December 28, 2018
Can David still beat Goliath, even in a day when Goliath has acquired wealth and power far beyond the imaginings of the Biblical villain? That question lies at the heart of the documentary film Unfractured, which will be shown at two Quincy libraries in January. The 2017 film, cosponsored by Quincy Climate Action Network, Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station (FRRACS), and the Thomas Crane Public Library, will screen at the Adams Shore library branch, 519 Sea Street, at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 7. It will also screen at the main branch, 40 Washington Street, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 16. Admission is free, and all are welcome.
Unfractured follows Sandra Steingraber, a Ph.D. biologist and environmental activist from Trumansburg, N.Y., as she works for a state ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a means of extracting natural gas and oil from underground shale formations using pressurized water and a toxic brew of chemicals. With fracking, energy companies can get at deposits of oil and gas that were previously beyond their reach, but it has been shown to pollute air, water, and soil. In addition, environmentalists argue, it encourages increased reliance on natural gas, a major contributor to climate change, for heating and electricity generation. And of course, as shown in dramatic fashion by recent events in Andover and Lawrence, natural gas is a highly explosive compound that can endanger lives and property.
The film shows Steingraber speaking at rallies, debating fossil fuel industry supporters and representatives in a forum at Cornell University, and being jailed for her part in a blockade near the entrance to an old salt mine underneath New York’s Lake Seneca that is slated for conversion to a natural gas storage facility. She also travels to Romania to support a campaign against fracking by the American fossil fuel giant Chevron, during which she falls under constant surveillance by the police and gendarmerie, who also are depicted gassing and roughing up protesters. Throughout, she struggles with the improvisational nature of anti-fracking activism. After the debate at Cornell, for instance, she says, “In spite of all the arguments, the evidence, and the data, we’re not going to win this on the merits of gently making the case.… I think we’re at a stage where we just have to try stuff.”
During Steingraber’s jail term, a fellow inmate who has suffered a life of addiction and physical abuse, says, “I’m not trying to find myself; I’m trying to create myself.” In a way, American citizens are facing the same challenge, Steingraber reflects: “We’ve been living so long under the tyranny of the fossil fuel industry that it’s come to seem normal, so when a Texas-based gas company buys our lakeshore in order to store vast quantities of explosive hydrocarbon gas in old salt mines underneath, imperiling drinking water, the climate, and everything in between, we don’t know what to do. We can’t find the path to victory; we have to create it.”
Steingraber’s causes, especially the fight against the underground gas storage facility, remind Alice Arena, president of FRRACS, of her own group’s campaign against the proposed Fore River compressor station. Like the compressor station, Arena says, the Lake Seneca gas storage facility “was going to be an environmental disaster, and it was going to bring nothing to the people who lived” in the area. “The film’s lesson,” she says, “is that you never give up, that you keep fighting.… You have to fight from every angle—legal action, protesting, getting your legislators involved. Because these projects are not just a problem for the neighborhood; they’re a problem for the world.”