Gasland Critique paper

8 August 2016

Gasland is a documentary written, produced and directed by founder and artistic director of international WOW Company, Josh Fox. The film won six awards including Special Jury Prize in 2010 Sundace Film Festival and was also nominated for an Academy Awards for best documentary in 2011. The film shows effects of natural gas drilling on water sources and the environment. It also shows the influence of big businesses on legislatures that leaves the very own people who elected them to represent, unheard, ignored, misrepresented and hopeless. It is the best work of Josh Fox so far.

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The film makes good effort to convince us that fracking is contaminating drinking water sources and everyone who is associated with or supports natural gas industry is evil. However, story either falls short on real evidence. Overall it is a good movie to watch as Fox takes us on a journey and introduces us to the real people with real problems. He also captures exciting and unbelievable moments throughout the movie to keep us entertained. When Fox receives an offer of $100,000 for the gas rights to family property, he gets curious if similar thing is happening elsewhere.

Once he finds out that fracking (hydraulic fracturing) has been taking place in 35 states he begins his trip. Almost all the people he interviews feel that fracking is contaminating drinking water sources. The people interviewed also had to say that the public health and safety is least of the concern for these natural gas companies. The film shows that it has affected people through out United States. Many of those who lived close to extraction sites had shown symptoms of diseases or poisonings for example loss of hair, headaches and muscle aches.

There were some severe cases like cancer, neuralgia and permanent brain damage. The loopholes created by politicians like Dick Cheney to exempt fracking from certain emission standards including Safe Drinking Water act and the corporate greed has been blamed for all the problems that is considered to be associated with fracking. The film certainly stirs up emotions and it is so sad to see those people who were interviewed, feeling so helpless and betrayed by the government.

These people were going through many problems like they could not use tap water due to hazardous contamination present in the tap water, their pets are chemically burned, they were getting sick and some of them could not even step out of their houses due to polluted air. But their main problem was nobody who actually could help or could make difference would listen to them. In this kind of situation their voice being heard by the entire nation was half battle won and Fox does exactly that for them.

However I was little disappointed when I did research to verify the validity of supporting evidence presented in the movie. Only somewhat credible evidence shown is the EPA representative, however, he doesn’t make a formal statement hence does not contribute in a meaningful way. Another piece of evidence he used was lab reports of the fluid in the jar that was handed to him by an unknown person who could have possessed if from anywhere. Since this source was not trustworthy, Fox should not have been used the result to support his theory that fracking is reason of contamination.

Fox claimed that chemicals used in fracking polluted the river with dead fish; but according to Energytribune, even before Gasland was shot, EPA reported that it was due to toxic build up, the result of discharges from coalmines. It is true that there are some harmful chemicals are used for fracturing but it is also true that that chemicals are injected deep into the ground (normally 5,000 ft) whereas fresh water stays above 1000 ft and keeping in mind that earths layer works as great filtration system, contamination in this case just not possible.

Nevertheless, it successfully opens a discussion, which has been avoided by mighty natural gas industry, which is “is hydraulic fracturing harmful? ” Because of the positive response and support the movie has received nationwide, it has compelled legislatures of both houses to extend investigations and rethink about their strategies on the hydraulic fracturing bills whether they needed to be amended or even repelled. Instead of narrating the whole documentary Fox lets people interviewed explain their problems and make their own cases.

He himself maintains a nonaggressive and calm composure, but lets people interviewed show their rage and frustration. Fox playing the banjo between landscapes of gas wells wearing a gas mask was very creative; it is also my personal favorite. In recent years we had several environmental issues considered to be associated with global warming. So the relevance of the movie to environmental problems grabs our attention. The film is also somewhat informative in the manner that it familiarizes us with current big thing happening in our country and if it is affecting us in any way.

The movie could have been much better if inclusion of facts was given priority and if the film was unbiased. Since Gasland is a documentary, not fiction, facts are very important part of it therefore Fox should have done more research instead of jumping into the conclusion. For instance, he reads the name of chemicals form material safety data list (MSDS), off the moving truck and concludes that all those chemicals will contaminate the water sources.

But those chemicals could have been purified before applied or treated with other chemicals to neutralize the toxicity. Those chemicals could be unstable under pressure (deep into earth) so breakdown into simpler harmless chemicals that would not cause any kind of contamination. To verify his findings, Fox should have included subject matter experts pertaining to effects of chemicals used in fracking, like chemical engineers, biologists and ecologists.

Even before initiating his investigation, Fox had given the verdict of guilty to the natural gas industry. Almost everyone he interviews blames fracking for the contamination and Fox believes them forgetting the universal truth that people lie; most of them genuinely seemed to believe that it’s all natural gas industry’s fault. Nonetheless Fox should have been fair to both sides, investigated all aspects, collected evidence, interviewed professional in the field of fracking and then based on facts should have decided to take sides.

For those who value simplicity, hope, protection of environment and preservation of American way of life at any cost, it is a must see. The film is somewhat biased and falls short in facts; however in spite of these shortcomings the film is very inspiring and uplifting. Even though it is a documentary, it is well-paced film that keeps you entertained for the whole 107 minutes. The film is ok for kids but adults, especially young adults will thoroughly enjoy it.

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