No. Beginning Aug. 5, 2013, Link TV will not be offering Al Jazeera English anymore. Link TV was notified by Al Jazeera America that the AJE feed would no longer be available to any clients in the continental US. We were one of the first distributors of Al Jazeera content in North America. We have valued Al Jazeera's partnership over the past three years and wish them success.
Upon acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera has a new distribution strategy in North America which does not include KCETLink or any other American distributor. Al Jazeera America is launching its own American news channel. For more information, please visit www.aljazeera.com.
We are proud to have a strong international news and public affairs offering, which includes LinkAsia, Deutsche Welle (Germany), France 24 (France), and a variety of programs from leading Asian public broadcaster NHK. We also offer Latin Pulse radio, as well as our cutting edge Link TV World News mobile app. Funded by the Bertha Foundation, the free app culls content from more than 125 video news outlets, eyewitnesses on the ground, and more than 50,000 global news sources.
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We were not able to identify a news program from that region of the world on par with the quality and caliber of coverage we would choose to put on our air. Link TV recognizes the importance of presenting the latest news and information coming from the dynamic Middle East, and assure you that our world news offering delivers the latest news and current affairs from that region presented by multiple leading broadcasters. That said, we will continue to search for a suitable source based in the Middle East.
I first became acquainted with Sonya Mazumdar as a voice at one end of a US-India Skype session about Link's licensing of "Laya Project" a dazzling musical journey around the areas devastated by the massive 2004 Tsunami. The newly formed Indian production company and record label EarthSync India had just released the film as its first endeavor. The haunting travelogue garnered honors over the intervening years, and when EarthSync launched its spinoff website IndiEarth Sonya contacted me again to see if I would allow their site to stream some of my relevant videoblogs. But of course I would!
Then, many months later (yet still rather suddenly) came an invitation from Sonya to attend the first IndiEarth XChange in Chennai. Rarely one to refuse an invitation to a new place, I found myself taking the long trip to Southeast India, to report on another maiden voyage from the young, pioneering Earthsync/IndiEarth. This time it was a meeting of international and local media, with film screenings and musical performances, along with panel discussions and networking to be held at the Park Chennai Hotel. It was an ambitious project (intended to be a prototype) requiring its own networking and funding, plus massive coordination. The aim was to lay the foundation for a network of dedicated professionals supporting independent music and cinema in India.
It was a hectic three days, and the large turnout participated in vigorous panels about the obstacles and opportunities for music and film in Southeast Asia and Oceania, as well as the remarkably varied musical fare. What made it exciting for me, was the un-Western media presence. Aside from Indian, there was a significant Australian media contingent. In particular, the magnificently feisty Kate Welsman an Australian Public Radio deejay was quick to point out that there was a noticeable shift in markets of all kinds from West to East, and music was a part of that market. It made sense. At the same time it was also made clear by both the musicians and film-makers, that the audience demographics for Southeast Asia needed to be cultivated, and weaned away from a straight diet of Bollywood, which still holds the business reins in a rigidly controlled grip.
For my part, I ran around taking as much video as I could, and focusing of course, on music. But I simply could not catch it all. So what you are seeing in my video is just a wee fraction of the music that was performed in the lobby, bar, main stage and other impromptu venues.
In all, I was very excited by the spirit of IndiEarth Exchange. The people who were gathered together were bright, creative, energetic and pro-active. I felt challenged and stimulated, as well as entertained. I believe something will come from this. It may not come immediately, but it will come.
For more information about EarthSync India, visit earthsync.com.
For the complete performance of song by Parvathy and Lakshman Das Baul, click here.
For complete song by Karthick Iyer, click here.
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com.
When Sheila Russell decided to move back to her ancestral home in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, she wanted to start a new life. A seventh-generation Russell, whose family had settled the land in 1796, the last year of George Washington’s presidency, she left her corporate job at a catalog company to do what she loved best: farming.
There was only one problem: shale gas. As luck would have it, the Russell farm happened to sit on top of the Marcellus shale, a large underground formation rich in natural gas. In 2010, just as Ms. Russell was embarking on her new career in organic farming, Chesapeake Energy drilled two shale-gas wells across the road, less a thousand feet from the farm.
