Review: Josh Fox’s New Movie – The Sky Is Pink

I just watched Josh Fox’s June 2012 short film (URL at end) about fierce lobbying by the oil and gas fracking industries to open up the New York City watershed to high pressure gas extraction.

Using both personal and scientific arguments, presented in a powerful, silent and emotional voice, Josh shows us how these industries spend millions on public relations and “lobbying” that some might think sounds a bit like a bribe, to convince the public. Americans to be entrusted with the power to pollute our lands and water sources for short-term financial gain.

The risks, in brief

The hydraulic fracturing process introduces a fiercely toxic chemical cocktail into the soil. All of these chemicals must travel, under pressure, through crumbling rock and through the layers from which we get our water, through unreliable and possibly short-lived concrete liners with steel liners. Each well requires millions of gallons of water to complete, much of which is then permanently turned into toxic waste. Some of this is carried by road, but in many areas it is cheaper to leave it on the ground under our feet. And they do.

Long-term losses.

I grew up in central New York, in Madison County, a region of small farms and towns, areas badly affected by the recent financial crises. People are afraid of the future, and the offer of thousands of dollars for the rights to lease their underutilized farmland must seem like manna from heaven if you are about to lose your home.

But in the medium term, leasing companies will ensure that these homes will be worse than lost. If we don’t stop fracking, we will lose our landscape due to disgusting and poorly regulated industrial development, and we will lose clean water and air. We will even make the rock toxic. None of these bodes well for the health or happiness of our children and their descendants.

If you’re not furious yet, here’s one last point: why are these companies willing to pay so much for leases? The answer is this: they are securing a portion of our future earnings. As long as we depend on fossil fuels, each family has to pay the price demanded by the industry. Every year this increases. In the UK, gas prices have risen 40% in three years.

My hometown

As a child I played in the Marcellus Shale. I learned firsthand how it crumbles and fractures, houses fossils and secrets. The fresh drinking water came from shallow wells because the impermeable shale is only a few meters deep underground. Deep snow falls here. Meltwater runs off the hills, soaks into the upper layers of the soil, and runs off the shale surface into rivers, streams, and lakes that feed livestock, crops, and families.

I grew up in Madison County, north and west of the area they’re talking about in this new movie. But look at the map of the 2010 leases that are already being considered or organized for that year, in my home county.

Notice how, by 2010, the threats this film analyzes had already crept north from Pennsylvania, where, unlike New York, until now, regulations and controls have limited their reach to some degree. And especially be aware of wells that are already marked as “abandoned,” a concern when Josh and his experts show us in this movie that it is possible or even likely that 50% of new wells will fail thirty years from now.

PR and the sky is pink: a historical perspective

In 1926, the great American political reformer Upton Sinclair published a novel, Petroleum!, about the oil industry and how it, and financial institutions, took control of the media and politics of the time to drive oil development around the world. It is a fascinating, comprehensive and surprisingly modern book that reveals how Americans were persuaded to choose those who only had their own interests at heart. These interests became increasingly powerful as the century progressed. It is arguable that they are now even more powerful.

Sinclair was not one of the easy answers. He wrote at a time of great political upheaval around the world, and while he was sympathetic to reform, he was alert to propaganda and human weakness, whatever its origin.

Misinformation and misinformation is one of the main tools of power. As Josh shows in this new movie, today this pro-fracking crusade has been turned in for management in the hands of public relations professionals. In an almost incredible irony of history, we learn that these hands belong to the same professionals who told us for years that tobacco was harmless, while hiding internal notes that proved otherwise.

Later shows us some internal memos of the gas companies.

If this new movie doesn’t put ice in your cocktail, I don’t know what will. Look at it, consider it, and if you feel like it, get involved in standing up to this threat before it literally undermines our future.

Watch it now: The Sky Is Pink

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