Josh Fox: Activist and filmmaker
A year after receiving an Oscar nod for 'Gasland,' the documentarian is preparing to take on the fossil fuel industry again in a sequel film.
Wed, May 02, 2012 at 01:29 AM
AWARD WINNER: Josh Fox accepts the Special Jury Prize - Documentary for the movie 'Gasland' at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival awards in January 2010. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Two years ago, Josh Fox brought worldwide attention to the energy crisis with his documentary “Gasland,” earning an Academy Award nomination for his efforts.
Now the activist and filmmaker is working on a sequel, “Gasland 2,” that will address “methane emissions and climate change, the internationalization of the issue, and another layer of contamination — the contamination in our government.”
Fox became astutely aware of the fossil fuel industry’s impact on the environment when it literally landed in his backyard: a gas company offered to lease his property in the Delaware River basin in Pennsylvania so it could extract natural gas via the controversial “fracking” method.
Knowing that the area is a watershed that feeds the water systems of cities like New York and Philadelphia, Fox understood how important it was to protect it. The film “Gasland” was born of that need to protect the watershed, as well as something he describes as “a fundamental human impulse to contribute to the dialogue in society, community and civilization and participate in the betterment of humanity.”
“I don’t believe we’re only motivated by our own self-interests,” he tells MNN. “Often out of crisis comes this enormous wellspring of generosity and motivation. As a documentarian I’ve been witness to that effort and what I’ve tried to do is bring that impulse out into the film.”
To have something that was intended to have local impact wind up nominated for an Oscar and be seen by millions of people in 30 countries leaves Fox honored, amazed and gratified that he’s been able to expose information about fracking and gas drilling and tell personal stories about people that have been affected by these practices.
“I think ‘Gasland’ is the doorway for a lot of people to see something happening in their backyard and realize the national and global implications,” says Fox, who will continue to examine these issues in “Gasland 2.”
“We’re looking at the way in which the fossil fuel industry has attacked the fundamentals of our democracy and spends enormous amounts of money trying to undermine the citizens’ voice in Albany, Sacramento, Washington and all across the nation,” he says. “There are a lot of topics to be investigated. Every single dollar spent lobbying a legislator on behalf of oil and gas is a toxic dollar that undermines public health and safety laws that protect Americans. That’s contamination of the political system.”
In addition to working on “Gasland 2,” Fox is preparing a dramatic film adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People.” He also tells MNN that speaking engagements and grassroots organizing has “become a full-time job.”
“I think the biggest issue facing our world right now is making the transition away from fossil fuels before we head into a disastrous situation of runaway climate change,” he says. “Unfortunately, the oil, coal and gas industries and their unprecedented greed and capacity to fight dirty stand in the way, suppressing new technology and obstructing progress in a way that’s unnatural for our society. But whenever you see a big greedy gas company try to pull a fast one you’re going to encounter another force of will, which is an internal mechanism for justice and change.”
He says he’s all for individuals doing things like unplugging electronics to stem “vampire” power load, buying power from renewable solar or wind sources, installing solar roof panels, and driving and flying less. He’s even looking into a new bio-digestion system that turns food waste into gas for the kitchen stove. “But if you spend all your time obsessing about turning your lights off and no time at all in the political process, you’re kidding yourself,” Fox says.
“We need policy change, and the most important thing people can do is to contribute and participate in the political process. We have to vote climate change deniers and people who will create subsidies for the fossil fuel industry out of office. We have to protest when bad decisions are being made about fracking or tar sands. That is the most valuable thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.”
Fox points out that the environmental laws enacted under Richard Nixon were adopted because of public pressure, and is dismayed by “the distressing signs in the Obama administration that we’re walking backward on a lot of crucial policies that they pioneered in the first few years, since it’s an election year.”
Nevertheless, Fox says we’d be better off environmentally if Obama remains in office. “But we have to take back our power and create sources of renewable energy. We have to campaign for that and take back our political power and show the fossil fuel industry that we care about this. We are in a calamity right now when it comes to onshore and offshore drilling and we’re heading into serious problems with climate change and that will be a major issue for Americans going forward. Power comes from the bottom up and we have to participate.”
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