'Gasland II' picks up where 'Gasland' left off, but it goes beyond 'fracking,' to assert that our democracy is being hijacked.
This film goes to the root of who we are as a people. It's a portrait of the United States right now. And it's a portrait of our character. It looks at the incredible integrity, humor and resiliency of the people who have decided that they have to take on the largest corporations in the history of [CHUCKLES] corporations. A lot of people are deeply dissatisfied by the diminishing control they have over their lives, because of the way our system of government is setup, to cater to the powerful, cater to the wealthy, cater to the corporations, and not to the individual American citizen.
You had a heated exchange recently, with a guest on (HBO's) Real Time with Bill Maher, who disagreed about the dangers of fracking. How do you respond to that?
You just have to take the arguments point by point. If the science is on your side, you have to stick with the science. If the economic numbers are on your side, you stick with the economics. And, in both cases, they are. We know the wells leak; we know they can't be fixed. We know that methane escapes in huge quantities from these well sites, and that that is very difficult to mitigate, to any effectiveness. But the bottom line here is, American citizens, in huge numbers, are having their human rights, and their civil rights, stripped from them by multinational corporations. They're not being protected by our government. And that is not what our country was founded upon.
How have corporations become so powerful?
I think we're in an era of unprecedented dominance by corporations. I think people understand that deeply; I don't think that's even questioned. I suggest the only thing we all can do is have faith in the new democratic structures that are emerging and are countering the one that has been taken away from us. Because the story of Gasland II is clear. Our democracy has been taken away from us, when it comes down to these issues.
The way to get through this is really simple; it's neighbor talking to neighbor that's going to win this battle. That is a reinvention of democracy, from people who are out there, trying to fix this problem. It's unbelievably inspiring. And as exuberant as this movement against fracking is, it's not just about being against fracking. It's about being for renewable energy. It's about pushing the planet towards the transition we all know we need to make, and not accepting the false logic of somebody of power. What's happening now is a struggle for power, for the future. The fossil fuel industries want to stay in power, and the people are saying, we're tired of being contaminated by you.
"But what you have to try to do is look into the future and say, this is a path to ruin; this is what's happening to the whole planet."
Both President Obama and New York State Governor Cuomo are on the fence about fracking. What do you say to that?
This is one of those things which I think would give any politician pause, because the chemicals used in fracking will have those politicians' initials on them, in the ground. You know, there's a difference between politicians and leaders. Politicians read poll numbers and compromise. Leaders do what's morally right. I think the question these politicians are asking themselves now is: how can I survive as a politician, in this system, which means a lot to me, and still do the right thing? I think that's an unfortunate calculus, that's happening all over America. What we need is more leaders and less politicians.
The gas companies spend millions on TV ads, trying to convince the public that fracking is not only safe but good for the country, because it creates jobs. What effect does that have on public perception?
The more they put those ads on television, the more gas companies offer an excuse for people to look the other way. But what you have to try to do is look into the future and say, this is a path to ruin; this is what's happening to the whole planet. It's saying we're not going to pay attention to events like Hurricane Sandy. We're not going to look at the worst wildfires in history. We're not going to look at the fact that there are some island nations now that are in the process of evacuating, because of sea level rise.
What the oil and gas industry's PR is doing is trying to confuse people, and say don't look at these events as an indicator, probabilistically, scientifically, of what is to come; there's nothing to see here. Just enjoy your TV. Unfortunately we can be manipulated to not pay attention. And what we're trying to do is tell them, you've got to pay attention. And we're trying to do it in a way that says, we're sorry to have to give you this information! And we're going to give it to you in the most human way possible. Because it is the human impulse, to try to care for each other, I think.
Docs Summer Series 2013