Oil & Water” Comes to Brown University

Oil & Water” Comes to Brown University

David Poritz returned to his alma mater Brown University last week as part of a weeklong series of events and discussions on the film "Oil and Water,” the documentary directed by Laurel Spellman Smith and Francine Strickwerda that traces the founding of Equitable Origin. The film was assigned to new students to watch over the summer as part of Brown’s First Readings program. For the past eight years, the First Readings program has asked incoming freshmen to read a selected book over the summer prior to beginning their first semester of college. Instead of discussing a book during orientation this year, new students discussed “Oil and Water” and how the themes of the film related to their lives own as they begin their careers at Brown.

The events last week were a continuation of the First Readings program and featured a talk on development and the environment, a seminar at the Swearer Center on social entrepreneurship and social innovation, a discussion on early Amazonian history at the John Carter Brown Library, and a screening of the film followed by a panel discussion with David, Hugo Lucitante, and directors Laurel Spellman Smith and Francine Strickwerda. The events and the ensuing discussions highlighted many of the key issues raised by the film, particularly the rights of Indigenous communities, impacts of increasing globalization, threats of climate change, and the complex question of governance in the oil and gas industry. When so many different stakeholders are affected, who has the power and who has the responsibility to mitigate the social and environmental consequences of oil and gas development? As David emphasized during one of the Q&A sessions, Equitable Origin and the EO100TM Standard offers a voluntary mechanism to address the diversity of opinions surrounding oil and gas production. The EO100TM Standard provides communities, industry, government and civil society with a powerful tool to implement best practices at the local level that can serve as models for responsible oil and gas development around the world.

As Dean Margaret Klawunn wrote in her letter to incoming Brown students, “Oil and Water” is a story about “two young men from opposite ends of the oil pipeline” – it is a story that touches everyone as it addresses the ubiquity of oil and gas in our daily lives and the problems that arise when oil and gas is produced irresponsibly. The film and the First Readings events come at an important time for Equitable Origin as we launch our first online consultation tool for feedback on the EO100TM Standard.

“Oil and Water” has recently premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival, The Rhode Island Film Festival, and the Rio Film Festival.

The film is available for free streaming online on the PBS World Channel website until October 22.