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Gasland Movie Essay

The documentary film “Gasland” made by Josh Fox narrates the story of environmental degradation in the USA and its reasons. In particular, the author conducted his own investigation across the country in order to find out whether the grim rumors concerning the hydraulic fracturing were true. The film provides experts’ opinions, witnesses’ recollections and calculations based on observations in order to show that the matter is serious and it must be confronted as soon as possible. It also employed emotional appeals (like love for Nature and desire to be healthy and happy) to peoples values and code of ethics in order to cause a resentment and disgust concerning the terrible things which some people deliberately make.

The author uses the technique of vivid imagery to enhance his argument – each event, location or technological process which could be unknown to its audience and therefore – hinder to view the film without constant interruptions for respective inquiry – were explained. It has a lot of strong points and only a heartless or a mad person cannot be convinced by this film. As for me, several aspects of this film convinced me that “fracking” is a very dangerous practice and that it should be prohibited. First of all, the film is the result of a natural suspicion which everyone would experience if he or she suddenly received such a tempting proposal. Second of all, it is filled with testimonies of victims of “fracking” and evidences given by experts in the field of environmental protection, chemistry and so forth. Fox even managed to get the insider information from whistleblowers from institutions which were supposed to regulate the problem in question. And finally, it is clear that Fox had no commercial interest in making this film and that purely ethical reasons forced him to make this research and present it to others.

First body paragraph
From the very beginning any viewer can get the feeling that it is full of mysteries or even conspiracies. It starts from short glimpses at the beauty of local nature to attract attention of its audience. Then those images are abruptly ended with some court hearing where apparently representatives of gas companies defend their new method of gas mining which is hydraulic fracturing. At first, Josh Fox (the author of the film) seems to be hesitating about what is the best place to start his narration. He decided to provide some official information and then check if all that stuff was true. “Marcellus Shale was the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” according to one of such official statements and it was presented as a life buoy for the country which is one of the biggest consumers of fuel (Fox, 2010). However, that remains to be seen whether it was the U.S. blessing or its biggest curse. “What would it mean if the United States and the rest of the world adopted natural gas as the fuel of the future?” (Fox, 2010). That answer is what this film is trying to find.

Second body paragraph
Gas supplies in America are considered to be so rich that they are often compared to a “virtual ocean of natural gas”. That expression belongs to “some experts” which the mentioned representatives and consultants of gas companies keep referring to convince judges, government and the entire nation that their hands are clean, that they did not do anything bad and that their only aim was to make the country (as well as its people) independent of natural gas import and instead of buying fuel from other countries – extract gas at home. Such argumentation is aimed at deceiving common people that it is not a bad idea and that everybody will only win from it – fuel prices will fall or at least stabilize while average income in the USA will increase. What is there not to like? Such representatives provide results of some probably non-existent or forged researches which claim that “fracking” is beneficial not only to economy, but to environment as well. At the same time they easily refute any counter argument providing no evidence at all as if it was an indisputable fact.

Third body paragraph
It all started in 2009 when Josh received a letter with a “lucrative offer” to sell Fox’s house for approximately 100,000 dollars or to rent part of his territory for rather “generous reward”. He describes that he was quite surprised to get such an offer and decided to find out what was going on in those neighborhoods where the same method of gas extracting (fracking) has been already used. Fox went to the closest area called Dimock in Pennsylvania where such wells were already drilled. It was “a small place with no major highways. A place where you could easily forget the world, forget yourself, disappear completely. I was going there because I’ve heard a lot of complaints and because I’ve heard the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had said that everything was going fine” (Fox, 2010). He found that water in such areas was no longer fresh since it was mixed with natural gas and in some cases the percentage of gas was so high that water could catch on fire if some source of fire was near. People suffered from stomach disorders, their pets and other animals were losing hair and in one case an entire well exploded. Fox also calculated that each well was used for several (around 4 to 5) times and that each of such wells required approximately of 1 billion gallons of water mixed with chemicals. Moreover, only half of that water was turning back which means that the rest remained under the surface literally poisoning the land (Fox, 2010). Representatives of respective companies denied the negative effect they had on environment, but at the same time none of them was brave enough to taste the water from local wells. Later on Fox discovered that gas companies decided to extract gas from people’s wells since it was too obvious that a lot of natural gas came out of them. Fox wanted to find out whether the Dimock case was a rule or an exception. It turned out to be a rule and that meant that 34 states were overshadowed by the incoming doom.

