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Fracking in Baldwin Hills & the enduring power of film

Baldwin Hills, including the oil field, from above.
Baldwin Hills, including the oil field, from above.
Baldwin Hills Conservancy/Flickr

The film Gasland came up a lot last night, when I went to the Knox Presbyterian Church in Baldwin Hills, to cover a meeting about a new study on fracking released by PXP…so I tweeted about that. (Today, I talked abotu fracking on Take Two, with Alex Cohen.)

It’s a movie that a guy named Josh Fox made a couple of years ago. It’s about fracking, particularly in Fox’s home state of Pennsylvania.


Fox has won praise from reviewers and attention from media outlets for it. Gasland got nominated for an Oscar, it won a special Jury prize at Sundance, and actor Mark Ruffalo loves it, despite the fact that it apparently got him added to a terrorism watch list

Fox went on to do a shorter film, “The Sky is Pink,” addressing a New York state battle over fracking. (He’s working on Gasland 2, as well.)


THE SKY IS PINK by Josh Fox and the GASLAND Team from JFOX on Vimeo.

I got this tweet in response last night, when I commented about Fox’s film.

Counterspill is probably right that not enough accurate coverage is out there. Still, I think Gasland is enormously persuasive toward the conclusion to which Josh Fox comes before the film even begins. It is, yes, rooted in fact. But it’s helpful to remember that it’s a piece of persuasion.

In a non-creepy way, it reminded me a lot of the exercises we did in law school when I was a baby 1L, learning how to write a statement of facts. Back then, I wasn’t good at writing up facts either as a lawyer or as a reporter; I was probably more of a blowhard, since I just wrote up all the facts….but stylishly. That’s not what you do in a legal argument: you streamline the facts toward the conclusion you wish a judge or jury to reach.

Maybe that’s why it seems the film’s lasting impact really is the way it has galvanized anti-fracking movements around the country, particularly in the northeast, but also here in California. It’s clearly energizing people who live near fracking operations to ask questions that haven’t been asked before. But in terms of facts? It’s not the alpha and omega. Anyway, for what it’s worth, a movie I liked a lot about fracking that came out the same year as Gasland was Split Estate


It too is a cautionary tale about fracking, but its makers had less of a polemic in mind when they made it, I think. It’s a little more laid back in how it portrays the people with whom it spends time, and the economic complexities of the choices those people make. The reason I liked it better? It gave me more to do. It made me curious, and it made me want to make my own mind up. (Someday. I haven't gotten there yet.)