annihilation.” “You’ve subjected the entire value, and not just economic value, of [a] place and reduced it down to the price of the gas. The lie here is that it’s totally fine to live in a place where there’s a large drilling system. It’s not OK, it’s destructive,” he said.

Gas drilling makes use of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” an invasive procedure where vast quantities of water are forced underground and cause what some call “mini-earthquakes.” According to Fox, the process forces contaminated water and other toxins into the ecosystem. The natural gas companies do not have to abide by clean air or water regulations.

“Gasland” was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary. It has been shown at numerous universities, in film festivals worldwide, and in communities impacted by drilling. According to Fox, people have in the past brought contaminated water samples with them to the showings.

Fox has also faced countless attacks and criticism from advocates of drilling.

“The responsibility of this situation is something I want to take on and am happy to take on. I’m here to ask you if you’re willing to take it with me,” Fox said.

Fox predicts that the movement for a change away from fossil fuels is going to be as big as any revolution that has ever happened on American soil.

Fox also said that he is currently compiling footage from his travels for “Gasland 2,” which will highlight additional negative consequences of drilling that the first film was not able to address.

Ali Blumenstock ’11, president of the Environmental Club, highlighted the relevance of the film and discussion to the University, which hosts programs such as the Marcellus Shale Initiative.

“Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling dilemma is a focus of scholarly and teaching efforts on Bucknell’s campus,” she said.

“The Environmental Studies Program was happy to support this successful event, along with many other departments and offices across campus. There was a great turnout, with the room filled to and perhaps beyond capacity. We heard of people driving here one, two, even three hours to attend the film and listen to Josh Fox speak,” said Amanda Wooden, assistant professor of environmental studies.

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