Although not worried at first and even hopeful that future royalties from the gas may help her expand her business, Ms. Russell soon found herself in a nightmare, when she discovered that one of the wells on her property had been leaking methane gas into the ground, due to a faulty casing, for over a year.
Today, Sheila Russell has stopped drinking the water from her private well and even refuses to water her produce with it, preferring instead a nearby spring-fed pond. Water tests have shown elevated levels of methane and metals, still within state norms, but she does not want to take any chances.
"It's a concern for me, it's a concern for my customers," she says. "We all thought [the gas] was a lot of money coming and that it was safe. And it’s neither safe, nor a money-maker. Do I stay on this seventh-generation farm and keep it going? I don’t know."
Sheila Russell's case is hardly an exception. Bradford County, a bucolic region in northern Pennsylvania full of woodlands, rolling hills, and pastures dotted by red barns and hay bales, with a population of just 63,000 people, has been undergoing a massive industrial transformation for the past few years, as both American and international companies have joined the rush for gas.
This is not the first natural-resource boom in Bradford County. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, coal mining and logging were big economic drivers -- until the coal ran out and the hills were hills were stripped bare -- but the shale gas may prove to be the biggest industry yet.
About 2,000 shale-gas wells have been drilled and permitted in the county so far, making it the most heavily drilled region in Pennsylvania and the Marcellus as a whole. And while the economic benefits for companies, larger leaseholders, and some local businesses have been significant, the gas rush threatens to undermine the venerable farming and dairy operations in the area, while creating a host of environmental and social problems.
The changes are hard to ignore. From a sleepy Pennsylvania town on the banks of the Susquehanna River, Towanda, the county's seat, has metamorphosed into a real boomtown, with industry trucks and large pickups jamming the single main street. Crime has gone up by about 40 percent, while rents and food prices have skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, new restaurants and hotels have sprung up along the river valley to service the rig and pipeline workers, many of them coming here from as far as Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.
Since 2008, when drilling for shale gas began in the county, revenues from sales tax have jumped up 61 percent, while unemployment has hovered at around six percent, lower than the national average. So far, local landowners have received $160 million in leases, which have boosted spending, as well as the county's tax base.
"The shale gas industry has had a very positive economic impact on the region" says Anthony Ventello, the executive director of Progress Authority, the local chamber of commerce, pointing out that the gas industry continues to bring in new investments. A new 800 MW gas-fired power plant, worth between 600 and 800 million dollars, has been already planned, while other, smaller gas-related projects are soon to follow.
"We're looking to create a value-added economy and not just ship natural gas out of here like a third-world country," he says.
Yet, behind the upbeat statistics, a darker side lurks. Blowouts, toxic spills, water contamination, and gas migration have accompanied development.
Chesapeake Energy, the company with the most substantial presence, was fined $900,000 -- the largest environmental fine in the state’s history -- for allowing gas migration to contaminate the water of 16 families in the county in 2010. Later, a blowout of one of the company’s wells caused large amounts of "produced water" -- liquid waste associated with shale gas extraction -- to spill into Towanda creek. In Bradford County, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, overall there have been more than 600 violations so far.
Most often, accidents occur due to faulty casing and cementing, with gas and a variety of dangerous metals migrating into the water table. The industry calculates that six percent of all new wells have some kind of casing or cementing problem, but in reality that percentage could be much higher.
Carol French, a long-time dairy farmer, experienced the adverse consequences of shale-gas drilling first hand, when her well water turned white and murky in 2011. Soon, her whole family started having skin rashes, while her 24-year old daughter fell extremely ill with intestinal, liver and spleen problems (she quickly improved when she moved away from the farm). Meanwhile, the family's cattle began suffering from skin rashes and breeding issues.
"I got to see my farm lose 90 percent of its property value," she says. “I’m losing my milk market and probably I won’t be able to sell my cows. The gas industry had negatively impacted our health, our water, our business, our society."
Mrs. French has made the conscious decision to keep her dairy operation going, despite the fact that there are about 340 shale-gas wells within a ten-mile radius of her farm. Many of her neighbors, on the other hand, have simply opted to take the money from their gas leases and sell their dairy herds. Out of about 12 dairy farmers in the immediate vicinity, only three have kept their farms running, according to Mrs. French's estimates. Even the local milk hauler has gone on to work as a truck driver for the shale-gas industry.
