Gasland’s message as important as potential Oscar, Vancouver activist says

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      Vancouver social-media activist and marketer Azita Ardakani is as excited as anyone about American director Josh Fox’s shot at an Oscar this weekend for his 2010 environmental documentary Gasland.

      “But I don’t think that’s the issue,” Ardakani, chief ideas officer at her company Lovesocial, told the Straight in a phone interview. “I know Josh really well personally—he’s become a really good friend in between time. Josh is one of the most humble guys ever, but he really is just fighting this good fight. He still has the same piece-of-crap car that he drove around in the documentary.”

      Gasland is the 107-minute documentary that got its start in Fox’s own backyard in Pennsylvania, where he was approached by an energy company wanting to offer him a cool US$100,000 if he would lease his land in order for them to drill beneath it and tap the Marcellus Shale.

      Uneasy, Fox launched his own investigation and uncovered a horror show. Fox lays the blame squarely at the door of industry, and in particular its practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

      Ardakani said she worked pro bono with Fox to help spread awareness of the documentary, which, while focused on the United States, still resonates with Canadians concerned about the industrial practice, which involves the injection of water and additives into the ground to extract natural gas.

      “I was kind of shocked and alarmed,” Ardakani recalled of seeing Gasland the first time. “There were a few layers of thought that were going through my head. One of them was, ”˜How on Earth is this happening, and how do more people not know about it?’ The second layer of thought was, ”˜Why does it always, in this North American society, take a film to shake people up and bring attention to something? What’s wrong with us?’ Well, and the third one was, ”˜There is still an opportunity for something to be done.’”

      On that point, Ardakani said she helped Fox debunk industrial astroturfing attempts to discredit the movie and the director’s credibility. When the documentary aired on HBO, it Ardakani and a colleague at Lovesocial banked on some interest being created.

      “We had no idea just how much interest there would be,” Ardakani added. “And hundreds of tweets started going up, where people that were seeing the documentary were kind of shocked and alarmed and taking to their social media accounts to have a conversation around this. What we noticed was a bunch of gas companies, like Energy in Depth—which is kind of a mouthpiece for them”¦they all started tweeting at the people that were also commenting on seeing the documentary, except they were redirecting them to a website called Debunking Gasland, obviously paid for by Energy in Depth. We realized that it was all-out Twitter warfare.”

      The Straight sent separate e-mails to Energy in Depth spokespeople Chris Tucker and Jeff Eshelman. Neither responded on Thursday (February 24).

      The fact that Ardakani is taking on industrial might in the social media realm speaks largely to her generation, which she explained as “the generation that very much does individual governance”.

      “The difference between now, historically speaking, is, for the first time ever, the individual has—especially on the Internet-based level—as much power as the big guys,” she said. “The little guys have as much power as the big guys, if we’re talking about garnering attention or creating an alliance. What we saw was we were sitting at 40,000 people in Gasland’s Facebook. These individuals have really bound together online in a way that they never could have done before.”