Monday, March 7, 2011

Six Degrees of Oscar Separation

I’m not a big fan of awards shows. But I do love the Oscars. This year I had a more personal reason to tune in. Josh Fox’s documentary film Gasland was nominated.

The film contains a 13-minute segment titled “48 Hours in Garfield County”. I happen to live in Garfield County in western Colorado. My tiny town of Silt is ground zero for natural gas drilling in the Piceance (pronounced ‘pee-awns” – the “c” is silent – don’t ask me why) Basin.

When the film debuted on HBO last June, I watched it intending to write a review. But I wept through most of it. The film was way too personal. My friends and neighbors were in it. Seeing my home through Fox’s lens broke my heart. I didn’t write a review. Instead I wrote a blog post, A Gaslander’s View of Gasland.

I often write about gas well drilling issues on my blog. At the time I wrote the Gasland post, drilling had slacked off a little. But all that changed last August when Antero Energy drilled four news wells within two miles of my home. In the past, almost all natural gas drilling has occurred in rural areas, miles from towns and subdivision. Since last summer dozens more gas wells have been drilled and dozens more have been proposed close to heavily populated residential areas. This has awakened a sleeping giant in the local people. Combine that groundswell of opposition with the release of Gasland, which has attracted national attention to natural gas drilling, plus widespread public distrust of the gas & oil industry after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and we have a rare harmonic convergence. It’s like that moment in any piece of literature or film when everything comes together and the little feller strikes a blow hitting the gi-normous beast below the knees. We have yet to know the full impact of our citizen pushback. Simply making more people aware of the dangers of natural gas drilling on humans and the environment is a victory for many of us.

Because of all that activism I have been pounding out blog posts for the past several months. Lo and behold, my blog made the news. The Colorado Independent ran an article about the film Gasland, and a New York Times article which exposed massive polluting by the gas industry. At the end of the CI article, reporter David O. Williams drew attention to a recent blog post in which I made a connection between our county’s role in the film and a group of NY attorneys who came to our area recently to discuss natural gas drilling issues.

‘Gasland’ misses Oscar bid but NYT story yanks red carpet out from under gas biz

Though it may seem strange to some, the film has changed our lives. And isn’t that the gauge of success for any artistic endeavor – be it film or literature or work of art? To change people’s lives. So even though Gasland didn’t win the Oscar for best documentary film, it has succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations. The publicity and the national attention to our plight are way bigger than a little man statue. We’re famous for something ugly – a blight on our gorgeous Rocky Mountains landscape. Our cause is hopeless. The gas industry doesn’t sometimes win or usually win – they always win. And yet a beautiful thing is happening. Through art – the power of the camera lens and the strength of words – we shall overcome.

Some things are worth fighting for even if there is no chance of winning. As we writers know, it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.

Peggy Tibbetts

Coming in 2011 –

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx


  1. I haven't heard of this, Peggy. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I don't know what the answer is, but I can see how drilling the wells can disrupt communities. And I also think about the amimals that lose their habitats. I guess there's no easy solution.

  2. But there are better choices. We're pushing for more best management practices, like top to bottom concrete well casings, greener fracking fluids, and safer ventilation systems to name a few. We would also like to see more oversight from government regulatory agencies across the board. Currently the oil & gas industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. That has to change.

    My biggest hope is that you will see the film Gasland and you'll tell someone else to see the film. And the word will continue to spread like that. Public awareness is key at this point in time.