Edward S. Herman
Forum on Guns and Violence
Left of Left
Proof it First Law
TETHERING TO THE U.S.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Compiled by Joel Chaffee
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Promised Land, the new movie starring Matt Damon, is a movie in part about fracking, the new and extremely problematic way of getting natural gas out of shale rock far below the earth’s surface. It’s a very good movie, with good acting, particularly by Damon in a very different role than, for example, his Jason Bourne trilogy. Instead of being a kick-ass former CIA assassin on a mission to reclaim his memory and the truth about what was done to him, in Promised Land Damon is a conflicted, conscience-stricken, corporate hot shot “land man” using bribes and threats, when necessary, to get people in a small, rural town to agree to let their town be fracked.
But the movie in no way presents all, or even most, of the many problems that come with fracking, much less do so in a clear and convincing way. The primary problem it does present is the very real one of contamination of land and water. This happens as a result of the toxic chemicals, mixed with water and sand, that are forced down into the shale under heavy pressure to break the rock and release the gas within it. Some of that toxic mix comes back up, along with methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, and there are huge numbers of specific instances of plant and animal deaths, human sickness and water poisoning afterwards that are clear proof of this serious problem.
But there are many more that Promised Land doesn’t mention, much less explain:
· fracking’s huge and growing contribution to our global heating crisis: methane is 72-105 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2 over the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere, and studies over the past two years, including by the EPA, show that there is much more methane leakage over the lifecycle of fracked, as well as conventionally-produced, natural gas, than the oil/gas industry admits;
· constant heavy truck traffic transporting water, sand and fracking fluids that pollutes surrounding air, causes damage to roads, creates traffic congestion and noise and other negative impacts;
· the contamination of rivers close to fracking sites through either deliberate dumping of “flowback” wastewater after a well is drilled or through migration of those fluids underground;
· the drawdown of massive amounts of sometimes-scarce—as in historically dry or dought-impacted areas—nearby river and lake water, many millions of gallons per well;
· documented radiation levels in wastewater 100 or more times the EPA’s drinking water standard;
· disruption of other economically-and socially-valued industries or practices, such as agriculture, tourism, hunting and fishing;
· fragmentation of woods and forests via construction of well sites, pipelines, roads and other infrastructure;
· a decline in property values of homes and land adjacent to or near wells; and,
· earthquakes: the United States Geological Survey has reported that deep underground injection of drilling wastewater is the probable cause of a six-fold increase in earthquakes in middle America in 2011 compared to 20th century levels.
So if you are looking for a movie about all of the negatives about fracking, Promised Land is not the movie to watch.
Promised Land is in many ways more a movie about corporate power, and the ideology that undergirds it, versus the power of an informed people and the old-but-still-good values of love for family, land, home, and the truth. The energy company that Damon works for is thoroughly despicable, while the individuals who work for it, like Damon and the character played by Frances McDormand, are shown as more complex, human, less corporatist in their ideology.
One small but telling example is when a youngish man overly excited about the potential riches he thinks he will gain from signing a lease drives up to Damon in a fancy new car. Because of a prior scene, the movie audience knows that the money he will get from the gas under his land, if there is any, will probably not pay for this car. At the time Damon is struggling with his conscience, and as he looks at the expensive car and the young man you can almost feel his angst, his guilt over what he may have done.
Hal Holbrook is effective as a smart and articulate older teacher who is the only townsperson, at first, aware of some of fracking’s dangers and willing to stand up and say so publicly. Unfortunately, when he does so for the first time, he also describes gas as “clean,” which it absolutely isn’t. He does, however, play a key role in the movie’s successful effort to counterpose a life of place, of community, of eternal values against the scheming and greed-driven corporate culture that has no difficulty destroying anything in its way.
There’s a lot of food for thought in Promised Land, and I hope large numbers of people see it.
Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.