Another serious impact has been the fragmentation of farmland by the wells pads, compressor stations, and the thousands of miles of pipelines already crisscrossing the hills or currently under construction.
Certainly, there are other factors contributing to the decline of dairy farms in Bradford County, beyond the gas industry. Low milk prices and expensive feed have kept the business on the edge of survival for years and many have seen the windfall from gas leases and royalties as the perfect exit.
The choice was clear for Howard Keir, a neighbor of Carol French. After leasing the mineral rights of his property to Chesapeake Energy, he immediately sold off his dairy herd. He believes shale-gas extraction is generally safe and today has three wells on his property, out of which he soon expects to receive royalties.
"With the price of milk going mostly down, farmers were going out of business anyway, so you can’t blame it all on the industry," he says.
Anthony Ventello, of the chamber of commerce, agrees. "Don’t get me wrong, but farming is doomed, no matter what you do. It has to do with milk prices mostly. Yes, things will change, but I don’t see that as a danger."
Anecdotal evidence suggests that some farmers use the proceeds from gas exploration to upgrade their operations, but the general trend has been in the opposite direction.
A 2012 study by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences draws a direct correlation between the decline of cow numbers and dairy production in areas with higher drilling activity. Between 2007 and 2010, in counties with 150 or more gas wells cow numbers have decreased by 18.7 percent on average, compared to only 1.2 percent decrease in counties with no Marcellus wells. In Bradford County the decline has been 18.8 percent for that time period.
Timothy Kelsey, professor of agricultural economics and a co-author of the study, sees a danger for the entire dairy industry in the region if the decline continues.
"If the number of farms and agricultural activity fall too low, these essential supporting businesses [like feed stores, large animal veterinarians, machinery dealers, and agricultural processors] will leave or quit, making it difficult for remaining farmers to access needed inputs and markets and thus remain in business," he writes.
If such domino effect takes place and farming and dairy production in Bradford County collapse along with the entire supply chain, even the large financial inflow from the shale gas industry might not be able to make up for the difference.
A law that came into effect last year in Pennsylvania, Act 13, tries to mitigate some of the negative effects of shale gas drilling by providing an impact fee. In 2012, Bradford County received $8.2 million with another $6.8 million projected for 2013.
"It's a chunk of change that Bradford County never had before," says Mark Smith, one of the county commissioners. "Is it enough? I don't think we know that answer yet."
Without a doubt shale gas has made a serious contribution to the economy of Bradford County and Pennsylvania as a whole, yet risking a sustainable industry like farming for an unsustainable one like fossil-fuel extraction may prove too expensive in the end.
Already a bust is on the horizon: drilling in the county has seen a substantial decline, from 408 shale-gas wells drilled in 2011 to 149 well through November of 2012, due to low gas prices. The construction of thousands of miles of pipeline continues in preparation for the new boom when prices pick up, but it is far from certain whether farming in the area could recover so easily.
"The story is always different at the kitchen table where they come to sign you on than it is out in the field," says Bruce Kennedy, a long-time farmer whose family roots in Pennsylvania go back 200 years. In 2011, three accidents related to shale gas extraction happened on his property, including a large diesel spill.
"My grandfather always taught me to leave a place better than you found it. I don’t mind people going after the gas, but it doesn't entitle them to abuse the place. You have to be a good steward of the land."
Reporting for this article was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Calkins Media. Dimiter Kenarov is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey. To learn more about the impacts of fracking, visit Link TV's ISSUE: Fracking page.
Poland is about to open its doors to an unprecedented gas boom. But with multinational energy companies circling and controversial hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- about to begin, people and the environment are in the firing line. Andrew Wasley reports from Gdansk, Northern Poland, for Link TV and The Ecologist.
Chris Faulkner is an oil man. From Dallas, Texas. And his company, Breitling Oil and Gas, is a major player in the burgeoning shale gas sector.
Faulkner is in London to give a presentation on whether Europe is the next shale gas hotspot, and to ask whether -- if so -- it has the necessary infrastructure to cope with a US style 'dash for gas'.
But he's also here to explain how the controversial process for extracting underground shale gas reserves -- hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking' as it has become known -- can be green.
