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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oscars Death Race: GasLand

Inspired by Tomato Nation and my own inner stupid overachieving pop culture glutton, I'm once again attempting to see all 2011 Oscar nominated films before the ceremony. Here's how it's going so far.

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I can't be impartial about GasLand. I grew up right on top of the Marcellus Shale, and my dad works in oil and gas drilling. The majority of my life was paid for by gas companies -- food, clothing, shelter, medicine, education, basically every important thing I have ever really needed. So "conflicted" doesn't even start to describe how I feel about this documentary. On one hand, I'm worried about my family and the people in my hometown, because there are some really awful, really real things happening to people as a result of drilling. On the other hand, I know that my dad is both smart and not evil, and I don't believe he'd spend an entire career doing anything so potentially harmful to others.

The good news is this: GasLand sheds light on some serious issues. No one should be able to light his drinking water on fire. People experiencing health problems as a result of drilling deserve adequate compensation. Parks and forests that are maintained by our tax dollars shouldn't also be fair game for drilling. And the fact that we're pumping chemicals like formaldehyde into the ground is unsettling at best.

But the film makes a case for stopping drilling altogether, which is where I stop following. The image of Josh Fox playing a banjo in a gas mask is a bit much, honestly, to a girl who grew up playing on well sites. The horror stories described in the film seem to be the result of drilling right next to people's homes, way closer than any drill site I've ever seen where I grew up. And I've never seen tactics like the evaporation of produced water in Colorado attempted on any site I've ever seen; I doubt it would work, honestly, because most sites I've visited have been in the middle of the forest, with tons of shade even in the summer. There's more than one way of doing this stuff, but Fox denounces it all.

Look -- if I'm being honest, I have to admit that my skepticism is rooted in simple faith. When I was a kid, my dad took me to drilling sites all the time; my little sister worked on the rigs as a summer job during school; my husband and I nearly spent a summer working alongside the rigs a few years ago. And like I said, my dad's a smart guy. He knows the mechanics and procedures and ingredients involved in hydraulic fracturing, and he still raised a family right in the middle of it. I can't believe he'd put any of us at risk of serious danger just for a job. So yeah, I have some questions for him, but not condemnation.

Death Race Tally: 11 seen, 45 to go. 
Remaining films:

127 Hours
Alice in Wonderland
Animal Kingdom
Another Year
Barney's Version
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
The Confession
Country Strong
The Crush
Day & Night
God of Love
The Gruffalo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I
How To Train Your Dragon
I Am Love
The Illusionist
In A Better World
Inside Job
Killing In The Name
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Na Wewe
Outside The Law
Poster Girl
Rabbit Hole
The Social Network
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Tempest
Toy Story 3
True Grit
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land
The Way Back
Winter's Bone
Wish 143


posted by

well, he IS a spy. but probably not evil. ;)

posted by

I am surprised your Dad did not advise that many wells over the Marcellus have methane in them and can be set on fire. I live over the shale and saw open faucets ignited over 40 years before there were any wells drilled in the Marcellus. Colorado regulators tested two of the Gasland faucets and found the methane ignited was biogenic and did not come from drilling. Gasland is a goss misrepresentation. Clif Tamsett

posted by

Clif: I haven't had the chance to speak with Dad about GasLand yet, but he did send me an email in response to this post today saying basically the same thing you just did. (Apparently this review is "making its way through the PA oil & gas community," which is a bit intimidating!) In any case, thanks for backing up my gut feeling with the research!

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About Me

I'm a writer and editor based in Miami, FL, with a passion for travel, poetry and literature, food and feminism. My work has appeared in Draft, VegNews, Latitudes and more. Email me at ciara.lavelle@gmail.com.

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