Sociology Colloquium: Colin Jerolmack - "Up to Heaven and Down to Hell"

Friday, October 14, 2022

3:00 pm — 5:00 pm

Hybrid (see description for details)

Open to the Public

Hosted By
Admission Price



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 thousands 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. I spent eight months living with rural communities outside of Williamsport as they confronted the tension between property rights and the commonwealth. Private property rights, I contend, made it nearly impossible for communities to coordinate a collective response to fracking. I also show how partisan identities and neighborly obligations undergirded support for shale gas extraction, even when residents came out as "losers" in what I call "the fracking lottery." Zooming out, I use my ethnographic case to cast America’s ideas about freedom and property rights in a troubling new light, revealing how your personal choices can undermine your neighbors’ liberty and bring unintended environmental consequences for us all.


Colin Jerolmack is a professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at NYU, chair of NYU’s Environmental Studies Department, and the author of The Global Pigeon. He's also a proud alumnus of the CUNY Graduate Center Dept. of Sociology (2009).

This is a hybrid event, taking place online and in-person in the Sociology Student Lounge (room 6112) at the CUNY Graduate Center.

* In accordance with CUNY COVID-19 policies, all non-CUNY attendees who wish to attend in-person must register in advance through Eventbrite link above.  Please bring in your vaccination proof or a negative test result taken within seven days of the event.