It was probably no coincidence that organizers at Monmouth Reform Temple chose April 22 as the day to screen the Emmy Award-winning documentary Gasland. The aim of the program was to raise awareness of a controversial practice that, critics claim, puts water sources and public health at risk, and that Sunday was Earth Day.
The film is about hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), the process gas companies use in seeking to extract natural gas, which involves injecting toxic chemicals into dense rock to release the gas.
Gasland demonstrates how fracking endangers the environment and describes its harmful effects on rural areas throughout the country. The presentation, which included a question-and-answer session, was led by Rachel Dawn Davis, New Jersey organizer of Food & Water Watch.
Last year, New Jersey’s legislature passed a statewide ban on fracking. In August, Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto, enacting a one-year moratorium on the ban. The NJ Legislature has reintroduced the anti-fracking bill and could become the first state in the country to ban the method.
At the event, Rabbi Michelle Pearlman told NJJN that the Earth Day program dovetailed with the temple’s commitment to the environment through its Social Action Network. MRT uses solar paneling, has a culture committed to sustainability and recycling, and harvests crops for food banks in Gan Mazon, its expansive community garden.
“As Jews we are called to till and tend to the earth,” she said. “In the Midrash it is said that when God gave the world to the first human being, Adam, he toured him around the garden and said, ‘This is yours. You only have one chance to take care of it.’
“We must think critically about what we are doing to this earth and the consequences of our actions on future generations,” said Pearlman.
“The whole concept of tikun olam is so basic to Judaism,” said MRT member Marcia Horn of Red Bank, who cochaired the event with Eleanor Rubin of Tinton Falls. “I’ve always been committed to the environment, and my involvement with Food and Water Watch is very important to me.”
“I think New Jersey is in great danger of having our air and water polluted,” Rubin said. “What’s most upsetting to me is that some large companies are able to bypass environmental protection regulations. We are spoiling the land that was given to us, and as a Jew I know I am supposed to protect God’s earth.”
A sequel, Gasland 2, is scheduled to be released by HBO this summer, and will be screened at the Two River Theater in Red Bank.
“It’s vital that the community be educated about this,” said Davis. “We need people to call and write letters to their legislators.”