Contrary to the myths spread by environmentalists and parts of the media, the oil man contends, injecting -- at high pressure -- a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to release gas reserves is not in itself bad for the environment.
Instead, Faulkner believes, the oil and gas industry has done a poor job in marketing itself and in managing its public relations. This has, he argues, enabled others to speak for the industry, to capture the media agenda, and to spread alarm.
"The image of lighting your water faucet on fire [a key sequence in the anti-fracking film Gasland] has become the viewpoint or the image of fracking around the world. Now the reality is the media loves sensationalism and that has now transcended the entire scientific evidence that says that fracking is safe," he says.
The Breitling CEO does acknowledge that fracking has impacts. But he claims to have developed a programme -- Envirofrac -- to evaluate environmentally safe fracking procedures, thus helping to combat the problem.
"Fracking can be green. The environmental impacts of fracking can be effectively curtailed through a combination of technology innovation and smart regulation," Faulkner says in the press release sent out ahead of his London visit.
"The focus must be on water conservation, earth preservation, and air quality monitoring."
But these are not terms environmentalists normally associate with fracking.
In the US, the issue has become a key battleground between green campaigners and the energy industry. One of the biggest -- and most bitter -- such scraps of recent years in fact.
Advocates say fracking is safe (for people and the environment), secures a domestic gas resource to help boost energy security, provides jobs, and helps bring prosperity to sometimes impoverished communities.
Critics say fracking is dangerous (for people and the environment), unnecessary, and the latest example of corporate America trampling over the rights of ordinary people.
They argue -- supported by a growing body of evidence, it seems -- that fracking involves an unacceptable level of water usage, contaminates water supplies and spills potentially toxic waste fluids into the environment.
They also say the process uses an unsavoury mix of chemicals -- including known carcinogens -- and is a cause of air pollution, traffic congestion, noise, and a host of other problems.
Campaigners fear too that the shale gas boom will divert attention away from the search for alternatives to fossil fuels, thus potentially derailing efforts to tackle climate change.
Most recently, media reports have linked fracking to illnesses in livestock in a number of US states, including Pennsylvania, raising fears about food safety.
Phamplets and brochures and slick talk
Thousands of miles from Pennsylvania, in a tiny hamlet called Ogonki, in an area of northern Poland known as Kashubia, it is reports such as this which worry Edward Sawicki.
Sawicki is a farmer. A small scale organic producer with less than a dozen cows.
His farm sits in a picturesque, rural area of rolling hills, pristine woodland and winding country lanes.
The fields and forests give way occasionally to tiny villages, farms, and manicured churches. The kind of place where shops don't open on Sundays.
Kashubia isn't officially independent from the rest of Poland, but many of its inhabitants would like to think it is, with their own dialect, flag and fiercely independent spirit. It's where some Poles take their vacation. The area has many summer houses and lakes, used for swimming or fishing.
Sawicki is worried because the ground underneath him contains shale gas, and gas companies want to drill for it.
In late 2011, industry representatives began visiting inhabitants in the region, Sawicki says, trying to secure permission to carry out geological surveys.
The gas men came armed with pamphlets and brochures and slick talk, trying to persuade people that fracking was safe.
But whilst some farmers in the region were quick to allow access to their land, Sawicki refused, worried by what he had read.
"I mean, the first threat when it comes to hydraulic fracturing and numerous drillings regards our water, what will be done to test our drinking water..,? the farmer asks.
"Secondly, how the air that we breathe is going to be treated, I mean, how the gas is going to be treated, the remains from the mining, not, as the government says green gas, but all the mess that will stay here."
Keen to illustrate what he believes is at stake, Sawicki takes us down through the freezing fields to the shoreline of a healthy-looking lake.
There's lots of trees and greenery all around, and some log cabins nearby, some wild birds floating on the water -- the sort of place in summer where you could idle away an afternoon.
"I am the owner of this land, here, in this direction and that," he asserts. "The forest and meadows belong to me. My property border is at the lake that is behind me. The lake is quite big, it stretches for 7 km. One of the fishermen I know fishes here in the lake, so it is still quite clean.
"My fear is that oil stains may appear on the surface if some trucks that carry chemical stuff... [lose their] content deliberately in our forests or in our watercourses here, and the lake might disappear altogether."
