Filming The Coal War
This is the story of a symbol: one mountain destined to be destroyed by the coal industry and the struggle to save Coal River Mountain by creating the first sustainable, green jobs project in the Central Appalachian coalfields: The Coal River Wind Farm.
Coal River Mountain is an ancient Appalachian cradle of rolling ridges and nestled hollows, providing refuge for delicate wildlife and a home to a unique mountain culture. But just beneath the surface lays something that calls into question the mountain’s very survival: $4.3 billion worth of coal. Massey Energy, the largest practitioner of mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia, holds permits to clear-cut 6,450 acres of hardwood forest, detonate thousands of tons of explosives and topple the mountain range into over nine miles of streams in the valleys below.
Since the 1960s, residents in the coal fields of West Virginia have fought to preserve their land, only to watch the coal industry continue to destroy mountains and uproot their ways of life. While the consequences of coal and mountaintop removal mining are severe – lethal flooding, water contamination, cancer pockets and the annihilation of the land on which families have lived for generations – the powerful coal companies have remained unstoppable. Recently, however, new hope has appeared in the form of a viable energy alternative to mountaintop removal: Wind Power.
This film documents a campaign that could serve as the foundation of one of great shifts in human history – the movement to break the addiction to a fossil fuel-based economy and shift to one rooted in renewable, green energy.
The short films to emerge from Mr. Steven’s footage of The Coal War have won numerous awards, and a critical mass is building around this film and the movement to save Coal River Mountain. Tom Zeller Jr. wrote an in-depth feature on the struggle last week in The New York Times, and the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green channel recently leant its support to the film project. In both cases, it’s encouraging to see how this issue–local to Appalachia–is being understood for its implications in an urban, and national, context. (The Coal War team has also reported recently on the EPA’s wobbly stance on MTR for The Daily Yonder; for daily coverage of these issues, refer to the Coal Tattoo blog.) Beyond the numerous trailers for the film, The Coal War site offers a number of resources for viewers to learn more about Mountaintop Removal and to get involved.
One such opportunity is approaching: Appalachia Rising, a “mass mobilization” that will gather in Washington, DC during the weekend of September 25th and then branch out across the nation’s coalfields for a national Day of Action on Monday September 27th. Below is an internet trailer; please follow the links for more information on how you can get involved: