I’ve written before about the extrACT suite of software tools we have been developing at MIT: information and communication technologies that promote community collective action. We have started to introduce the first of these tools, Landman Report Card, to communities in Texas and Ohio that are being confronted by the impacts of natural gas extraction. The experiences that citizens are recording with it are as remarkable as they are heartbreaking.
Residents out west, in some of the most scenic and (until recently) unspoiled parts of the US have called their regions a “national sacrifice zone” where their health, welfare, and environment are being traded for energy that used in other parts of the country. In many cases rural and suburban communities lack the experience, knowledge, or political capital to hold industry accountable. Industry can cut corners, use unspecified and dangerous chemicals, and negotiate substandard agreements with the people whose property and livelihood they are impacting. ICT systems that record an individuals’ experiences, make them accessible, and allow these individuals to network and organize can help rectify the knowledge gap. Film maker Paula Aguilera followed some of our fieldwork and put together this video: