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Activists Set Up ‘Wheel Of Misfortune’ To Oppose ‘Fracking’

Above photo: Jeff Dicken runs a game of “Wheel of Misfortune” Saturday night in Fells Point as part of a demonstration against fracking. (Ian Duncan, BALTIMORE SUN / October 19, 2013

Pop-up light show and game show in Fells Point aim to draw attention to controversial drilling practice

Activists opposed to hydraulic fracturing projected their message on the side of a Fells Point building Saturday night and invited passers-by to play a so-called Wheel of Misfortune to highlight what they say are the risks of the gas drilling technique.

The demonstration, which drew about a dozen activists, was one of hundreds across the world this week as part of a “Global Frackdown.” The wheel and the light show — visible for blocks — laid out the risks the activists see in the drilling method commonly known as “fracking,” including air pollution, water contamination and earthquakes.

Julie Gouldener, an organizer with the environmental group Food and Water Watch, said the game-show wheel was designed to represent that fracking, which involves pumping pressurized water and chemicals into underground rock formations to release natural gas, is an “insane gamble.”

“We’re asking Governor [Martin] O’Malley to cease all imminent work on fracking,” Gouldener said.

The state has imposed a moratorium on the technique while studies about its safety are carried out, and preliminary plans could see Maryland implement some of the strictest regulations in the country. The research is supposed to be complete next year, and O’Malley’s office said Saturday that he is awaiting the findings before making a policy decision.

But Gouldener said the experiences of other states that have allowed fracking suggest that the method cannot be used without harming the environment, and she urged O’Malley to impose a permanent ban.

“The onus is on the industry first to prove they can do it safely,” she said.

Industry groups contend that the method can be employed responsibly and that it provides a fuel that contributes less to climate change than coal or oil. They warn that strict regulations might scare business away.

Gouldener said she hoped the Wheel of Misfortune was a fun way to educate people.

Those who stepped up Saturday night for a spin were rewarded with candy and a brief description of what the activists say is one of the risks of fracking, bellowed out by Gouldener’s husband, Jeff Dicken.

After each spin, an organizer hunched over a laptop changed the light show to match what the wheel’s arrow pointed to. A projector then shone the message on a building at the end of a row of houses on Fell Street.

The projections were provided by Luminous Intervention, a Baltimore-based group that specializes in shining large-scale protest messages on buildings and other public spaces.

Denice Ochola, 30, was among those to take a spin on the wheel as activists cheered her on. She knows a bit about fracking but doesn’t consider it an especially important issue.

“It’s not high on my agenda,” she said.


Anti-Fracking Demonstration Held in Fell’s Point
By Bill Hughes


An album of 11 photos: 

[nggallery id=”72″]

Back Story:

Saturday evening, October 19th, an anti-fracking demonstration, which included interactive light projections, was held in historic Fell’s Point in Bmore. The point of the event was to urge “Governor [Martin O’] O’Malley to ban fracking as the only way to protect Maryland’s climate, property values and quality of life.” The occurrence was part of “more than 200 actions [that are] taking place on Oct. 19th across six continents.” They are aimed at sending a message “to elected officials around the world.” To learn more, go to GlobalFrackdown2, at: and Food & Water Watch, at: Publish reports indicate that the governor has “order a study” to find out if fracking offers “unacceptable risk to Marylanders.” His press secretary added that his final decision will be “guided by the science.” Activist Julie Gouldener helped to organize the protest action in the heart of Fell’s Point. Jorge Aquilar, the Southern Regional Director, with Food & Water Watch, shared his views on the issue with me. He fears that the governor is moving forward with developing regulations “to issue fracking permits in Maryland!”

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