This post is available in Spanish. Leer epañol.
For 2022-2023, Earthworks is engaging in International Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) pilot projects in three countries of the Global South.
As a trained OGI thermographer and International OGI Analyst and Advocate at Earthworks, I will be doing fieldwork in Latin America with grassroots and non-governmental organizations. My aim is to visually capture objective documentation of air pollution and expose the impact of the oil and gas industry’s dangerous releases of massive amounts of methane gas and volatile organic compounds on indigenous and non-indigenous territories and communities, and their lands, water, and air.
Besides the greenhouse gas methane (which traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, though for a shorter span of time), many of the other gasses that get released and are harmful to public health and the environment. Those include: benzene, ethanol, butane, ethylene, ethylbenzene, xylene, hydrogen sulfide, silica dust, nitrogen oxide and propane.
These gases are released by the oil and gas industry on global south indigenous and non-indigenous communities and affect land, water, and air quality in the territories. Sometimes communities don’t even know contamination is happening; in other cases, it is plainly evident that it is, yet corporations often paint their use of technological fixes as effective solutions, when they are not.
I have worked previously as a researcher of Latin American social movements that fight for the recovery of land and territorial rights, food sovereignty, and for alternatives to corporate dominance. At Earthworks, I aspire to build grassroots collaboration and support public education campaigns around pollution that I document communities will see along side me with the OGI camera in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. I expect, as has been the case in countless investigations already conducted by Earthworks, that the video evidence will be undeniable, and serves as a tool for communities to press their governments to do better and to hold corporations accountable in achieving true health impact and climate change mitigation.
For many governments, the effort to address methane pollution with regulations is just starting. OGI cameras and evidence can be a catalyst of improved policies of energy transition and implementation of planned phasing out of fossil fuels as a source of energy.
Here are some video evidence examples from previous Earthworks’ fieldwork in the U.S. and in the Global South:
Here are links related to how the OGI camera is used by environmental/public health agencies and by Earthworks thermographers in the U.S./and in Navajo territory:
- A Searchlight New Mexico news story from New Mexico and the indigenous lands in the Four Corners region on how a lack of government enforcement of rules allows the oil and gas industry to keep emitting harmful climate and health pollution.
- Public testimony from Earthworks Four Corners Field Advocate & Thermographers Kendra Pinto in 2023.
- A Boulder Weekly news story from Colorado cover Earthworks field and industry watch-dog work.
- A Denver Post news story about the expansive problem of oil and gas pollution emissions in Colorado.
- Public testimony from Earthworks Senior Texas Field Advocate & Thermographer Sharon Wilson in 2021.
Here is key information about false solutions from industry:
- Earthworks Blog on how some technologies advocated by industry as solutions to pollution problem do not work in practice.
Here is information on the OGI Cameras and online or in person trainings:
- Background information on the Optical Gas Imaging cameras used by Earthworks certified Thermographers.
- FLIR Camera manufacturer website for OGI cameras.
- More information on training for OGI certification.
Here is a Spanish language video “Visualizing Contamination: Lessons from Texas on Negative Impacts of Fracking:”