Josh Fox didn't set out to be a documentary filmmaker. And in 2008, when Fox was canvasing for Barack Obama, hydraulic fracturing meant nothing to him. Things changed when Fox’s parents were offered nearly $100,000 to lease their Pennsylvania land for drilling rights. After seeing people light their contaminated well water on fire, Fox made a film called Gasland, which explores the impact of hydraulic fracturing on everyday Americans. It showcased at Sundance in 2010.
Alec Baldwin: I'm Alec Baldwin and this is Here's the Thing from WNYC radio. My guest, Josh Fox, didn't set out to be Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker. His family happens to own a house in Milanville, Pennsylvania in the upper Delaware Valley. He tells about what happened there in his film.
Josh Fox: "The house was built in 1972 when I was born. My parents and their hippie friends built it and my family and my brothers and sisters and I. It grew pretty much the same way I did, little by little. There's a stream that runs down the property, connects to the Delaware River. I've been learning more and more about how water is all connected."
Alec Baldwin: That house happens to sit upon a joint deposit of sedimentary rock known as the Marcellus shale. In that shale are tiny bubbles of natural gas and one day a natural gas company offered Josh's family a lot of money in exchange for drilling rights.
Josh Fox: "I could lease my land to this company and I would receive a signing bonus of $4,750.00 an acre. Having 19.5 acres that was nearly $100,000.00 right there in my hand. Could it be that easy?"
Alec Baldwin: Josh's film, Gasland, is about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a process of extracting natural gas from rock using pressure, water, sand, and chemicals. The environmental impacts of fracking can include contamination of ground water, depletion of fresh water, and risk to air quality, all of which have long term effects on human health.
Gasland introduces us to people whose daily lives have been impacted by fracking. People like Pat Farnelli, who says there were days when four of her kids were out sick from school. Farnelli takes a stand for a community of Dimock, Pennsylvania and the pressures put on it by companies like Cabot Oil and Gas.
Female: "Everywhere there's a gap in the trees there's a well. There's like ten. Sometimes it bubbles and hisses when it comes out, so I highly recommend that you don't."
Josh Fox: "Is your water, you drink it?"
Female: "I won't drink it. When Cabot and them came in to get the water and they were telling me it was okay to drink I said, 'Well, here. Go ahead and drink it,' and they wouldn't drink it."
Alec Baldwin: In the interest of full disclosure. I've met Josh Fox before and I'm a supporter of the anti-fracking movement. We've appeared on panels together.
In his first film Gasland, Fox explored the long term damage posed by fracking. In Gasland Part II, he details the fracking industries attempts to undermine the growing anti-fracking movement. Josh Fox is one of the most prominent, public critics of fracking, though his background may come as a bit of a surprise.
Josh Fox: I had founded a company in 1996 in Thailand called The International Wow Company. I was taken there for an avant-garde theater festival right after I graduated out of college and then split with this American company and I developed this relationship with actors in Thailand that I was fascinated with and we made a play and that play ended up touring all over the country.
And I said, 'Let's keep this going and we'll develop international exchange between artists from all these different countries,' and it actually worked. I was doing projects, working with actors, learning about their lives in different countries and I did a lot of work in Southeast Asia and in Japan and in India and Indonesia, Germany, France, and I was making new plays based on people's lives. So in a way it was a documentary type of undertaking.
Alec Baldwin: Where'd you grow up?
Josh Fox: In Pennsylvania and then later in New York City.
Alec Baldwin: Is your family in the business, your mother and father, either –
Josh Fox: No. My father is a child of holocaust survivors. Went to City College when it was free, so did my mom and –
Alec Baldwin: What did he do?
Josh Fox: They're both shrinks.
Alec Baldwin: Of course they are. Of course they are.
Josh Fox: In different ways. My dad deals with developmental psychology for kids and my mother does – had a private practice and then started to work with –
Alec Baldwin: Of course you're spending your life pulling the covers on other people because your parents were shrinks.
Josh Fox: Well, and they're both crazy, so – but they're wonderful.
Alec Baldwin: Lovably so.
Josh Fox: Yeah. Well, wonderful, intellectual, caring people who built this house in the year that I was born.
Alec Baldwin: What was their connection to that area?
Josh Fox: At some point in time in the past my dad was introduced to that area because he's a folk singer. His heroes were Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and Dave Van Ronk. He was playing I think this Jewish summer camp circuit and my mother – seriously.
There are pictures of him and there are all those summer camps right there. So he knew the area. My mother is the flip side from – an Italian immigrant family. She was born in New York City. My dad was born in Kazakhstan when his family was fleeing Poland and fleeing the Nazis and he was born on the road. Eventually landed in Pittsburgh and then moved from Pittsburgh to, I think, the Bronx. So –
Alec Baldwin: Do you have any siblings?
Josh Fox: I have two younger siblings, my brother, Alex, who lives in Los Angeles, and my sister, Oriana, who lives in London.
Alec Baldwin: Are either of them in the business at all?
Josh Fox: My brother's an actor. He's a wonderful actor and my sister is a visual artist and painter and filmmaker who does these incredible pieces – film pieces – about her life and about the history of feminist art and so yeah. We all have a chip on our shoulder I think because we had – I won't go into so specifically – but we did have a rough time during childhood because the family did break apart and things happen, but the house has been really the only consistent home for my whole life.
And I always thought of it as my twin, because it was born at the same time and every time I knew I had a brother or sister they would add another room and it was just make it up as you go along type of thing.
Alec Baldwin: Where did you go to high school?
Josh Fox: I went to high school actually right down the block from here.
Alec Baldwin: Where?
Josh Fox: Columbia Prep.
Alec Baldwin: During that time that you were in high school, you were at Columbia Prep, was it theater and film and media and things that interested you? What were you like then?
Josh Fox: Well, I had been in public school and I was doing really poorly. I was getting into fights every day and failing and my family was at a really rough moment when my parents were broken up and everybody was losing their minds. I was in a public school called Wagner Junior High School where there was 2,000 kids and they were all between 7th and 8th and 9th grade.
There was the option there to go to this private school and when I showed up there I was like, 'Well, what happens here?' I was amazed that there were actually teachers who were caring and wanted to educate me and I ate it up like crazy. I took more history classes than any person in that school had ever taken. I became very, very active in learning about the world and that was an amazing lucky thing to have happen, the education that I received there.
Alec Baldwin: And then college, you went to Columbia?
Josh Fox: No. I went to Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio for two years and I couldn't stand the weather. It's just gray in Ohio.
Alec Baldwin: What did you study?
Josh Fox: Theater. I went for theater and I spent – I've always had this competing interest in theater and music. I played drums in a band that was in CBGB's, played ska in New York City and I always didn't know if I was gonna do music or I was gonna do theater. At that time I was acting. So I went to Oberlin. My stepbrother, who was a year ahead of me in school, had also gone to Oberlin. I visited him for a weekend and I just saw this incredible place and I fell in love with it, but then realized that the sun doesn't come out in northeast Ohio between October and May.