Fourth body paragraph
One can easily notice the “atmosphere” of the film. It is rather gloomy and kind of “retrospective” because the narration starts as an old legend which was documented on amateurish video. Perhaps that was made on purpose in order to emphasize the fact that this film was not ordered by some competitor, but was created to show the real state of affairs in the USA in terms of environmental pollution. It is true that Fox uses a lot of emotional appeals during the film to share not only the facts, but also his feelings too. At the beginning of the film he said: “I am not a pessimist. I’ve always had a great deal of faith in people. That we would not succumb to frenzy or rage or greed. That we will figure out the solution without destroying the things that we love” (Fox, 2010). This particular phrase shows that he as most people are – an optimist, but sad and even frightening reality made him review his former beliefs. Closer to the end of the film Josh Fox literally cried near some contaminated spring: “I had tried to keep anger and sorrow and pain, but the moment I knelt down at the wide creek looked upspring and noticed the band it reminded me of home and I broke apart” (Fox, 2010). It is obvious though that he did not wanted to use that as a manipulative tool, he just wanted to stress how much he cared about the problem in question.

Fifth body paragraph
Fox uses emotional appeals like “we should preserve the things that we love” in order to enhance his point. I do not think that that is a manipulative move because this film’s aim is not to manipulate, but to make people review their lifestyles, behavior (like consumerism) and principles by looking closely at the consequent problems. One must understand that we all contribute to that problem. Besides, it must be said that manipulation is a hidden influence the aim of which is to make a person to do something which that person would never do at its own will. In case with this film however, audience perfectly knows the goal of it and it is not resentful to its viewers. Persuasion and manipulation are not the same things although they are often confused. Music often does not correspond to images shown in the film. The author must have used that trick in order not only show the woes which were happening to Nature, but to highlight the incompatibility of the idea of happy life with our present lifestyle. If people continue to live their lives ignoring this problem then there would be no future for entire human race. Our civilization is already declining since people do nothing to stop that madness.

Sixth body paragraph
While watching this film one might wonder why all that happened in the first place or why those people (cowboys and farmers) sold or leased their land to such “monsters”. The answer however, is quite simple. An attentive viewer could easily notice the way those people were dressed, what cars or houses they had in order to deduce that all of them are not representatives of the middle class which America is so proud of. On the contrary, most if not all of them could be referred to as representatives of the “lower middle class” whose income is not that big to refuse from “rather lucrative suggestions” which Fox mentioned at the beginning of the film. And the same could be said about the workers who work at corporations like Halliburton to make money for their families even at the expense of their own health since chemical burns are only some of the health-related problems which people exposed to “fracturing fluids” experience. The latter ranges from headaches, dizziness and stomach problems to burnt lungs and brain tumors (Fox, 2010). People who lived close to such wells for too long had an irreversible brain damage and lost some of their senses. Such people “do not have plans for the future, they only care about how to get through another day” of such living (Fox, 2010).

The film ends featuring windmills which generate electricity hinting that there is a way out. It also means that energy-related problems can be solved if only alternative sources of energy are employed. However, the same could not be said about our nature. It will take hundreds of generations to “heal” our planet from the impact of hydraulic fracturing and the like practices, but what is even worse is that there is a possibility that such type of mining can spread around the world and that would mark the end of human civilization on Earth. “I don’t know what is going to happen about the rest of the United States. I guess a large part of that is gets up to you. One thing I found deep inside is a love for this whole country” (Fox, 2010). I was definitely convinced by the author of this film that something had to be done immediately because sooner or later that same problem will hit the rest of the U.S. and the world as well.

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Dec 11, 2013