Thursday, January 26, 2012

What's interesting about Coal?

We watched part of a documentary about mountaintop removal, THE LAST MOUNTAIN.

Here's a link to the website to the movie.

I like this movie for a couple of reasons.  I'm going to skip my inclination to side with the filmmakers, because that's not something I can avoid or ignore.  I think that this movie does a good job of breaking the issue of mountaintop removal into manageable and understandable chunks - since I didn't understand it very well before this movie - and presents evidence or reasons for their position in relation to each of those parts.  For example, the movie points out that mountaintop removal is permitted partly because coal companies are required to return the mountain to its original state when they are finished removing the coal.  Then, they show a clip of a site after the coal company has allegedly returned the mountain to its original condition.  This becomes the logical beginning of a discussion about how coal companies manipulate the law to maximize profit.

There are some propaganda techniques evident in the film.  Clearly, some of the clips are intended to be heart-wrenching, sympathetic portrayals of union workers and protesters, and copious evidence of corporate wrongdoing.  But the film is unusually evidence-based, and I've seen other movies that present similar evidence against mountaintop removal.  They employ some breathtaking photography, lots of visual examples and contrast, and some rousing testimony from people on the "front lines."  I love that it's localized around one mountain (called Coal Mountain), and that the people around that mountain are the stars.

I think that this movie is on the leading edge of the current controversy around coal and "clean coal" technology.  I think that mountaintop removal is a horrible, destructive practice, and there is no question that coal companies are tearing apart wilderness for coal, and making false claims to defend their destructive actions.  These false claims are supported again and again by lobbyists, politicians, and the companies' employees.  It's a tragedy.

What's going to happen?
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