Leah Barkoukis

Editor's note: This column originally appeared in the April issue of Townhall Magazine.

Environmentalists may have Hollywood on their side and millions of dollars to finance their cause, but Irish documentary filmmakers and journalists Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney have something much more important: the truth.

Although many know the couple for their 2013 documentary “FrackNation,” telling the other side of the story environmentalists don’t want you to know was a mission they began years earlier—although it wasn’t by design.

“We were just journalists just covering another story,” McElhinney says of an assignment that brought them to Transylvania, Romania where a Canadian company wanted to open a gold mine. At the time, they had a very high regard for environmentalists and thought they were kind people who really cared about the planet, she explains. But those beliefs would soon be dashed.

“That story changed us and gave us a very particular attitude toward the environmental movement, which was a discovery that environmental NGOs lie and get away with it, and the people who suffer most because of environmental activism are poor people,” she tells Townhall. “Environmentalism is a game for rich kids and rich grownups.”

“We basically discovered that the biggest enemy of the world’s poor is not Big Business, it’s Big Environment,” McAleer adds. “They’re the ones that are going to destroy your life the most.”

The couple decided to form their own company and started making documentaries looking at the environmental movement. In 2006, they exposed the dark side of environmentalism in their film, “Mine Your Own Business.”

Although McElhinney and McAleer were not living in America at the time, nor was any part of the film shot in the country, the documentary was really well received in the U.S. and got a lot of attention, she says.

In 2009, after moving to the states, they made “Not Evil Just Wrong,” which looks at the global warming scare, the origins of the environmental movement, and the effect the DDT ban has had on the world.

While fracking is the biggest environmental scare out there right now, their latest endeavor, “FrackNation,” was born out of an encounter with “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox at a Q&A in Chicago. McAleer pointed out that there are reports of water being lit on fire decades before fracking started and wanted to know why that information wasn’t included in the film. Fox countered that it “wasn’t relevant,” but McAleer disagreed.

After uploading the exchange on YouTube, Fox took legal action and shut it down. McAleer then posted the video on Vimeo, but once again, Fox’s lawyers had it removed.

It was the filmmaker’s reaction that really got McAleer and McElhinney thinking.

“George Orwell said ‘journalism is something some- body somewhere doesn’t want published’ and I thought, ‘he doesn’t want this published, he doesn’t want that out here, what’s wrong?’ This needs journalism and we just took it from there,” McAleer explains.

And their final product knocked it out of the park, completely debunking the rumors and lies about fracking, and even picking up rave reviews from some of the most liberal media outlets. But that doesn’t mean the film hasn’t been met with opposition. Unsurprisingly, Fox called them the “birthers of fracking” and just this year a screening of “FrackNation” was cancelled at the Minnesota Frozen River Film Festival even after it had already been accepted by festival organizers.

The reason for the decision kept changing, but McAleer said in a statement after the incident that “they seem to be scared of the truth,” which is exactly what “FrackNation” reveals. McAleer and McElhinney even made a point of rejecting industry support for the film, instead relying entirely on crowdfunding. And in the name of transparency, all of their supporters were listed as executive producers in the credits.

“A lot of them [environmentalists] genuinely believe the truth is out there and they’re lying for the greater good of the cause,” McAleer said when asked why environmentalists continue to lie even when the truth about reliable energy sources is so positive. “They genuinely believe [American] fossil fuel companies are evil ... they’re ideologues.”

“They may be ideologues, but they’re not very logical,” McElhinney adds. “They say what they’re upset about is CO2 emissions but it’s not true because they’re against nuclear power, they’re against hydroelectric power, and they’re also against wood, which is a renewable energy resource. The very principles they say they hold dear, they don’t actually hold those principles dear at all. They have an irrational, illogical [mentality] about fossil fuels, when the truth is, because of fracking, CO2 emissions have dramatically gone down to pre-1980 levels. It should be a cause for celebration among environmentalists who care about CO2 emissions, but they’re not celebrating.”

The best way for people to get involved and spread the truth about fracking and the environmental movement is to show McElhinney and McAleer’s films to the cynical member in your family or the vocal friend you had an argument with.

“Show them the film and ask them to defend the anti-frackers who lied about breast cancer in the Barnett Shale,” McElhinney says. “If you want to be on the side of anti-frackers, you’re on the side of people who lied about breast cancer. I think that’s a tough sell. It’s tough to go forward in an argument after that.” •


Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Managing Editor at Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography