Activists in communities across the United States and Canada have picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the Oscar-nominated Gasland, the documentary that paints a horrifying picture of the natural gas industry’s practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals below ground to release natural gas, a practice environmentalists maintain is a threat to our water supply.
Quebec recently announced a ban on fracking for oil and gas (fracking for scientific exploration will still be allowed), and organizers in New York are working to raise awareness before the state lifts its moratorium on fracking in June.
Not to be left out, NYU students Liliana Astiz and Ben Davalos are spearheading a serious and upcoming on-campus effort to ban fracking. They are working closely with the NYU Office of Sustainability Initiatives, and a group of students from NYU, New School and Hunter College, as well as city-wide organizations such as United for Action.
The first step in their plan of attack involves education: a series of Gasland screenings will take place at NYU dorms over the course of the next couple weeks(full schedule here). Plus, Astiz, Davalos and Gallatin freshman Travis Owen have teamed up through the course “Shifting Focus: Video Production and Community Activism” to produce short videos aimed at getting other students thinking about water as a shared resource through the analogies of sharing gum or condoms.
Students who are sufficiently riled up (or disturbed) after seeing the videos are then invited to attend a non-violent direct action workshop on April 2. The workshop will take place in the New School’s Bark Room.
Astiz told NYU Local she hopes students who attend will gain practical skills that they can apply to the campaign against fracking. Then, in late April (probably April 23, but permits are pending), the coalition of student organizers will hold a rally in Washington Square Park. “We want the rally to be fun,” Astiz said. “People tend to put activists into an extreme category. Being against fracking is not extreme.” Davalos echoed this, noting, “We all use water.”
Students are not the only targets of this campaign. Astiz argued that higher education has the responsibility to inform the community about matters of public concern, which is why they’re also in the process of getting various NYU professors involved as well.