I was up in frack land again having a look at the night sky. It’s only at night that the full impact of drilling activities can be seen. As the sky darkens, the industrial lights, rigs, and flares appear on the horizon and reconfigure the landscape. The illuminations are like magnets. In the company of residents who know the terrain and are similarly fixated on night crawling, I point my car in the direction of these pockets of light that rise from the darkened hills. When it’s foggy, the sky animates. Quick flickers, the fall off from flaring, turn the sky orange. I chase the flares down dirt roads which reveal scenes of tremendous disruption. A rig and a flare, breathing and billowing, another flare behind the hills. Empty homes lit by the fire, one abandoned after the water turned bad. The flares are loud and uneven, they swoosh and erupt, and then die down to blaze again. No people can be seen. The mystery of this light, of what lies at the end of the dirt road, or over the hill, is what first struck me and continues to pull me back.
I’ve been spending some time the last few months in Pennsylvania looking at the fracking industry (natural gas extraction) and its impact on rural life there. The rush to drill down and explode the ground in pursuit of energy is radically reshaping the landscape and the political and social structure. For some, it’s an economic windfall. For others, a personal nightmare. There are many important issues of public and private space, clean water, clean air, affordable housing, government accountability (or lack there of). In my few visits I’ve encountered some extraordinary and dedicated people. Photographically, I am just beginning, but hope to work in the region for the rest of this year if not longer. For a quick read on the issue, see my piece published in AlterNet. All photos ©Nina Berman 2011. For information contact NOOR images.