Clover, before you mine Sydney, watch Gasland
Opening this week is a small, yet powerful, documentary on the ill-effects of using the controversial “fracking” technique to extract natural gas.
Now, I’m not a scientist, or a geologist, but I am a film reviewer, and watching Gasland was illuminating enough to allow the mere mention of natural gas to prompt a range of pretty terrifying images.
So when a story broke over the weekend that suggests natural gas mining may soon become a reality for inner Sydney, it’s clear that the timing for the release of this powerful documentary film could not be more apt.
It will no doubt raise much needed awareness of the issues surrounding natural gas extraction and fuel the debate regarding natural gas extraction in Australia.
The film begins in 2006, when New York theatre director and documentary filmmaker, Josh Fox, receives a letter from a gas company offering him $100,000 for permission to explore his family’s upstate New York property. Unlike his neighbours, who were keen to sign on, Josh becomes more than a little curious. He was wondering, of course, what the generous offer would really cost, and what he discovered is the terrifying truth behind natural gas drilling in America.
The documentary follows Josh as he travels across America, speaking to those who have suffered tremendously in terms of their health as a result of the controversial ‘fracking’ technique. From mysterious illnesses, chronic disease, dead animals, and even tap water that can be set alight, this is a documentary that has to be seen to be believed.
The key issue the film brings to the surface is that once the ‘fracking’ starts, there are serious risks of water contamination. And, once the water is contaminated, bad things start happening to the people, animals and produce that depend on it. It really is quite frightening.
The film shows how, in the US, the gas companies had been supported by legislative change, voted in by the previous Bush/Cheney administration, allowing them to use certain chemicals without having to identify them publicly. Now, I understand that we are not in America, and I am no doubt not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to these issues, but with New South Wales and Queensland looking into natural gas extraction, it’s time we, the public, were given the facts.
The situations Josh Fox encounters in his film are tragic. He finds family after family hurt by the gas mining, and he is supported in his quest by the brave workers who risked themselves to provide chemical samples used in the fracking.
‘From the very moment I began with the project there was a lot of fear. I found myself having to play detective, to be a private eye. The workers who handed me the unidentified bottle showed unbelievable bravery; they were later threatened with physical violence. Even though they were anonymous, people knew who they were because they quit their jobs just after,’ Fox said.
It frightens me to think that what has happened in the US could happen here. So when Gasland opens in Australia tomorrow, I think it couldn’t be more timely.
Here’s hoping that Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is a little partial to documentaries herself.
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