I was done with book learning for a while. I left to do something else. I wanted to be in the theater and to me the theater was always the place where you could explore the ideas of justice. There's really two kinds of plays. There's comedy and they're about love and there's drama and that's about justice, and specifically what I learned was that there is no great play that isn't about specifically the politics of its time from Macbeth to Death of a Salesman. They're always concerned with this particular political situation at that moment if you go back and research them.
So to me there was something in working in drama that was always relevant about this, whatever was happening right now, and I'd be very, very frustrated going to that theater seeing things that weren't relevant, seeing things that weren't about the collision of the human experience and the human spirit with the moment right now. Like it felt like in the theater it had to be about right now.
Alec Baldwin: So what kinds of things did you do initially that spoke to that?
Josh Fox: Well, I did a play called Hurlyburly by David Rabe. This was 1992. It was the first – it was the second play I ever directed. The first one was Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and we actually ended up, weirdly enough, premiering it on the same night as the L.A. riots started. And we had been inhabited this depraved Los Angeles world in Ohio and then all of a sudden L.A. was everywhere on the news and it was a moment in time when we were performing this play and all these – we had – it was sold out like this and everybody came in and we were seeing all these incredibly violent images.
And it wasn't that it had anything to do with the L.A. riots, but it was this feeling that you got that you could commune with some sensibility of culture that was in the air and I think that made me aware of the power of what can happen when everyone's in one room together watching something that is reflective of what's happening right now.
Alec Baldwin: And then when did you think that picking up a camera and making a film was the next inevitable step for you? Josh Fox: Well, in the theater the thing just goes away. So I would obsessively video tape all my plays and try to do it in a way that you could actually watch it and an advisor...
Alec Baldwin: I disagree with you. I don't think it necessarily goes away.
Josh Fox: Well, no. It never goes away.
Alec Baldwin: Well, in the sense that I have people who their memories of some of the theater they've seen are greater than the films they've seen.
Josh Fox: Well, I think the impact is less wide, but it's more deep.
Alec Baldwin: It's not memorialized, but it's – but the people do remember.
Josh Fox: Well, when you have to apply for grants to make a living you gotta tape your plays.
Alec Baldwin: Done.
Josh Fox: So I got really fascinated with how this could work with cameras and I did have a video camera and a friend of mine named Morgan Jenness, who was Joe Papp's literary advisor for ten years at the Public Theater, she saw me up there and she goes, 'Did you ever think about making a movie?' And I said, 'Yeah, but not really. It's too complicated. You have to plan everything and I don't like planning things.'
Alec Baldwin: It's difficult.
Josh Fox: I don't like planning every shot. If I'm making a play I'm in the room with new people –
Alec Baldwin: Gotta be a certain kind of person to do that job.
Josh Fox: Well, there are other ways to make movies, but I didn't know that they existed. John Cassavetes used to just get his actors together with a script and then they would go and they would improvise and they would cut and they would improvise. There was way – there are other ways – Mike Leigh does the same thing that there's an improvisational backdrop to their working process.
But then she said, 'Well, why don't you propose something to Jim McKay, who's a friend of mine who's a great filmmaker and his partner Michael Stipe,' and I proposed to make a film of a play that I directed about –
Alec Baldwin: Now you knew them from where?
Josh Fox: I didn't know them. She knew them.
Alec Baldwin: How old were you then?
Josh Fox: That was when I was 33 or something like that, 32. So –
Alec Baldwin: So it was pretty much theater acting up until then and music.
Josh Fox: Well, I was the director. I was – I –
Alec Baldwin: Directing, acting.
Josh Fox: I stopped acting altogether.
Alec Baldwin: You stopped acting. You just were directing theater only?
Josh Fox: Actors are very particular people who never stop being on fire if you know what I mean. I just wanted to see and develop a vision of some kind of a work, so I developed a film called Memorial Day because I had this insane experience on a Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City, Maryland. Ocean City, Maryland being like a beach town where everyone just goes mad on this spring break Memorial Day weekend and I was there Memorial Day weekend 2004, four weeks after the Abu Ghraib pictures came out in the media and this is a holiday that's supposed to be about the victims of war, the cost of war, our soldiers, and also the –
Alec Baldwin: Honor.
Josh Fox: Yeah, but I'm sitting here watching bbqs and wet t-shirt contests and people vomiting on the beach and weird, incredibly aggressive –
Alec Baldwin: Yeah. This is what the troops died for.
Josh Fox: I was just in this weird place of being so obsessed with these photographs of sexualized torture for the camera and then watching this Girls Gone Wild thing happening in Ocean City where the minute anybody whipped out a camera they would do the most lewd and disgusting thing that they possibly could and I thought, 'What? This is a weird conversation happening. Nobody here's actually talking about the war. Nobody's talking about the soldiers. They're just celebrating the beginning of summer.'
And then I found out that the folks who were – the soldiers who were in Abu Ghraib had gone to Virginia Beach the weekend before they shipped out, had done all the same photographs just to their friends. They pulled their pants down, they took pictures of people naked while they were passed out, and then it was interesting because I thought, 'Well, what we've done is we've just exported fraternity hazing to this prison in Iraq and not bothered to tell the Iraqis that this is what we're doing and we're hazing them.' And I felt like we were in a moment of extraordinary being disconnected.
Alec Baldwin: Yep. Anarchy.
Josh Fox: In America to think that we're so far away and yet we're dropping bombs on this entire country and we're torturing their citizens. I wanted to draw that line closer so I ended up making this feature film with the actors from my company.
Alec Baldwin: But not a documentary, a feature?
Josh Fox: No. Well, some of – it's sort of guerilla style and we did shoot one scene, which is a horrifying scene of a rape that happens in the back of a van with all these people cheering on – the actors cheering on the people in the back and we shot the whole thing in traffic. And there are people who are not actors who are cars around our van as we were heading down the main drag in Ocean City who actually started cheering on the scene as we were filming it.
And then we took three or four months off and trained with friends of mine who had been in Iraq who were soldiers who taught us everything about close quarters battle and how to dress and all the things and we took the actors from that crazy, debauched first couple of weeks shoot and then we made ourselves into soldiers and then took that whole thing to Iraq and the second half of the film is in Iraq. This is the first film that I made and –
Alec Baldwin: What did you do with that film?
Josh Fox: It got rejected from every film festival on the face of the planet and then it got into a film festival called Cina Vegas in Las Vegas, which just happened to be programmed by Trevor Groth who also programs Sundance. And he saw this and he thought it was crazy and we had 50 people walk out in the first half hour of the movie. It was a weird situation because they thought it was a beach movie and they ended up in a torture movie and it was kind of both.
Alec Baldwin: Like Full Metal Jacket as a recruitment movie.
Josh Fox: Well, it was – it got compared to Full Metal Jacket by Robert Koehler.
