Environmentalists lose a lot. But Josh Fox's 2010 documentary Gasland, which examined the dangers of the natural-gas drilling technique known as fracking, was a winner. In addition to a host of awards, Fox won the environmental battle in his own backyard: in 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in New York. The film—particularly the scene in which a homeowner sets fire to the water coming out of his tap—arguably mobilized the antifracking movement more than any newspaper article or nonprofit's study.
Fox was last in North Carolina in 2013, to screen the follow-up, Gasland 2, at the Carolina Theatre. He returns this week with his latest film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change.
The premise is grim: the disastrous effects of climate change are likely unstoppable. From this, Fox attempts to draw a sort of fatalistic wisdom. As he says, "What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?"
We called Fox ahead of this Tuesday's screening of the film at the N.C. State Talley Student Center-State Ballroom Auditorium in Raleigh.
INDY: Do you see this film as connected to Gasland in any way?
Josh Fox: Yeah, I see it as kind of a third part of the Gasland trilogy, but about broader subjects. It's about how late we are in addressing the issue of climate change and how science is telling us in many different ways that it's too late to stave off some of the worst things we think about when we think about climate change. And how depressing that is, and how it's easy to get caught in a cycle of denial and despair about that. The film attempts to come out the other side.
What are some of these discouraging facts you refer to?
We've already warmed the earth by about one degree Celsius. That maybe doesn't sound like much, but think about your freezer at home. One degree is all that separates all the food in there from spoiling and melting. And that's what's happening on Earth. With all the methane and CO2 that we continue to put into the atmosphere, we've already got another half-degree increase on the way. If the Earth warmed two degrees—and projections vary, but we could get there in the next few decades—that would bring on five to nine meters of sea-level rise. At that point, you've got droughts, floods, refugee crises, the Greenland ice sheet melting. Basically, massive global upheaval in the not-so-distant future.
That's very depressing.
It's extraordinarily depressing.
So the film looks at the cultural and moral values that led us to here. And that's a society based on greed and competition.
The film highlights the other side of that: people across the globe in dire situations with respect to climate change who never quit. It takes you to the Amazon to work alongside indigenous environmental monitors who go twelve miles into the jungle to check on oil spills nobody is reporting on. And human rights defenders in China who are at risk of being imprisoned. And the Action Center in the Rockaways that rebuilt the Rockaways in New York after Hurricane Sandy.
Did you know Republicans in North Carolina's legislature recently opened us up to fracking?
Yeah, we did a screening in Durham in 2013, and one of the reasons for the tour was to support local grassroots groups who are fighting these battles. Obviously, you just won a major battle against offshore drilling on the coast.
But in North Carolina, I think there's a double whammy. There's all the toxic effects of opening fracking: air pollution, threats to the water supply—fracking should not be allowed anywhere near drinking water. But also there's sea-level rise in the coastal areas. And again that's part of what our goal is for this tour, to talk with local groups about how to deal with the threats of fracking and climate change. Grassroots organizations are the only way to effectively deal with these problems.
So what's next?
I think 2016 is really crucial. We've got three hundred fracked-gas power plants being proposed in the U.S. That means thirty or forty more years of being dependent on plants that leak methane into the atmosphere. Those absolutely have to be stopped. And that's a major priority for us—to work on those local battles across America and connect people together.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Inconvenient Truths"