Burning Water

Aerial view of a fracking well site

After last week’s fantastic post which lists five reasons to reconsider the shale gas boom, I really don’t have that much to add.

However, I am of the mind that science and information reporting sometimes don’t go all the way in telling a story. There is something to be said about connecting to an issue on a personal and emotional level that just can’t be done through the reading of facts and figures, no matter how alarming.

This is the reason why a film like Gasland, which TransitionKW is screening at the REEP House on September 25, at 7pm, works so well. In the film, Josh Fox, somewhat inadvertently, becomes an advocate on behalf of rural Americans that have been affected in one way or another by fracking.

Giving voice to the experiences of these rural Americans is incredibly important – particularly when the stories being told are ones that are highly damaging to the corporations and state governments that intend on profiting from the development of shale gas development.

The David (rural residents negatively impacted by fracking) vs. Goliath (large oil and gas corporations that stand to profit from this same activity) stories told in Gasland are in no way unique to the United States. Similar experiences have been documented in Canada. Burning Water, an award-winning documentary that originally aired on the CBC in 2010, follows Fiona Lauridsen, and captures her struggle to bring oil and gas giant Encana to account for contaminating her aquifer. To see the full 45-minute TV documentary, click this link.

For me, bearing witness to Lauridsen’s story, and stories like hers, is incredibly important particularly in a climate where media outlets and politicians peddle lines which suggest that the shale boom is a win-win in terms of rural job creation and emissions reductions (insofar as natural gas displaces coal – an argument that has been critiqued). Countering this rhetoric, Lauridsen’s story, and the stories told in Gasland, begs an important question: At what cost are we winning?

GASLAND screens at 7pm on September 25 at REEP Green Solutions. Click this link to RSVP. Hope to see you there!

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  • Grace

    I whole-heartedly agree that, “There is something to be said about connecting to an issue on a personal and emotional level that just can’t be done through the reading of facts and figures.” However, I vehemently challenge the assertion that Josh Fox and Gasland tell the story of rural Americans. I live not far from Fox’s father’s land which he refers to in the opening scenes of Gasland. Due to a river basin moratorium that Josh Fox fought to install, I can tell you that the rural farmers in this community have experienced considerable hardships. Sure, natural gas companies profit from natural gas development, but the real winners are the rural Americans who sign leases. As Josh Fox’s “neighbors” struggle to make ends meet on their multi-generational family farm, their neighbors in nearby counties buy new tractors, replace the roofs on their barns, and hand an economically viable future down to the next generation. Josh Fox is not an advocate for rural America, he is an advocate for his career as a film-maker, and there is nothing inadvertent about it.

  • nickbelanger

    Thanks for your comment, Grace. You make an interesting point regarding who *really* advocates for rural Americans. My point here is not that some Americans are not satisfied with the current climate – I’m sure many farmers are happy to receive steady payment for use of their land.

    What I am saying is that Josh Fox, and other documentary film-maker for that matter (did you get a chance to watch the Burning Water film?), gives Americans that are negatively impacted by fracking a platform to tell their story. This opportunity is an important one, I would argue, in the current media and political climate that tends to paper-over this reality and instead prefers narratives that proclaim “100 years of energy” or that natural gas is the key to “reviving rural economies”. These same narratives are pushed on this side of the border, and all I’m inviting people to do is to push past this rhetoric and get to know some of the folks whose lives have been affected by shale gas development. That being said, you’re right that the voices of other ‘ordinary folk’ who have benefited also deserve to be heard.

    Thanks again for commenting. After our film screenings, we ordinarily have an open discussion. It’d be great to get your perspective!


  • Grace Wildermuth

    I have not seen burning water but I saved the link so that I can take a look when I get a chance. Also, I very much appreciate the intellectual and productive nature of this venue. I find that productive dialogue on this issue can be hard to find. I agree that it is important for all rural Americans to have a platform to have their story heard. However, I have not had the same experience as you have had with the media pushing pro-natural gas narratives. I believe this has a lot to do with our close proximity to New York City. Most of the media coverage that I hear and see tends to cite Hollywood elite and activists, as well as outdated and questioned studies. Around here, rural Americans with negative stories from dealings with the natural gas industry tend to be 1/20, yet seem to recieve 95% of the media coverage due to high-powered influences such as Josh Fox or celebrities who come in on busses to tour the area. I will definitely take a look at Burning Water! Thanks again!

  • Pauline Belanger Faul

    Well Nick….like your last name..
    With regards to Mother Earth, …….money, governments, oil and gas corporations, always have excuses; justify why its good for everyone to allow fracking, shale gas and inform land owners they have no rights to their own land or property. Who is everyone?
    Its like saying its…… OK To RAPE MOTHER EARTH.
    It seems to me we will always have questions and never any answers..
    Always justifications of why they are doing this to our Earth.
    Mother Earth talks to us…but are we LISTENING?


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