Alec Baldwin: Until D'Onofrio blows his head off.
Josh Fox: Yeah, but it was like – I – we got – people stormed the box office and said –
Alec Baldwin: No.
Josh Fox: Yes, they did. Yes, they did. They stormed the boxes and said, 'We're gonna burn the casino down if you show this again.' The box –
Alec Baldwin: Because they thought it was anti-American.
Josh Fox: The box office – I don't even know what they were thinking. I'm not really sure.
Alec Baldwin: What do you think they were thinking?
Josh Fox: I think that it was holding a mirror up to a very, very dark time in America and people didn't want to accept it. It's hard to make a war movie that's not glorifying war. There is a formula to war movies, even if it's the most antiwar war movie. So what I wanted to do is make a war movie with no battle scenes and just deal with some of the much more difficult moral questions that face soldiers.
Alec Baldwin: What's the next film you do after that?
Josh Fox: Well, Gasland. I –
Alec Baldwin: Gasland is the second film you make?
Josh Fox: Yeah. Actually in 2008 I was at home in Pennsylvania because I had given –
Alec Baldwin: Milanville?
Josh Fox: Milanville. I had given the next two months to Barack Obama to campaign for him in the Pennsylvania primary. I felt that strongly about him and I watched him lose the Texas and Ohio primaries in March and I said, 'You know what? I'm giving the next eight weeks to Barack Obama.' I'm going home. I'm gonna go door to door and when I started to go door to door everyone was talking about gas drilling.
Alec Baldwin: So in a map of Pennsylvania near the southern tier of New York, Milanville is where? Way, way up north toward the border?
Josh Fox: Yeah. It's right up in the northeast corner. So in 2008 right at all the same time we got the letters in the mail in about February saying, 'Don't lease your land for natural gas drilling yet, because we can get you more money,' and it was the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance that was saying, 'Join our Property Owners Alliance and we will get you the best gas lease,' and the crisis was almost immediate learning what was happening.
When I was going canvasing for Obama, people wanted to talk about Obama, they wanted to talk about Hillary, but they really wanted to talk about gas. 'What's Obama's position on gas? What is this stuff about fracking? What's going on with this fracking?'
Alec Baldwin: So you – were you conscious of and aware of hydraulic fracturing before that or you had never even heard of it?
Josh Fox: No. Never heard of it.
Alec Baldwin: You had never even heard of it until 2008 when you started the canvasing? And people are bringing this up, they're piggybacking that on to the conversation about the election?
Josh Fox: No one has heard about it. No one knows anything about it.
Alec Baldwin: But fracking had been going on for years prior to that in other parts of the country?
Josh Fox: Well, yes and no.
Alec Baldwin: Well, then explain that because a lot of people intimate that fracking is a process that's been going on for decades. Distinguish if you would to what they're referring to to modern fracking.
Josh Fox: This is a totally different type of thing from what you might have called fracking 50 years ago.
Alec Baldwin: Sure, but explain it.
Josh Fox: Okay. Let me go back. When you're drilling an oil or gas well traditionally those are vertical wells. The well just goes straight down and you're trying to tap into an anticline or a dome of natural gas or oil. It's a pool that you hit and you can suck it up. When you're talking about modern hydraulic fracturing you're into a shale play or a tight sands formation or any of the different formations. You're talking about gas or oil that's trapped inside of a rock and then you have to drill horizontally along that rock.
This is kind of amazing engineering because you can drill down and then torque that drill bit – and sometimes go out up to two miles and in some cases now they're experimenting with even longer –
Alec Baldwin: And now the gas – when you say it's embedded in these rocks and so forth and tight sand formations that – so that people understand this, does it exist kind of like the tar sands are where it's bubbles and pockets and pieces of it and you blow it all out of there?
Josh Fox: Yeah.
Alec Baldwin: Or is it in the rock is there big pools of it inside of a rock or how does it work?
Josh Fox: It's like Dr. Sander Steinberger describes it as a frozen champagne pop. So that you have this spreading out of all these little bubbles all across the rock formation, but you do this by injecting high pressure water, silica – which they call sand, but it's actually silica, which is different – water, silica, and chemicals, and a mixture into that formation at such high pressure that you fracture the rock.
You cause these mini earthquakes along that either vertical or horizontal well port and you're doing that with enormous pressure, pressure that rivals a cluster bomb in some cases and that in that mixture of water is this fracking fluids and there's different –
Alec Baldwin: Now why are those fluids necessary? Why – again, I'm not assuming you know every detail of this. I don't wanna hold you up as some geophysicist, but when they have do they talk about the proprietary nature of their list of chemicals and they can't tell you what's really going into the ground, why do they need this stuff to blow through the rock? What does it accomplish?
Josh Fox: There are 900 different chemicals that we've identified. Many of them are proprietary and we don't know enough about them, but the ones that we do know a lot about are carcinogenic, they're neurotoxins, they're endocrine structures. They're very bad for people. At different stages of the process you need to have that liquid be at different viscosities. So to carry the sand down, the sand is propping open those cracks, if you will, that you're describing.
Alec Baldwin: The sand is doing the work.
Josh Fox: The sand is getting in there so that it opens up these cracks because when the pressure is on, these fishers are open. When the minute they turn off those frack pumps a lot of it collapses back down and all that material is trapped inside the rock. So the sand is a prop and it holds open the cracks, but if you notice if you go to the beach, water doesn't carry sand. Water won't bring it down. So you have to thicken that water with a viscosifier and that's one kind of chemical.
So you have a chemical mixture there and then the minute you do the frack you want that condition to be very, very smooth and slippery and have no friction at all so you insert another chemical and presto-change-o this whole mixture becomes like the – it was just described to me as like the jet engines valves on a jet engine. You have to have that be very, very lubricated in order for your planes to keep flying. So they have very intense lubricants and liquefiers that are down in there, plus you have biocides.
You have down in the ground what's called anaerobic bacteria and anaerobic bacteria exists without oxygen. In some cases it's never ever been to the surface. You don't know what it's gonna do to you. It's also gonna corrode your pipes, and if you're drilling a $5 million to $10 million, well you certainly don't want it to rust.
Alec Baldwin: So as an anticorrosive device alone, they have to kill every living thing down there?
Josh Fox: There are corrosion inhibitors, those are the biocides. There's cross linkers. There are all these different chemicals that change the viscosity of the mixture as you're going down.
Alec Baldwin: So they're not taking any chances when they go down there?
Josh Fox: Of course not and Halliburton has said, 'Oh, we're developing nontoxic fracking fluids.' Well, they're not there yet. Chesapeake, the largest natural gas company – or the second largest natural gas company in America has said it very honestly. 'There's no such thing as nontoxic fracking fluids.'
And the reason why is if you're spending $10 million on 1 hole and that hole is 8 inches wide you don't want it to get gummed up. Their priorities are not about protecting ground water or keeping this situation nontoxic. That couldn't be further from their priorities. Their priority is to get the gas out of the ground and make their money.
