Sierra Club-GVSU Film Series Celebrates Three Anniversaries in 2012 Screening of “Gasland” Spotlights Latest Environmental Threat to Michigan

The Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter and Grand Valley State University’s School of Communications join forces to celebrate three Sierra Club milestones in 2012 with a film series and membership drive that kicks off with a free, public screening of the award-winning documentary “Gasland.”  The movie and a post-screening Q&A take place Thursday, Feb. 16, 7-9 pm. at GVSU’s Loosemore Auditorium, 401 Fulton St. W, Grand Rapids.

The event and collaboration honor the 45th anniversary of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter and the 120th of the national organization, and it marks the 25th anniversary of the Michigan Wilderness Act. This 1987 legislation, spearheaded by the Michigan Chapter, protected 90,000 acres of old growth forests, dunes and lakes after a 10-year political battle to designate the best of Michigan’s three million acres of national forest lands as wilderness.

“This is a great way to introduce people to the Sierra Club, because the movie is about a new environmental threat we’ve seen here in Michigan and are tackling head on,” said Anne Woiwode, Michigan Chapter director.

“Gasland,” an Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning film by Josh Fox, offers a first-person account of the filmmaker’s quest to find out more about hydraulic fracturing –“ fracking” for short — a brutal but increasingly popular method of extracting deep-seated natural gas that has come to Michigan in recent years. Exempt from environmental regulations, fracking blasts 3-7 million gallons of chemical-laced water into rock to release gas.  The result is air pollution and toxic water wells that can produce flaming faucets, as shown in “Gasland,” and even earthquakes.

The Michigan Chapter has been working with legislators on a package of bills to delay fracking in Michigan and strengthen regulations to protect people from the fallout of this dangerous process. The approach represents just one of a variety of tactics including grassroots action, coalition building and litigation that has helped the Chapter secure numerous environmental protections in the last five decades. In addition to the Michigan Wilderness Act, its diverse victories include the protection of 35 miles of pristine coastline that became Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 1970, a 2002 ban on Great Lakes oil drilling, and 2008 legislation requiring power companies to invest in alternative energy and consumer energy efficiency.

The joint Sierra Club-GVSU celebration in 2012 represents the first-ever collaboration between the nation’s oldest environmental organization and the only Michigan university deemed one of the top 25 “cutting edge” green colleges in the United States by the 2009 Kaplan College Guide.  It coincides with GVSU’s winter semester and will feature another environmental film screening on campus April 6th and student recruitment activities including a wilderness outing hosted by GVSU film professors John Philbin and John Schmit.

“In the 1980s while living in California, I got hooked on the Great Outdoors and joined the Sierra Club – it was a place I found kindred spirits,” says Philbin, who made a documentary about Yosemite National Park rangers in 1986.  “And Sierra Magazine got me dreaming of hiking trips to all the national parks. I’m happy to help introduce the Club to my students and rally a new generation to the cause.”

For more on Gasland, visit:  For details about Sierra Club’s anniversary year, contact Gail Philbin at or 517-484-2372, ext. 16. For information about the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, visit