Back at the farmhouse, Sawicki tells us his opposition to the exploratory drilling has come at a price.
"It all started when seismic companies, the ones who have been commissioned by the [gas] exploitation companies, started [to] intrude on us last year... and it was not only intrusion, it was harassment and terrorising, threatening with expropriation, financial fines, different things."
He says no more -- it is too complicated to go into any detail, he explains -- but our interpreter later tells us there's been phone calls and threats.
Sawicki shows us an anti-fracking mural he's had painted on the side of a barn.
Although it cannot have been seen by many people in person -- Ogonki is isolated, with few, if any, folk passing through -- the mural has been filmed and photographed by all the visiting journalists here.
The painting, via this unexpected route, has thus reached thousands, perhaps millions.
Jobs and prosperity
There should be lots of people living in Kashubia, and indeed across Poland, worried like Edward Sawicki.
But Poland has embraced the US 'dash for gas', and its own shale gas potential, in an enthusiastic manner not seen elsewhere in Europe.
Both the authorities and, according to some polls, a significant portion of the public, are in favour of gas development. They hanker after the promised foreign investment, the jobs, and the prosperity which will follow -- it is claimed -- the expected gas boom.
The country is certainly sitting on a vast shale gas reserve -- initial figures put this at over 5 trillion cubic meters, later massively downgraded but huge all the same -- and the government knows it is valuable.
So far, just over a hundred exploratory concessions have been awarded to energy firms (both Polish ventures and joint Polish-overseas partnerships) to drill and help ascertain for certain just how much gas is available -- and where.
Officials have carved up vast swathes of the countryside and made it available to the circling prospectors.
Exploratory drilling has not yet begun at the majority of sites however. Legislation expected to be finalised later this year will provide the necessary framework for full scale extraction to begin -- the "green light" for the gas rush as it is being seen by some.
The government wants laws in place to tackle the thorny issues of environmental protection and taxation, particularly after several EU reports warned of the potential risks associated with fracking.
Breitling Oil and Gas has recently explored potential investments in Poland's shale gas sector. Although Chris Faulkner says the future "looks bright," he is cautious about whether the country is yet ready, believing it to only have a "very rudimentary" framework in place.
"Poland and other countries need to build a regulation framework that we know as oil and gas companies," he says.
"What are the requirements to go into Poland and drill a gas well and frack it? What are the permitting requirements? What are the assessments? The environmental assessment requirements? What are the emergency assessments if we were to have a spill or if some kind of issue happens, you know, what are those procedures?"
A growing body of green campaigners, including big guns from Food and Water Watch and Friends of the Earth, are gathering in opposition too. They downplay the assertion that Poland will benefit, economically or otherwise, and point to the environmental red flags being waved from across the water in the US.
"Despite the Polish government's glossy propaganda Polish people have not bought the alleged benefits of shale gas and, like the rest of Europe, are rightly sceptical about the benefits the gas industry claims it will bring," Antoine Simon, from Friends of the Earth Europe, says.
"The European Parliament and European Commission recently questioned the European dash for gas and highlighted the numerous high risks associated with the extraction of shale gas. Concerned communities in Poland and across Europe are taking action against this dangerous experiment on health and the environment."
Livelihoods and future under threat
In the village of Nowy Dwor Bratianski, deep in the bleak Polish countryside a long, twisty drive from the city of Gdansk, Barbara Grzybowska and Mieczyslaw Rutowski have found themselves on the sharp edge of the country's looming gas boom.
Like Edward Sawicki, they are farmers, and worry how the arrival of an exploratory drilling rig nearby will affect their environment, particularly if water usage surges.
"If it turns out that there is [a] shortage in water supply, our animal farming, our existence is really in danger," says Rutowski, looking out across the hillside.
They explain in passionate detail how they sow crops at certain times of the year to maximise retention of valuable water resources, and ensure the best output from the unforgiving soil.
These are people who know the land and its natural cycle, and fear that meddling by outsiders could damage, irrevocably, their livelihoods and future.
What has alarmed the farmers most however is just how little information they say they have been given about the drilling.
"We, the local residents are not a party in this deal. We haven't been informed at all about the planned construction... even on the village bulletin board where all ads are customarily published there was no information about building the drilling rigs," says Rutowski. "There was some information about construction of the access road but it was not stated that there will be a drilling rig."