Alec Baldwin: Now you're going door to door in 2008 with Obama and you come to people's houses and they are – some of them to whatever degree are introducing you to the natural gas issue while you're campaigning for Obama. When you get bitten by this I want you to talk about the moment you decided this was something you were going to get engaged with and then also talk about the moment when you came across…
Because in my mind I see Josh Fox going door to door even before maybe he's even decided to make a film and people are saying, 'Oh, yes. Let me show you the cisterns of water I've gotta have,' and, 'Oh, yes. Methane does come out of my sink,' and then I'm waiting for the next guy to say to you, 'Get the fuck off my property. I'm gonna blow your head off because I want natural gas.' Did you confront both all of a sudden?
Josh Fox: No. That didn't happen early on. In my area there was no drilling. So when I'm going door to door there was no drilling. There was just leasing happening. We received those offers and I wanted to know what was this, because the gas industry comes and they basically just say, 'Hey, it's no big deal. It's just free money. It's a fire hydrant in the middle of your field. We probably won't even drill.'
Alec Baldwin: 'You won't even know we're there.'
Josh Fox: Exactly right. 'We'll' –
Alec Baldwin: 'And you'll get a check.'
Josh Fox: 'You'll never know we're here and it's just free money called mailbox money,' and then neighbors of mine had looked into and they said, 'But this is called hydraulic fracturing and there are all these chemicals involved and look at this pictures of land scarring in Wyoming,' and I had fallen in love with Wyoming when I was 22 years old. I took off across the country when the Knicks lost the championship in 1994 and I never looked back and so in many ways –
Alec Baldwin: I was right there with you.
Josh Fox: – this whole film is John Stark's fault. I just found this incredible magical state of Wyoming, the Grand Tetons, the Big Horn Mountains, the Flaming Gorge, the incredible plains that look like lunar or Martian surfaces, and I just spent all my time in Wyoming camping out and doing – just falling in love with the landscape and I saw these pictures of Wyoming just destroyed, just spoiled gas wells everywhere and –
Alec Baldwin: So this – from who? From people in the Milanville area who started to do some investigatory work?
Josh Fox: My neighbors. They were just my neighbors. One of my neighbors was a glass artist. She made these little glass sculptures and she happened to have a biochemical degree from Columbia University and so she had been out there in the woods.
Alec Baldwin: She wanted to find out about fracking?
Josh Fox: She did all the research.
Alec Baldwin: Ipso facto you're on the Internet looking at pictures of Wyoming?
Josh Fox: But I don't know these people – no. They had – there was a presentation. She did a small presentation. I thought it was gonna be about 12 folks, 12 people hanging out. It was 400 people. I had never seen as many people in one place in upper Delaware, but I watched her presentation – her name is Barbara Arrindell – and she was totally – didn't know how to use the microphone. She would be, 'Well, fracking's – chemicals are – dah, dah, dah.' So I just thought, 'Oh my God. This person needs help, needs a little media help.' So I was like, 'All right. Well, I'll make' –
Alec Baldwin: She needs a director.
Josh Fox: I just thought I'd make a five minute video for her of her presentation and I wanted to find out, 'Well, what's – who's really telling the truth here? Is this the gas industry or is this this person Barbara Arrindell I've never met before in my life' –
Alec Baldwin: Or both or neither.
Josh Fox: – or neither. Yeah. I just wanted to get to the bottom of this, but I realized I was not sleeping. I couldn't sleep. I was completely terrified because when you live in the woods – when it's that important, when you have a stream and you travel the world you see how fragile these systems are.
Alec Baldwin: Were you terrified or were you angry or both?
Josh Fox: I was terrified. At first what I did was friends of mine said, 'Go to Dimock. Go to PA. It's only 60 miles away.' And I had started to interview people thinking, 'All right. Maybe I'll make a documentary. I've never made one in my life.'
Alec Baldwin: Had you been shooting?
Josh Fox: I shot with Barbara. I got her presentation. She did a five hour interview.
Alec Baldwin: Did you shoot in Dimock?
Josh Fox: I did.
Alec Baldwin: So you went to Dimock first?
Josh Fox: That's where I went first and when I arrived there that's when I was changed.
Alec Baldwin: How?
Josh Fox: There were Halliburton trucks swarming all over the landscape. People were reporting their children were getting sick.
Alec Baldwin: They were under siege.
Josh Fox: They were under siege and they were completely terrified.
Alec Baldwin: And they had sold leases. Now again, people in the Milanville area had been leasing, but there wasn't as much fracking. Now you're seeing another evolution. You go to Dimock and this is – now they're further down the road.
Josh Fox: We had joined this Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance. We were – my father was very interested obviously in the money. It was a lot of money even just for 20 acres. It was in the neighborhood of $100,000.00 just for signing and then royalties. There was – we're not rich people. There was the temptation.
Alec Baldwin: There's a lot of gas down there.
Josh Fox: So I went to Dimock saying, 'Maybe it's not gonna be so bad,' but when I got there I arrived and right on the corner of this place called Carter Road, Norma Fiorentino, she lives in a trailer, her water well spontaneously combusted on New Year's Day. Just blew up. Everybody was at, I guess, church or a hangover party or whatever.
Alec Baldwin: Thank God.
Josh Fox: She came home and the concrete casing from her well was all over the front yard. It was everywhere. It was like six inch concrete casing, but then everybody started to talk, 'Oh, did you notice something funny going on with your water?' 'Oh, yeah. My washing machine stopped up and water turned black.' 'Oh, my driveway is bubbling,' and then people discovered that they could light their water on fire and that something drastically had gone wrong and all of a sudden they said, 'Don't drink the water anymore.'
Alec Baldwin: Now did all of these people – now this is important to me because this is – to me this is among the biggest problems and that is something like this happens, your well blows up while you're at church and where do you go? Who do you turn to?
Josh Fox: Well, the first thing they did was talk to their neighbors to see if they were all having the same problems along this one road and they were, different kinds of problems, but similarly with their water. I think they called the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection first and their first complaints were the DEP and Cabot Oil and Gas, the drilling company, would show up arm in arm basically and walk in the door.
Alec Baldwin: Right. So Cabot – so for those people that haven't seen the original Gasland, let alone the sequel, Cabot is the company that was the major player in the Northern Pennsylvania community.
Josh Fox: In that area.
Alec Baldwin: Yeah. So they would complain and when DEP came from PA they came with Cabot reps. Interesting.
Josh Fox: They would come together and they would say, 'Oh, your water's fine,' and then they would go and get them a glass of water to drink and say, 'All right. Well, if you think this is fine for my mother to drink then you go ahead and drink it,' and they wouldn't drink it. And then these folks – I don't know how much experience you have in central Pennsylvania, upstate New York, it's not a particularly garrulous type of a place.
