"Fracking", or Hydraulic Fracturing, is a new technology that has opened up immense resources of natural gas buried in deep shale beds. The process involves injection of highly-pressurized water, sand and chemicals to shatter underground layers of shale and extract previously inaccessible natural gas.
But the process and its sudden spread across the North American landscape, has become an incredibly divisive issue, ripping apart communities and even families. The backlash to the gas industry is unprecedented, with some countries, Canadian provinces and American states adopting fracking bans and moratoriums.
As SHATTERED GROUND reveals, some see fracking as a great opportunity for money and jobs, and one that provides cheap, clean fuel. But, for others, the possible human health costs of this new drilling technology have motivated a large and vociferous anti-fracking movement.
The debate over fracking has been echoed in the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland and in Promised Land, the new Gus van Sant's feature film starring Matt Damon. Fracking's critics consider the industry a potential environmental disaster, citing chemical contamination of air and water. With pipelines proposed, terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) requiring billions of dollars of investment, and huge shale beds lying underneath highly-populated areas of the Canada and the US (including southern Ontario and the GTA), fracking is an issue that could affect every one of us.
Must there be a choice between health and wealth, or is it possible to find a balance? The gulf between proponents and opponents appears so wide, it's difficult to find common ground.
Travelling from the northern gas fields in Canada to the rancorous political battles and hot beds of shale gas activity in the US, SHATTERED GROUND looks at the people who benefit, and those who do not. The film gathers the new scientific data that is only now beginning to clarify a complex issue, and the health risks involved.
With fracking's gigantic appetite for water – water permanently removed from the eco-system – what's at stake may not just be about our supply of natural gas but the one resource none of us can live without: fresh water.
"Fracking is one of the 'hot button' issues of our time", says SHATTERED GROUND director Leif Kaldor. "There are very strong opinions on both sides of the issue, and very little middle ground. We felt there was a need for a film that would give people a clear understanding of the process, the latest science, and how fracking is playing out on the ground, so they'd be better able to make up their own minds."
SHATTERED GROUND is directed by Leif Kaldor, produced by Leslea Mair, and written by Leslea Mair and Leif Kaldor for Zoot Pictures in association with CBC-TV's The Nature of Things.
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