Three Fracking Documentaries

Over the past month I’ve watched three documentaries about fracking–Gasland 1 (2010) & 2 (2013) and Fracknation (2013). Here are a few thoughts.

1) No single documentary tells the whole story. Even two is insufficient. And three… | Neither talked about the toxic waste that must be dealt with (see Michigan).

2) Every documentary maker can sell his or her side by only presenting supporting info, disregarding anything that counters or complicates the preferred views. | Fox (Gasland) only looks at people who have had wells fail. McAleer (Fracknation) disregards the stats of how many wells are known to fail. Each makes it sounds like they are 100 percent right.

3) I’m disappointed that both sides weren’t more forth-coming and open. | Fox should have acknowledged that methane has been in some wells before fracking started. McAleer should have acknowledged that some wells didn’t have methane until fracking started. | Also, Fox could have used a better prop for his “contract,” and McAleer should have realized the prop doesn’t matter; what matters is the truth of whether or not Fox received a bid for drilling (and this is a minor point, but media people making a big deal out of small points bothers me). | Fox didn’t note the many environmental guidelines that control fracking. McAleer didn’t note the exemptions from certain guidelines that fracking does enjoy.

4) Truth can be hard to find (see the cigarette industry’s extended efforts to confuse the public about the health risks of smoking). | McAleer’s summary at the end of Fracknation attempts to discount every aspect of Gasland, but he does this in too broad of strokes and without considering the info shown in Gasland 2, info he could have known before that film was released. Resorting to claims that Putin is behind the anti-fracking movement is mind-boggling.

5) Every source of energy has negative consequences. I think that was one of the most honest statements in the three films (from Gasland 1). | Fox looks at only the negatives of fracking, while McAleer only looks at the positives. Then McAleer shines a light on the negative aspects of other “clean” energy sources, ignoring the negative effects of fracking and other sources of energy like fossil fuels. We must admit that all energy sources have positives and negatives, and we need to do the hard work of honestly accounting for each. We know that only renewable energy will be with us moving forward; as far as we’re able, let us strive to invest in energy that is both clean and renewable. And let us reduce our power usage as much as possible, knowing that every source has negative aspects.

Filmmakers, I expect more of you!

Environmental Article Round-up

I haven’t posted ecological links in a long time, so my list has grown unruly. Here are some random bits and pieces for contemplation:

Environmental videos at See, Hear, SpeakLINK

Crazy Radical Environmental Fruit-Nuts

In the past month or so I’ve watched two very intriguing documentaries about environmental activists who go to prison for their actions. Readers of this blog know I advocate for nonviolent social action, and I just want to highlight that again in the context of these two films.

The first is If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (PBS, film website, Wikipedia, IMDB, DemocracyNow!) which follows the story of Daniel McGowan. As a member of the ELF, McGowan had participated in arson as a tactic for social and environmental change. The film simultaneously tells the ELF’s story and follows court proceedings against McGowan.

If a Tree Falls is compelling story-telling. It is a provocative look at the sociological, psychological, and political factors that radicalized the local environmental activist community. I appreciated that the filmmakers allowed the activists and the law enforcement personnel to be complex; they weren’t dumbed down to one-dimensional caricatures. These are complex issues with complex actors, and I value that this messiness was allowed to come through.

More recently, I watched Bidder 70, which looks at the actions of Tim DeChristopher relating to conservation and climate change (film website, organization, Facebook, IMBD, Peaceful Uprising). Rather than take a violent or destructive approach like McGowan, DeChristopher interfered with an auction of extraction rights by holding up his bidding number, 70.

I have a deep respect for people who find creative and meaningful ways to live our their values. I respect even more those who dedicate themselves to pursuing this integration of values and living in peaceful or nonviolent ways.

Reflection Questions

  1. Am I as committed to my values as these two young men are?
  2. To what degree have I integrated my values and actions? What holds me back from doing this more fully?
  3. What sacrifices am I willing to make to live what I believe and to promote my values?
  4. What role did community play in the lives of these two men? How did community influence them before, during and after the actions noted in these films?
  5. In the area of environmental activism, what is needed today? What issues, strategies and tactics are most important at this stage in world history?

BONUS

Want to find more films that address some of these same themes? Check out the follow twelve films on protest and social action:

  1. Encounter Point (2006, documentary)
  2. Budrus (2009, documentary)
  3. 5 Broken Cameras (2011, documentary)
  4. The Singing Revolution (2006, documentary)
  5. This Is What Democracy Looks Like (2000, documentary)
  6. Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008, documentary)
  7. Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest (2010, documentary)
  8. 180 South (2010, documentary)
  9. A Force More Powerful (1999, documentary)
  10. The Edukators (2004, movie)
  11. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2004, movie)
  12. Amazing Grace (2006, movie)

Friday Web Round-up

Economics

Human Rights

War, Peace & Social Change

Psychology

Environment

Religion: List

Random: List

Ashoka: Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility

While watching Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility today from Netflix, these two unrelated quotes stood out to me:

Time & Imagination (13:07)

In 1997, I and my wife, Mara, Decided to take a sabbatical. A year of learning, of traveling, of doing nothing…. At the end of this year…an idea came to create in Brazil Instituto Ethos for business and social responsibility. In fact, practically all the initiatives I’ve taken that have resulted in creating new endeavors, new organizations happened at times of doing absolutely nothing. One of the great risks today, with the issue of stress, with people not having time for themselves, with their full schedules, is that they don’t leave room in their minds. They don’t leave room for their imagination, for their creativity, for anything new to happen. It is essential for anyone who really wants to undertake new things and think about the meaning of things to leave room in their time, in their schedule, so that new things can come.