Alec Baldwin: My mother lives in Syracuse.
Josh Fox: There's a quieter, less –
Alec Baldwin: Simpler.
Josh Fox: It's not like in New York where people just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. I wouldn't say it's simpler, but I would say it's less talky. So when people are coming forward and talking to me –
Alec Baldwin: It's less paranoid.
Josh Fox: It's just a different style. When people are coming forward and talking to me you know they're taking a risk. They're doing something out of their comfort zone. There was this sense that they didn't know what to do, but the normal life had completely been overthrown and I remember one day I had gotten with Pat Furnelly and she had this jar of weird, yellowish, brownish liquid and she said, 'Take this.' I said, 'Well, what is it?' And she goes, 'Well, just take it,' and she could never keep a secret. This Pat Furnelly –
Alec Baldwin: From Dimock?
Josh Fox: – that's why she's amazing. She said, 'Well, some people, they were working on the rig site and they told them to dump this. This is the produced water, it's the frack water. They told them to dump it in their own stream and these kids are from here and they wouldn't dump it in their own stream.
So they took samples of it and quit and walked off the job.' And I was like, 'Wow. That's crazy. Where are these workers?' She said, 'Down the road.' So I went and I knocked on the door and a guy who was about 17 years old opened the door and he had chemical burns all over his face and he was bare chested.
Alec Baldwin: Did you have your camera with you?
Josh Fox: No, because I don't pop in the door with a camera. I think it's rude. Albert Maysles many years later confirmed this with me. Albert Maysles is a great documentarian. He said, 'Look, the whole process is a friendship. You get to know and then everyone else gets to know.' I believe in you can get the story and still be respectful for people and have decency for people and understand them and I much rather make a connection based on, 'I'm a human being and you're a human being,' even if that means the gas industry is gonna turn me down again and again and again.
These were people who were, in my mind, just had done a valorous act. I wasn't gonna pop up at their door with a camera. I knocked on the door and I saw his – and he didn't know obviously who I was. I guess he thought I was somebody else because he came to the door with shirt off. He had red burns all over his chest and on his face and I said, 'Oh, I'm Josh. I'm making a film. Can we do an interview?' And he said, 'All right. Tomorrow.' So I went and then the next day he didn't show up. And I'm sitting there parked across the street calling the phone, calling the house, calling the house, calling the house.
Alec Baldwin: He needed to check in with somebody?
Josh Fox: No. He just chickened out. Understandably he was getting death threats. He was getting threats to get beaten up by other guys on the rig and all this, but his grandmother answered the phone and that's where this starts. You hear the phone call and gasps and this weird voice saying, 'They're afraid for their lives,' and this guy handing me this jar of strange contaminated water saying, 'Get this tested,' and there were four jars. At that moment my life completely changed. This voice on the phone was so full of terror and anxiety and worry and no nonsense, no BS. 'We are afraid for our lives,' because these kids wouldn't dump toxic waste in their own streams, and to me that got me because I live right next door – right down – the stream runs right through my property.
And I thought, 'Of course they wouldn't do it,' but what's happening all over Pennsylvania right now and this peaked my interest and I realized that this drilling was going on in 34 states and that I had to set aside everything else that I was doing at that moment and go out on the road and try to – 'Was this gonna happen?' Do a comparative study. 'Did all companies do this? Was all fracking like this? Was this happening in every state like this?' Also, as I said, I fell in love with Wyoming when I was 22 years old and I wanted to get out there and see if it was still there that way.
Alec Baldwin: Did people from Cabot, I would assume with so much at stake, one thing that Gasland has proven is that someone like you or you particularly or someone who has your combination of skills and gets incredibly lucky by the way, because these films don't always take off. Not everybody is doing Inconvenient Truth. Not everybody is Davis Guggenheim or you. Did they ever come to you and say, 'Hey, Josh. Come on. Let's sit down and talk,' and did they ever try to seduce you?
Josh Fox: Exactly the opposite. I called up the rep, the press rep for Cabot, and I said, 'Well, what's happening to all these people's ground water?' And he goes, 'I have a book on my desk right now from 1937 that shows that there is methane in ground water in this part of Pennsylvania dating back that far,' and I just said, 'Well, really? Is that really what you're saying?'
Alec Baldwin: And was there?
Josh Fox: Well, there are trace levels of methane in ground water in very small quantities, but rarely to the point to which your well explodes spontaneously. I don't think –
Alec Baldwin: Right. 'Does the book have any foot notes about exploding wells? I don't know. Help me out here, Mr. Cabot.'
Josh Fox: But it was really like hitting a wall and this was the beginning of my education. They were gonna do anything possible, whatever –
Alec Baldwin: To take you down.
Josh Fox: – to take, not me, because I was nobody at that point. I was just a guy with a camera in the back of –
Alec Baldwin: Well, eventually you.
Josh Fox: Yeah – to deny the truth of what was going on to these people .
Alec Baldwin: For Josh Fox his education about what he calls the truth has only deepened. More recently he's taken his camera beyond his home town. Coming up, Josh remembers visiting the BP oil spill.
Josh Fox: Just seeing this entire ocean and the streaks of oil and feeling like a piece of me fell out of the airplane.
Alec Baldwin: I'm Alec Baldwin. It was still two years before the BP spill. Josh Fox was canvasing door to door in Pennsylvania for then Senator Obama when he began hearing more and more about fracking. Before he could even think about making the documentary Gasland, he had a lot of science to learn.
Josh Fox: You have to be a fast study and it's just all it is, but I will say this. No one was reporting on this at that level.
Alec Baldwin: There was no Josh Fox in Wyoming? Who else was out there?
Josh Fox: Deb Anderson, a great filmmaker.
Alec Baldwin: Where?
Josh Fox: In New Mexico. She made a film called Split Estate. It really focused on issues in the mountains west though. There was no one who was making a film about this invasion of the northeast, of this huge –
Alec Baldwin: So what was happening in the New Mexico area was lots smaller?
Josh Fox: Yeah. Well –
Alec Baldwin: Same thing?
Josh Fox: It's the same thing, but less media attention. If you're destroying the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of New Mexico and there's one house per square mile in some of those places and CNN doesn't – isn't down the street drinking the water from that area.
Alec Baldwin: Cina Vegas ain't showing up with a rep. Yeah. I hear it.
Josh Fox: Exactly.
Alec Baldwin: Got it.
Josh Fox: So there were people investigating this. Amy Mall at NRDC was reporting on it. Abrahm Lustgarten ProPublica was starting to report on it, Laura Legere at Scranton Times Tribune.
Alec Baldwin: So there were kindred spirits out there.
Josh Fox: There were people who were doing this, absolutely, and certainly Gasland was caught up in a wave of consciousness that was happening about fracking across the northeast.
