Recently our local movie night screened the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland. Going in, I had an extremely vague notion of what the movie was about–natural gas drilling and how it had some kind of negative effect on the environment. Sounds like a snooze-fest, right? But I like the crowd who hang out at movie night, so I went along anyway.
The movie follows Josh Fox, a guy who gets an offer from a natural gas company to lease his family’s land in Pennsylvania for $100,000. The gas company is interested in the land because it lies on a deep pocket of natural gas, which can be extracted using a process where water and chemicals are pumped deep underground. The extraction process is known as fracking, and the movie basically follows him as he travels around the USA, visiting communities that have experienced this process. He wants to answer the question, Is this fracking really a good idea?
Okay, I didn’t expect that fracking would turn out to be a good thing, but nothing prepared me for the horror show that followed. The second half of the movie was one grueling story after another. They all went something like this: The gas companies came in, they pumped tens of thousands of pounds of toxins into the land. Wells were poisoned, animals died, people started to get sick. The gas companies denied all responsibility, by law they didn’t even have to reveal the names of the chemicals that these people were drinking and breathing in on a daily basis.
I felt so bad for all the bewildered people I saw on the screen. I could feel their pain so hard, my heart hurt. They had been poisoned by VOCs and heavy metals, their health bought off for a sack of cash, and now they were going to have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Hearing about the neuropathy, the headaches, the digestive and sensory problems, I kept thinking, This is just the tip of the iceberg. If this is what one man uncovered for one documentary, then this has got to be a mass poisoning of epic proportions. This country is so screwed.
Sitting there in the dark, quietly swiping at the tears with my sleeve, it churned through my gut, what this all really meant. For each poisoned person appearing in a 30-second snippet, I could imagine the countless others suffering off-camera. I could imagine in vivid detail how their dramas would unfold. The frustrating doctor’s appointments, the mysterious pains, the increasing mobility issues, the fatigue, the anger, the brain fog, the trudge through a sick day that turns out to be the beginning of a sick year.
It’s scary. The questions raised are so big, I don’t know yet what the answers are. I know it’s important to detox. I know it’s important to chelate. But cleaning up after the fact may not be enough here. Something has got to be done to turn off the toxic tap. It can’t go on. This poisoning has got to stop.