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'Gasland' Writer/Director Josh Fox Brings Grassroots Tour to Plattsburgh

The filmmaker who brought the Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning “Gasland” films to the screen brought his newest effort, “The Solutions Grassroots Tour: A Solar Home Companion,” to SUNY Plattsburgh Sunday, March 8, 2015.

Josh Fox, whose “Gasland” films focused on those communities affected by natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and who argues that the industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a myth, continues to shine a light on the impact of fossil fuel development through his “Solar Home Companion” roadshow.‘

Part variety show, part renewable energy how-to, Fox lightly parodied Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” through music, stories, film sequences and Americana. He even played the banjo.

“My background is in theater. I’ve run a theater company for the last 18 years,” he said while speaking — hands-free — from his car while heading to a venue in Virginia at the end of February. “But I’m also a filmmaker. And one day in 2008, there was a knock on my door from a company wanting to frack in my back yard. That became the premise of the first film, ‘Gasland.’”

‘Most Horrific Situations Imaginable’

In his investigation, Fox said he found “the most horrific situations imaginable — toxic emissions, emergent health crises, destruction of land, fracked wells that leak over time, contaminating water and air. That led the way for ‘Gasland II,’ which shows how oil and gas industries are contaminating our democracy.”

Fox’s appearance at SUNY Plattsburgh was co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Center for Earth and Environmental Science and hosted by the local People for Positive Action.

Dr. Lauren Eastwood, associate professor of sociology, is a proponent for Fox’s program on campus.

“Josh is a good example of what can be done at a grassroots level,” Eastwood said. “If you can gain momentum and get enough people behind renewables and give them the tools to be active in the process, you will turn the tide. The ‘Grassroots Tour’ was theatrical and musical and informative. It’s was fun and interesting.” It also included sneak peeks of his new film on climate change. We will begin the conversation with how to get New York state off fossil fuels and onto the wind and sun."

Huge Amount of Media Attention

Grassroots efforts are what Fox knows best, having had success with the “Gasland” movies on HBO and at Sundance. “They’ve been shown in some 24 countries worldwide, seen by 50 million people,” he said. “They received a huge amount of media attention, but they essentially came out of a grassroots effort. We do this to make information available, to give local grassroots efforts a shot in the arm through a free event like this so organizers can do fundraising of their own.

“We all have the power to enact change, but it’s a collective process,” he said. “Conversations are going to take several years. We want this to be coming from the people. We’re seeing it happen, but there are a lot of things we need to do.”

One of those things is the creation of offshore wind farms.

‘You’d Better Get Involved’

“There are the most amazing resources in New York state for offshore wind,” he said. “We’re not talking about something that would be obstructive to the coastline or sea life. These would be so far out that you wouldn’t be able to see them. But even beyond that, if you don’t want wind as a form of energy, if you want some other form of energy, then you’d better get involved. This is a democratic conversation. If you want to be involved in the decision for the best way and most equitable way to protect the environment, that’s where your involvement in the conversation comes in.”

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