Personal Responsibility (43:55)

Whenever anyone says that the problem is too big to be solved by each one of us, that he feels to small and weak to change the world, I always say, “It doesn’t matter if you will be able to do those things, if they will have any consequence on the world. It is important that you do your part.” It is important that you do everything that must be done in your beliefs, because everything you do will reflect on future generations and will reflect on your children. And it’s awful if one day your child should come to you and say, “You knew the world was in danger. You knew the environment was being destroyed. You knew about social conditions. Why didn’t you do your part?” So it is very important to build an honorable life, a dignified life, and try to do things. Because one day you will have to evaluate your life, and when you have a positive balance, there is no better gratification.

For the Beauty…

Where are we? Steven Bouma-Prediger gives a six-part response to this question by considering Genesis chapter 1. Here are two of his conclusions (For the Beauty of the Earth, chapter 4):

Fourth, creation is good. As intended by God, creation is good. Indeed, it is very good (tob me’od), a judgment that connotes beauty and peace. The universe originates not out of struggle or battle or conflict, as portrayed in so many ancient creation stories, but through a seemingly effortless and struggle-free divine speaking and making. In contrast to other narratives, the biblical narrative testifies to an ontology of peace. Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh put this point especially well:

Rather than begin with conflict amongst the gods, the Scriptures begin with the effortless, joyous calling forth of creation by a sovereign Creator who enters into a relationship of intimacy with his creatures. Therefore creatureliness qua creatureliness is good…. This means that a biblial worldview will grant no ontological standing or priority to evil or violence. Indeed, violence is seen, in this worldview, as an illegitimate alien intruder into God’s good creation. In contrast to an ontology of violence, then, the Scriptures begin with an ontology of peace.[1]

We have, to use Wendell Berry’s phrase, a gift of good land.[2] Where are we? In a world where peace is primordial. (pp. 88-89)

– –

Sixth, the climax of creation is the Sabbath. Contrary to many readings of the story, the culmination comes not in the creation of humanity…on the sixth day; the climax is, rather, the seventh day. This very day is blessed and hallowed by God….

The Sabbath reminds us, among other things, that the world is in God’s loving hands and, therefore, will not fall to pieces if we cease from our work. As Walter Brueggemann contends: “The celebration of a day of rest was, then, the announcement of trust in this God who is confident enough to rest. It was then and is now an assertion that life does not depend upon our feverish activity of self-securing, but that there can be a pause in which life is given to us simply as a gift.”[3] Where, then, are we? On an earth not of our own making, blessed by God. (p. 89)

[1] Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 153.

[2] The Gift of Good Land (San Francisco: North Point, 1981).

[3] Genesis (Atlanta: John Knox, 1982), 35.

Love and Shopping

Recently, I’ve written two posts on living in such a way as to care for others–Love and Service and Now What?. In the latter article, I wrote this:

I bought chocolate before “enlightenment,” and I will buy it after, but now I look for the Fair Trade stamp of approval. I look for organic food because I know the workers weren’t subjected to pesticides and herbicides in the fields, and I know it is better for the planet.

I decided to write this follow-up post to clarify that I don’t mean to argue that “shopping well” is the central or defining characteristic of “living well.” Temporarily setting aside spiritual issues, this is inadequate even from purely environmental or societal perspectives. Consider the analysis of Annie Leonard in the short video, “The Story of Change.”

This is especially relevant at this time of year when millions of people are ramping up for Christmas binge shopping. For a different Christian perspective on this holiday, check out Advent Conspiracy:

And if you do feel the need to shop this Christmas, might one of these options fit the bill:

Recommended Reading (and viewing)

Here is your reading assignment for today:

Environment & Health:

Society & Culture & Life & Activism & Stuff:

Off-center Religion and Politics and Government:

Coffee:

Prana’s Wisdom:

Economics:

Selected Canadian Views on US Politics and Economy:

Against Democrats:

Against Republicans:

What’s an Independent to Do?

Random bits for the unemployed:

BONUS 1: Three Classic Articles on Christian Social Ethics

BONUS 2: I AM

Dirt!

Last night I watched Dirt!, a documentary that considers many perspectives on the uses for and value of dirt. Some parts felt far-fetched (e.g., I’m sure some other planets have dirt; we’ve analyzed so few to know), but most parts were thought-provoking. Even some sections that seemed pointless (paving dirt on the Indian floor every day) actually speak to ways of life that I believe will outlast modern industrial farming and all that goes with it.

You can watch it on Hulu for free or stream it “instantly” on Netflix.

Some of the topics in the film reminded me of three articles I’ve read recently:

Thoughtful Bits on a Screen

In the past week or so, I’ve watched the following:

(1) Budrus. “The film is about non-violent demonstrations conducted by the residents of Budrus (a Palestinian town in the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate) during the early 2000s to protest against the building of the Israeli West Bank barrier inside of the village” (Wiki).

(2) No Impact Man. “The film, which premiered September 4, 2009, follows Colin Beavan and his family during their year-long experiment to have sustainable zero impact on the environment” (Wiki).


(3) Finding Your Roots — Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons. “The ancestral pasts of actor Samuel L. Jackson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Brown University President Ruth Simmons.” My wife thinks there’s a chance I’m related to one of the three. You can infer how that would work.