Standing on shattered ground

The Zoot Pictures Inc. and CBC co-produced documentary ‘Shattered Ground’ explains the science behind the controversial method of natural gas extraction – hydraulic fracturing – and depicts the lives of individuals and communities impacted by its consequences.

“What would it take for you to walk away from your home?’ asks the Mayor of a Texas town dotted with natural gas fracking wells. For him, the breaking point was when his son suffered a series of severe nosebleeds. For others in Shattered Ground, the notion of home as haven was lost when drinking water was contaminated, when a well exploded in the middle of the night, and when, despite community protests, a corporation constructed yet another well.

Shattered Ground, narrated by David Suzuki, first aired on The Nature of Things in February. It provides a timely and accessible entry point to the world of hydraulic fracturing, briefly outlining the fracking process before focusing on four issues: well location, water quality, exploration, and well design.

While natural gas burns cleaner that other fuels, the extraction process is dirty. Among the people featured in the documentary – who range from a pioneer in fracking technology, to the executive of a fracking company, to a mother of four – there is consensus that measures need to be taken to rein in the gold rush mentality in the fracking industry. The proposed solutions differ widely. Some states have banned fracking outright, others are increasing regulation, while others continue full steam ahead.

Fracking is a front burner issue. On Newfoundland’s west coast, Shoal Point Energy Ltd. and Black Spruce Exploration aim to drill 12 exploration wells. Under community pressure, Cape Breton’s Inverness County council passed an anti-fracking by-law in May. And last month, 30 peaceful protestors were arrested in Kent County, New Brunswick for blocking road access to seismic testing operations.

On July 16, the St. John’s chapter of Cinema Politica is holding a free public screening of Shattered Ground, 7 p.m., Memorial University, Arts and Administration Building, Room 1046. All are invited to attend to learn about and discuss how fracking could affect Newfoundland and Labrador.

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