Alec Baldwin: So as you move through – you're in Dimock and you see that Cabot – it's a whole other thing going on there and when do you decide you're gonna make a movie? When does the movie Gasland become real? And again, I'm not trying to be glib, but I'm always fascinated by film finance, especially about these kinds of advocacy things or these kinds of issues. Is it another phone call to Michael Stipe? Where does the money come from?
Josh Fox: No. There was no money really. It was really about $3,000.00 or $4,000.00 for the first cross-country road trip and I had my own cameras and I was lucky enough to have Matt Sanchez who's the editor and cinematographer who had a little bit better camera than mine and he said, 'Here, just take this one on the road with you.' I don't like raising money. I don't like the idea of it. I've never been –
Alec Baldwin: Yes. I just made a movie about that.
Josh Fox: And I'm scrappy like that. I just wanna get in the driver seat and go whether that's a driver seat in a theater rehearsal hall or actually a driver's seat as it was with Gasland and I love sleeping in the back of my car on the roadside in New Mexico.
Alec Baldwin: You're kind of weird, aren't you?
Josh Fox: I'm not weird. That's not weird. That's America. That's the way we should be.
Alec Baldwin: Well…
Josh Fox: If you go out and listen, let me tell you something, this country –
Alec Baldwin: I played a really rich guy on TV for six and a half years, so I'm kind of stuck on that.
Josh Fox: That guy was weird.
Alec Baldwin: He was – yeah.
Josh Fox: That guy was weird. That guy was not –
Alec Baldwin: Well, my – well, that guy thinks you're weird.
Josh Fox: Everybody loves that guy. Everybody loves that guy.
Alec Baldwin: No, no. Sleeping in a car is weird.
Josh Fox: No. It's not. It's fantastic. I wouldn't do it in the northeast, but if you're out there in the Rocky Mountain West. Albuquerque, New Mexico is in this bowl and when you come down out of those mountains on I-40 in the middle of the night this warm air just starts rushing at you and you descend down the – for 45 minutes you're just on a down – and anywhere along that road just –
Alec Baldwin: Is that Sangre de Cristo Mountains?
Josh Fox: – pull off. I don't know. I could tell you if I was looking at the map.
Alec Baldwin: Right. You haven't studied the geography of that area.
Josh Fox: But the feeling of it, I don't know, there's something fundamental linked in my mind between being in the backyard, being in the stream in PA, being out there in those Rocky Mountain landscapes.
Alec Baldwin: So the guy playing the banjo is more who you are than Mike Wallace?
Josh Fox: Yeah. For sure.
Alec Baldwin: Okay, and let's talk about that. I have friends of mine who don't criticize the advocacy of the film. They don't even really criticize the filmmaking itself, but one friend of mine said, 'Josh Fox, the filmmaker, is very fond of Josh Fox the performer.'
Josh Fox: Really?
Alec Baldwin: Was is it your goal to be in the film and playing your banjo and –
Josh Fox: I didn't like being –
Alec Baldwin: Was that your goal?
Josh Fox: No. I didn't like being in it at first.
Alec Baldwin: How did that change?
Josh Fox: Well, I made the first five minutes or ten minutes and I did the voice over myself just to explain stuff for people. Who am I gonna call, you? I didn't know you. I didn't know Debra Winger. I didn't know Morgan Freeman.
Alec Baldwin: You knew Michael Stipe.
Josh Fox: Well, what I'm saying is this - that I did it because I was working on it late at night and friends of mine were like, 'Hey, that's pretty good,' but when we first started cutting the footage we'd cut ones that had me in them and we'd cut ones that had none of me in it. It was just more traditional kind of mash up documentary and we screened those both. We would screen both parts and we'd screen it four different segments and the ones that I was in people liked better.
Alec Baldwin: Worked better.
Josh Fox: People laughed. It was more human. It was more alive and people – my friends were saying, 'You have to be in this.' So I said, 'Okay, but I'm gonna be in it' –
Alec Baldwin: But also you being a resident and a native of the area so to speak.
Josh Fox: 'It's your story.' That's what they said. 'It's your story.'
Alec Baldwin: Got it, got it, got it.
Josh Fox: A lot of the voice overs will be recorded at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning and I'm home alone and I'm thinking about the memories of being in these places and this is – this was the best couch that I slept on in America and that's – that informs the situation and makes it human and makes it alive for me and I get – am able to be interested in working on it as a human story.
Alec Baldwin: When is the film finished and by that I mean not released, but when do you lock that picture and you said, 'I'm done. The movie's done,' what year?
Josh Fox: The day before the Sundance Film Festival.
Alec Baldwin: And when did you – okay. So that was the – so that was the mark?
Josh Fox: Literally the day before we finished it. We –
Alec Baldwin: And you were into the festival?
Josh Fox: We applied to Sundance. Yes. We applied to Sundance with a rough cut and to our total joy and astonishment we got in and then we had eight weeks to finish. 'You're in. Now you've gotta finish by your premier date.'
Alec Baldwin: The rough cut. So now you gotta finish. What happened?
Josh Fox: And we cut another half hour out of it. We added a whole third act to it and then we worked on it until the last day.
Alec Baldwin: And you were in Sundance and you went to Sundance?
Josh Fox: Yeah.
Alec Baldwin: And how was that for you?
Josh Fox: I was totally nauseous. I had elevation sickness. There were publicists talking.
Alec Baldwin: Jesus Christ . I can't believe I'm talking to you. Your movie was eventually nominated for an Academy Award, correct?
Josh Fox: Yep.
Alec Baldwin: Aside from your elevation sickness, describe as a filmmaker, not as a person with a bad – with a weak stomach. What happened with – at Sundance?
Josh Fox: Well, I met the most incredible filmmakers and people. I started to appreciate who documentarians were. They knew how to tell a story. They cared about the world. They were not motivated by ego or being in a film. They were motivated by fixing some huge problem.
Alec Baldwin: And they liked your film.
Josh Fox: And they like – and they accepted me.
Alec Baldwin: That must have been great.
Josh Fox: That was amazing.
Alec Baldwin: That's exhilarating.
Josh Fox: That was totally exhilarating and the audiences loved the film. We went to Sundance thinking, 'Okay. It's this mountain to climb.' We brought ten people and we would go to these cocktail parties where we were trying to explain hydraulic fracturing to people at Hollywood cocktail parties at a Sundance cocktail party.
People's eyes would just glaze over. 'It's a horizontal well board and there are these chemicals and they're injected in the ground.' People were like, 'Next.' And then by the end of the festival we started overhearing people on the little Sundance bus going around the mountain, them explaining hydraulic fracturing to each other.
Alec Baldwin: Yeah. 'And it goes sideways into the rocks. You're not gonna believe this. Jerry, could we get Brad Pitt to play Fox?'
Josh Fox: Exactly.
Alec Baldwin: 'They look nothing alike.' 'I don't care.'
