Yisu Zheng / Sun Staff Photographer

Speaker at the F word lecture on November 12th, 2018.

November 13, 2018

Professors Use Poetry and Photography to Analyze Impact of Fracking

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More than 35 students filled into a packed Rockefeller Hall classroom on Monday to learn more about the notorious F-Word: fracking.

Prof. Julia Kasdorf, English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, Penn State University, and Prof. Steven Rubin, photography, Penn State University, spoke about their new book exploring the effects of fracking.

Kasdorf, a poet, and Rubin, a former photojournalist and documentary photographer, explored various parts of Pennsylvania to speak with people affected by fracking, and then compiled a collection of poetry and photography called Shale Play.

The combination of poems and photographs created a narrative about fracking that humanizes the controversy surrounding fracking by presenting a more personal perspective to the widely debated issue, according to an audience member.

Rubin called photography “a catalyst for change.”

“In the grand scheme of things, photography can change the world by making individuals aware of certain issues,” he said. “And these individuals can then go out and also enforce change.”

Fracking is a process in which liquids and other materials are injected into the ground at high pressures in order to create small fractures which allow workers to then extract liquids, energy, and gas from the ground, according to BBC. Shale Play reveals that people who live near fracking sites actually feel more damage than benefit from fracking.

During the presentation, Kasdorf read poems detailing the stories of people whose lives had been altered by the fracking process, while Rubin shared an array of photographs that offered a glimpse into fracking regions of Pennsylvania.

The presentation showed a wide range of perspectives, including those of families whose children developed nosebleeds and rashes after fracking started on their property, and communities who used to get their drinking water from rivers that are now polluted by chemicals from fracking. The book also described an experience in which landowners shot in the direction of fracking workers because they did not want fracking on their land.

Although fracking is currently a heavily politicized topic, Kasdorf and Rubin both became interested in the topic out of curiosity when they saw fracking sites popping up near their communities. Kasdorf said that during the process of writing poetry for Shale Play, she tried “as much as possible to stay open and curious and to get lost in trying to understand the stories and the places.”