OTTO BOOKSTORE PRESENTS:
A riveting portrait of a rural Pennsylvania town at the center of the fracking controversy
Colin Jerolmack spent eight months in the community of Williamsport, PA, learning and listening as neighbors confronted the tension between property rights and the commonwealth. In this deeply intimate book, Jerolmack reveals how the decision to lease brings financial rewards but can also cause irreparable harm to neighbors, to communal resources like air and water, and even to oneself.
Shale gas extraction—commonly known as fracking—is often portrayed as an energy revolution that will transform the American economy and geopolitics. But in greater Williamsport, Pennsylvania, fracking is personal. Up to Heaven and Down to Hell is a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking account of what happens when one of the most momentous decisions about the well-being of our communities and our planet—whether or not to extract shale gas and oil from the very land beneath our feet—is largely a private choice that millions of ordinary people make without the public’s consent.
The United States is the only country in the world where property rights commonly extend “up to heaven and down to hell,” which means that landowners have the exclusive right to lease their subsurface mineral estates to petroleum companies. Colin Jerolmack spent eight months living with rural communities outside of Williamsport as they confronted the tension between property rights and the commonwealth. In this deeply intimate book, he reveals how the decision to lease brings financial rewards but can also cause irreparable harm to neighbors, to communal resources like air and water, and even to oneself.
Up to Heaven and Down to Hell casts America’s ideas about freedom and property rights in a troubling new light, revealing how your personal choices can undermine your neighbors’ liberty, and how the exercise of individual rights can bring unintended environmental consequences for us all.
Colin Jerolmack is professor of sociology and environmental studies at New York University and the author of The Global Pigeon. He lives in New York City. Twitter @jerolmack
“Never doubt that rural Americans truly love the land they inhabit—and as Colin Jerolmack makes clear in this fascinating account, that might be the basis for some productive, if sometimes awkward, environmentalism in the crucial years ahead.”—Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature
“A true tour de force, Up to Heaven and Down to Hell takes community ethnography to a whole new level. Embedding himself in a Pennsylvania town turned upside down by fracking, Colin Jerolmack spends time with people on all sides of the issue, giving everyone an honest hearing. The result is a deeply insightful on-the-ground account that reveals the climate crisis to be a crisis of community.”—Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
“[Colin] Jerolmack’s many kitchen-table conversations with inhabitants of the formerly idyllic area of greater Williamsport—or ‘Billtown,’ as it is called, best known as the host of the Little League World Series—reveal the tensions and trade-offs that follow from America’s liberty-loving ways.” —Sarah Smarsh, The Atlantic
“The book considers fracking, property rights, and community in rural Pennsylvania. But at root, the book is a poignant consideration of what we choose to name as either ‘mine’ or ‘ours.’ Jerolmack considers how these two divergent (and often contradictory) classifications impact local governance, ecosystems, and the people who depend on them.” —Gary Olmstead, Commonweal
“An important story. . . . The sovereignty of landowners looms large in the fracking debate. Up to Heaven and Down to Hell suggests there is another competing ideal: government of the people by the people, and for the people.” —Abraham Gutman, Los Angeles Review of Books
“[A] deeply reported study of the impact of fracking . . . [that] explores[s] the conflict between personal sovereignty and public good.” —Publishers Weekly
COVID NOTE 8/11/21:
In light of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Lycoming County and in accordance with current directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pennsylvania College of Technology and the Community Arts Center will be requiring masks indoors for everyone regardless of their vaccination status. This decision will be revaluated every two weeks, beginning August 27, 2021. The decision will be informed by local case numbers, vaccination rates, test positivity rates and the level of spread in Lycoming County. Depending on the review of these metrics, it is possible that even performances after August 27th may require both a ticket and a mask.
When required, if you do not feel you can attend a performance and wear a mask, please notify the Box Office and we will refund the cost of your tickets. No one will be allowed into the theatre without a mask, so please don’t attend if you feel you can’t comply with this directive.