The farmers accuse the local authorities -- as well as the gas company involved -- of effectively steamrollering the development through by allowing just two weeks for objections to be filed. Even then, only two people directly backing onto the gas rig were officially entitled to register objections, the farmers claim. Neither did.
Not everyone in the region shares their views, as the farmers admit, but they say this is only because the facts have not been disseminated. Those that are aware are against the drilling, they say. But any information has had to come from the Internet. Or scattered public meetings.
In the village of Niesiolowice, in Kashubia, Hieronim Wicek, a community leader, tells a similar tale.
He says that in 2011, when the community learnt that exploratory drilling was earmarked to begin, residents were forced to look towards the western media for details on the possible impacts.
"We found out... that hydraulic fracturing is not so good, that leakage to the ground water may appear after some time," says Wicek. "We saw it in Gasland, in Pennsylvania, and [learnt that] it is not so good neither for the natural environment nor for people."
Wicek acknowledges that there was a public meeting addressed by gas company representatives, but claims a video presentation showed a one sided view of fracking, with pipes being "cemented [and stating] that there is no way any liquid could leak through and pose a hazard to the ground waters."
"They said it [Gasland] was a PR film and it is not true and we should not take it into consideration," he says.
But the gas industry rejects the complaints that communities have been misinformed or ignored.
"I've been to Poland, I've attended meetings in villages where oil and gas companies [...] have sat with people and explained to them what is happening, what the process is, and how it's going to impact the community," says Chris Faulkner.
"I don't believe that every single person is being left in the dark; some folks feel like that but the information is being disseminated."
A passing Niesiolowice resident offers a slightly different perspective, saying she isn't opposed to gas, but is opposed to the method being used to get it. "Surely, gas is needed but should the price be paid by nature and people who live here?” she tells us.
Asked whether the local authorities will protect the community from the the gas rush, she is unequivocal: "No, on the contrary, the authorities are for [gas]. Unfortunately they have coins in their eyes. Money rules nowadays and it is overwhelming."
Small features in a big landscape
Without seeing a gas drilling rig -- or 'frack pad' as they are often known -- close up it's difficult to picture quite what having one in your back yard would feel like.
Visit a disused one (during exploratory drilling the life cycle for frack pads is short, perhaps three months) and you'd probably wonder what all the fuss is about.
A levelled off, concrete flooring. A fence surrounding a sealed hole where the drilling took place. The odd bit of piping, some bricks. Plastic fittings that could have come from any building site.
Visit an active one and its a starkly different story, particularly at night.
A vast crane-like machine periodically sliding up and down deep into the earth. It looks like a fairground ride from the future.
Floodlights. A checkpoint. Keep out signs. Security men with crackling walkie talkies. Workers in hard hats. The constant roar of trucks. Unmarked lorries fitted with cylindrical containers holding who knows what liquid.
At one site, an open gas flare shoots flames high into the sky. Nearby, a vast man-made lagoon foams water -- and what else?
In the pamphlets and brochures distributed by the gas men it doesn't look like this. There, the frack pads are usually photographed from above, the drilling sites neatly fitting into the patchwork of fields and forests -- just a small feature in a big landscape.
It has been reported that each exploratory drilling well in Poland costs its operators some $10 million. Not much of that finds its way to those on whose land the drilling takes place.
One farmer we meet claims he was approached by a company wanting to build a road across his land. This road, it turned out, was to carry the heavy traffic required to construct a major gas drilling site.
Although the farmer declines to be specific, he says he receives around 200 Euros a month as part of a year-long contract leasing almost 5 hectares of farmland to the gas company.
He's not worried, although says the terms of the contract mean he can't change his mind about allowing the exploration, even if he wants to. The gas firm can pull out at any time.
The farmer tells us he isn't aware of any issues surrounding water usage, and seems unconcerned about any environmental issues linked to fracking. He has his own well right here on the farm.
A toxic threat
Dr Wlodzimierz Zgoda, an eminent chemist from the University of Gdansk, has been monitoring the Polish gas debate as it has unfolded, and has deep concerns about the scale of development.
"The greatest threat, which people do not realise and treat lightly, is that only one [gas] well is shown to them. [If shale gas] is found, there are going to be many wells, so many it is hard to imagine," he says.
"It is said, five, ten or 15,000 wells over ten years [could come], plus a huge movement of [an] entire fleet of trucks, cisterns, huge amounts of water, pipelines that will be built, gas treatment plants, gas tanks... it will become a mining landscape."
The chemist also says that that the arrival of fracking could in fact damage parts of the economy. "People, certainly, will experience loss, especially those who [have] invested in tourism, and [the potential] threat of spills or pollution of the environment will discourage buyers from buying agricultural produce."
He's worried too about what chemicals will actually be used in the fracking process.
In the US, it is this issue that has proved among the most controversial. The gas industry is quick to point out that only a small percentage of the frack fluid being pumped into the ground -- less than 1 per cent overall -- consists of chemicals, and consistently plays down the use of toxic substances.
But environmental campaigners reel off an alarming sounding list of additives they say are added to frack fluid, including some linked to cancer.
They say that kerosene and diesel fuel, which can contain benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene -- and other substances -- are reportedly used, as are methanol and formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide, among many others.
Lead, crystalline silica and naphthalene have also been cited as ingredients in frack fluid.
And even if the percentages used are small, say critics, with so many drillings taking place -- in Pennsylvania alone, government estimates have predicted that 3,000-4,000 new gas wells will be drilled each year for the next 30 years -- the total chemical count is dangerously high.
Campaigners also point out that it could only take a relatively small amount of chemical to pollute a much larger area of land or water.
Although there is -- as yet -- little evidence of any contamination connected to Poland's exploratory gas drilling, activists say it is only a matter of time.
"Fracking is a dangerous American export that should be viewed critically by countries just starting to engage in the practice," Wenonah Hauter, the head of Food and Water Watch, recently warned.
"Modern drilling and fracking have caused widespread environmental and public health problems, as well as posed serious, long-term risks to vital water resources... while the oil and gas industry is profiting off of this technology, it has been a disaster for Americans exposed to its pollution."
But for Breitling's Chris Faulkner such comments are part of the sensationalism he says has developed around fracking.
He accuses campaigners of having an agenda which is "sometimes based on misinformation, misinterpretation, misspoke concerns," and says that their passion "sometimes weaves a story that maybe is based on fear mongering or actual non-fact."
But he admits there are risks -- as with any energy mechanism: "It's not fracking that is unsafe. It's not the procedures that are unsafe, but if someone makes a mistake, anything can happen," he says.
"We're foolish to think that there's some form of energy... that pops out of the ground, powers the plug in the wall and produces energy that has no consequences. [That's] just not realistic."
Winning hearts and minds
Back in Nowy Dwor Bratianski, Barbara Grzybowska and Mieczyslaw Rutowski want to tell us about one additional concern they have.
The farmers say that in order to help win hearts and minds in this deeply religious community the gas industry brought in a local priest. He in turn, they claim, 'blessed' a gas rig during an opening ceremony attended by local people.
"Yes, I was surprised," says Rutowski. "The parish priest came to bless the work... I smile at this and rather consider it to be a pact with the devil, not [a] blessing of the rig site."
Dr Zgoda says he has noted a wider marketing drive being undertaken by the gas companies to sway local communities.
"It is standard for them [gas companies] to be giving out small gifts, inexpensive ones, to schools, to kindergartens... municipal councils and mayors are taken on tours supposedly to show them some drilling sites, plus there are some attractions such as dinners with performances and champagne."
We track down the priest understood to be involved in the 'blessing' of the rig.
Unwilling to be interviewed formally, he admits his involvement but denies there were any strings attached. No donations or gifts from the gas company to the church. Just a small sum for children, he says, who were about to go to a summer camp.
Andrew Wasley is a UK-based investigative journalist specializing in the environment and consumer affairs. He was editor of the Ecologist magazine between 2010 and 2012, is a co-founder of the Ecologist Film Unit and a director of the ethical research agency Ecostorm. He regularly reports from Link TV's Earth Focus program.
To learn more about the impacts of fracking, visit Link TV's ISSUE: Fracking page, and watch this Earth Focus report about the dash for gas in Poland, a program supported by Food and Water Watch and Friends of the Earth Europe.