Josh Fox: So we knew something had happened. HBO picked up the film and I thought, 'This is amazing. This is going to go into 40 million homes around America,' and being having been a theater director and producer my whole life the thought that I didn't have to sell tickets, which is always very hard to get people to leave the house and sit down on this particular day and time –
Alec Baldwin: HBO was another great notch in your belt in the documentary world.
Josh Fox: It was unbelievable that we were gonna be doing that.
Alec Baldwin: It's a great one two punch, Sundance, HBO.
Josh Fox: But at the same time I wanted to make sure that we were touring to the grass roots. I toured to 200 –
Alec Baldwin: Because it was a chance to sleep in more cars.
Josh Fox: Well, that part of it, but also I just felt like I wanted – once you start there's a lot of places to go. So about 250 cities.
Alec Baldwin: Good God.
Josh Fox: Yeah. Took a year and a half.
Alec Baldwin: Good God.
Josh Fox: It was crazy, but I wanna win.
Alec Baldwin: When did you –
Josh Fox: I wanna win. I don't want to see this happen.
Alec Baldwin: The debate.
Josh Fox: I wanna win period. It's not about winning a debate.
Alec Baldwin: What is winning? What to you is winning?
Josh Fox: Well, I think it's gonna take a while, but I think we have to get off of fossil fuels and what the fracking is is it represents another 50 years of being addicted to fossil fuels. Fracking for gas and fracking for oil is the new frontier for the oil companies. What this means is they can get at all this oil and gas that they couldn't get at before. Never mind that it's completely toxifying the landscape. Never mind that it's gonna destroy all of these areas that we love. You know the oil and gas industry has leased more land than the total land mass of California and Florida combined?
Alec Baldwin: No. I don't doubt that.
Josh Fox: These companies don't like to be told 'no,' and we've decided that what's appropriate to do in America is this developing world exploitation model.
Alec Baldwin: Developing world exploitation, that's what you're saying. What we've been doing to everybody else now we're saying to ourselves, 'Let's just do it in Pennsylvania.'
Josh Fox: Yeah. Look, there's always been an area that the fossil fuel industry, whether it was coal or oil or gas, always been a population of people that was considered expendable in the face of oil and gas and in West Virginia, talk to the their history of coal. It's like, 'How did our coal get in underneath their mountains?'
And so what we've done here with fracking and talking about Shale plates in 34 states, more land lease than the entire land area of California and Florida combined. We've just enlarged the area of people who are now considered expendable. The people who are now considered expendable are people who drink water in New York City because they want to drill in the New York City watershed. It's three quarters of Pennsylvania. It's half of Ohio.
Alec Baldwin: Are they drilling in the New York City watershed?
Josh Fox: They are not. New Yorkers stopped the largest industry in the history of industry and so far have persuaded Governor Andrew Cuomo to take a step back off of a cliff and not allow this fracking to happen in New York City watershed.
Alec Baldwin: Do you think that Cuomo's gonna stay off the cliff?
Josh Fox: The more New Yorkers learn about fracking, the less they like fracking. If you are a politician, if you're gonna open the state up to the largest fossil fuel extraction in the history of the state your initials are gonna be on those chemicals and they don't biodegrade. They're gonna be down there for a hundred –
Alec Baldwin: That's your legacy no matter what else you do.
Josh Fox: They're gonna be down there for thousands of years. You will be known as that. If I was the governor right now I would be jumping up and down because I actually have a chance to make history because if Andrew Cuomo decides, 'You know what? We're gonna reject this proposal and we're gonna move vigorously in a direction of renewable energy.' Do you know what a ripple effect that would have across the world? Do you know all of a sudden that Andrew Cuomo would be an international leader? I just got a report the other day that was – just today, just before walking over here the energy information administration mapped out 41 countries that have shale. We covered this in Gasland II, how this has spread internationally.
Alec Baldwin: When did you know that you were gonna have a Gasland II and why?
Josh Fox: The Gulf spill. We premiered Gasland I on HBO June 21, 2010. I was going to all this media news shows and everything. I was always in make-up and the story right before me was always the Gulf spill. So I always had this very bazaar experience of being the guy who was always following the Gulf spill and I thought, 'I got to get down there. I have to film this. I have to see what's going on,' and our first free weekend was right after the premier, was July 4 weekend.
So Matt, myself, and another cameraman, Alex Tyson and I went down to the Gulf and we managed – I don't know how it happened, whether it was the 4th of July or because it was a Sunday – we got this sort of unprecedented clearance from FAA to fly at any altitude we wanted over the oil spill and they had previously been restricting flights to 3,000 feet and above and from 3,000 feet you can't see anything.
Alec Baldwin: But why do you think you got that clearance? Why?
Josh Fox: Well, I don't know the answer to that. Actually, we were all in total shock. It was four months into the catastrophe and it was 4th of July weekend and it was a Sunday and we just got lucky and you'll see these pictures in Gasland II. When you watch Gasland II –
Alec Baldwin: I saw the film.
Josh Fox: – you'll see the pictures of the Gulf that you've never seen before. The whole surface for 50 miles streaked with oil. To answer your question though, what spurred me on was it was clear that BP was running the show. The oil company – in the face of the largest catastrophe in American history in terms of environment the oil company itself was in charge.
Alec Baldwin: Why do you think that happened? Why do you think Obama allowed – how does it feel to be the guy who actually his introduction to this very issue he might not even be here now if he hadn't gone canvasing for Barack Obama? How did he feel that Barack Obama completely abandoned his responsibilities to British Petroleum to police what happened in the Gulf?
Josh Fox: I was in shock and that was the question though. If this is what's happening with the largest, most visible catastrophe on the face of the earth and they're keeping the press out and they're keeping the media out and we're seeing things that no one has seen on television and we're just because we showed up, well, what's gonna happen with fracking and why is it that this is the order?
It's – all of a sudden this started to get rearranged in my mind. I thought, 'Well, is there something above the government? Is there something influencing the government to such a degree that this person, this man that I was so passionate in supporting has now all of a sudden turned over the office to the oil companies?'
Could there not be a greater moment to rally support around getting us off of fossil fuels and starting down the road to save climate change than the BP oil spill? And I was absolutely dismayed and confused and horrified and in shock. We got off that little airplane and none of us could talk for hours. We were just – we were nonverbal. Having seen the Gulf in the state – even to show it in the Gasland II you see it only for a few moments, but having absorbed that –
Alec Baldwin: What's –
Josh Fox: We're in a plane having to wear gas masks –
Alec Baldwin: What's the thing that stands out most to you from the whole BP experience, you're down there, the people you met on the ground, the planes, the dispersions, the this, the that, the flying over, what's one thing that really stood out to you when you went?
Josh Fox: Just seeing the Gulf in that state. Just seeing this entire ocean and the streaks of oil and feeling like a piece of me fell out of the airplane. At that moment I felt like, 'I have to look at this other layer here. I'm only seeing the tip of the iceberg. I've seen the ground contamination, the water contamination, the stories of families. What's happening at the level of government? Why hasn't there been anybody helping us? Where is our government that's supposed to protect Americans from foreign invaders? Right?
