Will UT frack it up?

The Southern Energy Network will bring environmental debate to campus this weekend with a free screening of the documentary, "Gasland II."

Three years ago, director Josh Fox released an Oscar-nominated documentary exposing the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the environment. Fox has since traveled across the country recording the stories of people affected by fracking within their communities, resulting in the follow-up documentary set to be shown at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, in the UC.

Focusing on public health and the environment as it relates to fracking, "Gasland II" illuminates what senior Kristen Collins calls "the corrupt and poisonous world of the industry."

As a geology and environmental studies major who also works at the Southern Energy Network, Collins said she believes Fox's work is especially relevant to UT and the Knoxville area.

"Fracking can contaminate the drinking water and cause sickness," Collins said. "We have several fracking sites in Tennessee and our own university is leasing campus owned lands to the oil and gas industry for fracking research.

"Students should be informed about the extraction sites near our home and nationwide."

Daniel Lawhon, co-director Student Services Environment and Sustainability Committee, agrees, saying that the immediate threat of fracking in Knoxville demands attention and concern.

"Wells are being drilled in the backyards of communities without crucial public safety or environmental impact questions being answered by the industry," Lawhon said. "These issues are particularly salient for the University of Tennessee given the recent push to allow fracking on UT-owned land."

Lawhon said he sees the documentary screening as a way to get students in on the conversation about fracking and its consequences.

"Should we risk contamination of drinking water, damage our sensitive ecosystems, and release greenhouse gases, especially on university-owned land?" Lawhon said. "These are the questions that 'Gasland II' will raise for students and the Knoxville community."

Additionally, in Lawhon's opinion, the need to take decisive action reaches far beyond the UT campus.

"The debate over fracking reflects greater divides throughout society on how to responsibly and sustainably source our energy needs," he said. "It is essential for students to be cognizant of what precisely is happening at these fracking wells in order to make truly informed decisions, both as consumers and as voters."

Collins said she has high hopes that "Gasland II" will get students thinking seriously about issues like fracking.

"Josh Fox is an amazing director and will inform and inspire students to take a stand on the issue," Collins said. "I hope that the attendees of the event on Oct. 6 will walk away inspired to stand up to the industry and to advocate for clean energy sources. We should not have to trade one resource for another and public health should not be sacrificed for natural gas."