Activist-filmmaker Josh Fox isn’t resting on his laurels. Or on anything, anywhere, ever. He doesn’t seem quite capable of rest. When I arrive at his home office a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Navy Yard — the location of New York’s Democratic debate earlier this month — it is one day before the New York primary, I am ten minutes late, and Fox, restless, has decided not to let any seconds be wasted by not working.
“I’m just in the middle of something, I’ll be with you in a minute,” he calls out. Adjacent to the eclectic living room — black and white graffiti sprawls across one wall — is a small, ad-hoc AV room, the size of a closet, and in it Fox is wrapping up his latest Bernie Sanders pitch video.
“Feel the Bern,” he enjoins in his voiceover, “or else you might feel this burn.” An image flashes on-screen, by now familiar to anyone who’s followed the anti-fracking movement. A man with a blond mustache turns on his faucet, and recoils as his tap water is lit on fire. There’s natural gas leaking into and through his water pipes, gas made unstable and deleterious by the process of fracking, the natural gas industry’s controversial method of extracting fossil fuel from below homes, yards and even federally protected land — an environmental gamble Fox helped make famous with his Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary Gasland.
Bernie Sanders is the only 2016 candidate who’s solidly anti-fracking, and Fox recently went from fan to endorser to actual campaign surrogate, joining the ranks of Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito and Spike Lee.
It’s an especially hectic time for Fox to be taking on new responsibilities considering that his latest film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, opened at New York’s IFC Center this week, and debuts on HBO in June. You’d call it a perfect storm, if provocative work like How to Let Go — which goes beyond fracking to look at the whole, sometimes overwhelming, issue of climate change — hadn’t made you feel the weight of using the words “perfect” and “storm” together.
Fox agreed to chat with Rolling Stone about his new film, working with Team Bernie and how to power through feelings of despair we all might feel about the state of our planet.
How did your involvement with the Sanders campaign come about? Did you offer yourself to them?
They reached out to me. I got an email when I was at Sundance, reaching out on fracking. Bill McKibben [who appears in How To Let Go of the World] has been close with the campaign, and his focus is climate, and he just wrote this huge piece in The Nation about fracking, so he may have pointed them in my direction. I was really grateful though. Because most of the time, the candidates go to the wrong people. They’ll go to the Big Greens, who are sort of namby-pamby on climate. This campaign is really different. They’re reaching out to grassroots leaders who really know what’s going on, rather than going to the inside-the-Beltway environmental groups who don’t always have the strongest positions.