That to me was when I wanted to make this new film and say – because this film is about investigating the government and our government's reaction to this crisis. We had now all of a sudden one of the most popular environmental issues of the last however long, a brand new controversy, a huge movement sweeping across America. Where was the president? Where was the governor? Where was –
Alec Baldwin: Why do you think – I can go all John Muir on people and I can go all Henry David Thoreau on people and I can talk about how this is just my idea of this land is your land. I can really get going on that whole thing of like I don't know why people are not more outraged. The other day they announced that San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant closed and I have worked in the antinuclear movement, Oyster Creek. I've been down in Toms River all the time and Millstone and Indian Point, all this stuff. And San Onofre's gonna close. Like to fix San Onofre was $600 million was the bill.
Josh Fox: And where's San Onofre?
Alec Baldwin: California. In Southern California.
Josh Fox: I've heard a lot about this because –
Alec Baldwin: San Onofre's closing.
Josh Fox: Congratulations.
Alec Baldwin: When are people gonna realize that we need to have – I don't like to use the word 'Manhattan Project,' because that speaks like a destructive and war and negativity. When are they gonna have the Apollo Project of renewable energy?
Josh Fox: Well, I hope that San Onofre isn't replaced by a natural gas fire power plant.
Alec Baldwin: Well, no. That's what they're talking about.
Josh Fox: That's what they're gonna do, right?
Alec Baldwin: They're talking about they've gotta replace it with gas.
Josh Fox: So you've gotta – what you've gotta understand here is that we were on the track. We've been on the track to replace this with wind and solar. We have more wind energy in North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas, just those three states and just the wind to run everything in the United States of America including our fleet of 300 million cars and what we're seeing here now is, 'Okay. Here's the line here. We're going on the progress of human history. We're going – we're moving over towards renewable energy and fracking is now cutting in.' Fracking and shale gas is making –
Alec Baldwin: It's that last gasp I think.
Josh Fox: This is what they say in the film, 'The last gasp of the fossil fuel industry.' However, if you look at what's happening with climate change and anybody in New York knows this, whether Irene hits you upstate and flooded away your town or whether you watch the New York City subway fill up with the Atlanta Ocean after Sandy, we can't afford to do 50 more years of fossil fuels and certainly not frack gas.
Alec Baldwin: No.
Josh Fox: Here's the third big lie of the gas industry. They have said many – for many, many decades that gas burns cleaner than coal, so it's less CO2 into the atmosphere than coal, so it's better for power generation. Well, that's true, but it's like the witches in Macbeth. They only tell you half of what's true. Like you've probably played Macbeth. I know you've played Macbeth at The Public Theater.
Alec Baldwin: I did actually. Yeah. Thank you.
Josh Fox: And so what does Macbeth hear? He only really hears half of the sentence. He's like, 'Oh, I'm gonna be the king.' He doesn't find out he's gonna have to kill all of his friends. His wife's gonna go crazy and commit suicide and he's gonna be dead in three days. They leave all that part out. So when the gas industry says, 'We burn cleaner than coal,' but they leave out the part where the methane leakage – field measurements are showing between five and nine percent total methane leaking up into the sky out of these gas fields.
It was estimated at Cornell between 3.6 and 7.9 percent. Anything over two percent leakage means that frack gas is worse than coal for climate change because methane leaking into the atmosphere – methane is 105 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is. So methane in the atmosphere you'd have to admit 105 times more CO2 –
Alec Baldwin: And so the fuel we're chasing in order to get off of oil is even worse.
Josh Fox: Is worse for climate change in the short – in the 20-year time frame and all we have left is this 20=year time frame to solve this problem.
Alec Baldwin: Now Gasland II, when did you finish Gasland II?
Josh Fox: Basically a week before it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. We work up until the last minute and we will make future work about this.
Alec Baldwin: Well, today with modern technology you can do that.
Josh Fox: Yeah. You can.
Alec Baldwin: Not like the old days. Have you got a Gasland III in you? You don't know yet? Josh Fox: I don't think it's Gasland III. I do think that – I spent 15 years working with this international theater company about globalization. I'll probably spend the next 15 years working on issues of sustainability or maybe 40 years – I don't know – depending on how long. I feel like I've struck on something that is the core of who I am. This is not about fracking. It's not about fracking.
Alec Baldwin: Thank you for saying that.
Josh Fox: This is about who we are.
Alec Baldwin: That's the most important thing you've said. No. I love that.
Josh Fox: This is about America. It isn't. How do you work on fracking for five years? This isn't about fracking. This is about our democracy.
Alec Baldwin: Right. It's about helping people.
Josh Fox: This is about our – who we are as Americans, who we are as citizens of the world. I know this is radio, but I have to pull this card out. It says, 'Marcellus Patriots for land rights: Don't tread on me,' and it's this snake with the drilling rig going down to the middle of it. This is the card of someone who is adamantly against the gas industry.
His name is Craig Stevens. He's a sixth generation land owner. It says on the back of his card. These aren't environmentalists. It doesn't matter if you're a red person or a blue person or in a red state or a blue state. If you're private property rights are being destroyed by the gas industry you don't have to be an environmentalist. If your Civil Rights are being taken away –
Alec Baldwin: I don't need a degree in science.
Josh Fox: If your Civil Rights and human rights are being destroyed by a multinational corporation that's bearing down you don't need to be a tree hugger. This is not what this is about.
Alec Baldwin: You can see Josh Fox's newest film, Gasland Part II on HBO and learn more about his upcoming tour this fall with the film on our website. As you see in his films, and will hear in this podcast, Josh travels most places with a banjo. Let's have it. What are we gonna have?
Josh Fox: I think I'm gonna play an old bar song from 1814 and I was with Pete Seeger two nights ago. Introduced Pete Seeger and he said, 'Oh, I know that song you're gonna play. That's on old bar song. It was the biggest hit of 1814 and they liked it so much the guy had to sing it twice in the bar and then clip clop, clip clop all the way up and down the east coast, they sold the lyrics. And you know that song, it became the National Anthem.'
If a bar song can become the National Anthem you're always just in a position just making up America as we go along and that's what I love about doing this. It's not about fracking. It's about making up the next version of America and letting it not be Exon, Mobile, and Shell and Chevron and these people who come to you with deceit and leave you at deceit.
Alec Baldwin: And crush us.
Josh Fox: Yeah, and I wanna see that happen and that's – I know you say, 'Oh, where's the outrage?' But what I'm seeing out there as we go along and we tour the film and we meet these people is this incredible outpouring actually of love and support and of – when people's backs up against the wall something comes out and it's remarkable to witness. So if you're not seeing that in your daily life then go somewhere where we're showing Gasland and they're protesting the fracking, you'll find it. It's pretty remarkable. It's why I've been hanging out with – hanging out there so long.