Following in the wake of shale gas and coal-bed methane (CBM) extraction is the spectre of underground coal gasification (UCG). But if we adopt these wholesale we could close off any hope of stepping back from the climate change brink, says UK campaign group Frack Off.
The earthquakes caused by the first attempt to frack a shale gas well in the UK, almost two years ago, were a wake up call that has implications far beyond the damage caused to Cuadrilla's well-bore. When your plan for getting gas is fracturing rock two miles under the Lancashire countryside, you know the cheap and easy energy is long gone.
The signs have been there for many years, from oil rigs pushing out into deeper and deeper water to the vast tar sands mining operations in Alberta, getting energy is taking increasing amounts of effort. People have been slow to connect the dots but now with the exploitation of unconventional gas threatening to spread thousands of wells, pipelines and other industrial infrastructure across the country, the issue of this relentless rise in energy extraction effort is finally beginning to get the attention that it deserves.
Like yeast growing in a vat, the fundamental question has always been whether industrial society will be poisoned by it's own waste (alcohol in the case of yeast) before it runs out of resources (sugar). While significant attention has been paid to the relentless build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, worrying about running out fossil fuels has been very much a fringe activity.
The answer to this question has now become somewhat clearer, though it is much more nuanced than most people would expect. Rather than destruction by environmental crisis ("climate change") or economic crisis ("peak oil") we face an intricately linked combination of the two ("extreme energy"). This is not to deny the importance of either climate change or peak oil, but they not only have the same cause but are happening in the context of each other, so neither can be viewed in isolation.
As our society's unsustainable consumption of energy depletes easier to extract resources, it is driving the exploitation of evermore extreme and damaging energy sources. From fracking to the push to build a string of new biomass power stations which will devour the world's remaining forests and the plans for a wave of new, more dangerous, nuclear power stations, energy extraction is becoming much more destructive.
In the past the dominant environmental impact of exploiting fossil fuels was the impact of the carbon emissions associated with burning them but as the effort required for energy extraction has grown, so have the environmental consequences of the extraction processes themselves. The poster child for this effect are the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, but across the globe, from the Arctic Ocean to the rainforests of Borneo, energy extraction is driving increasing environmental destruction.
A common propaganda tool is to portray such concerns as a stark choice between economic growth and environmental preservation, but in reality extreme energy is as damaging to people's economic well-being as it is to the environment.
As extraction effort grows, a greater fraction of economic activity must be allocated to the energy sector. In a market economy the mechanism by which this is achieved is, of course, rising energy prices, which will have the effect of diverting resources away from other activities.
In the last decade the fraction of the global economy devoted to energy extraction has almost tripled, to over 10 percent of GDP. If the use of more extreme extraction methods increases then an even greater proportion of the worlds resources must be sacrificed to these efforts.
This path leads to a world where energy extraction dominates the economy, and the majority of the population lives in its shadow. Look at the Niger Delta to see what such a world looks like.
The greatest threat
In the UK unconventional gas is by far the greatest threat. Despite the North Sea in terminal decline and increasing pressure on imports there is an insidious push to increase our dependence on gas. Fracking is seen as the way to achieve this but even if is feasible, it would require drilling of tens of thousands of wells and the devastation of the huge swathes of countryside. This will result in toxic and radioactive water contamination, air pollution, severe health effects in human and animals and increased greenhouse gas emissions all for a very short term hit of extremely expensive gas.
Following in the wake of shale gas and coal-bed methane (CBM) is the even more dire spectre of underground coal gasification (UCG) which involves partially burning coal underground and bringing the resulting gases to the surface. UCG has an even worse record of environmental contamination and could potentially emit enough carbon to raise global temperatures by up to 10 degrees Celsius.
A wholesale adoption of fracking and associated methods would close off perhaps our last chance to step back from the brink. Extreme energy requires a dedication to energy production to the exclusion of all else, which would radically alter the structure of our society.
Increasingly, more expensive energy infrastructure must be built, which will divert huge amounts resources away from worthwhile activities. It will quickly become the case that the largest single consumer of the energy produced will be energy extraction processes themselves. We will end up on a treadmill running faster and faster just to stand still as everything falls apart around us.
The decision we face is between prioritising abstract notions of profit and growth or the real well-being of communities and ecosystems. The two can no longer pretend to coexist.