From “The Nation” by Peter Rothberg
Across the country last week thousands of Americans gathered at more than 850 house-parties organized by the Sierra Club to watch a new documentary, Coal Country. I meant to write about the doc last week but better late than never especially as the movie’s screenings have been met with intimidation and outright threats of violence in several places, with the unseen hand of big coal working with local officials to prevent the movie from being shown.
A stunning film that exposes the devastation of mountaintop removal coal mining to the forests, streams, and communities of Appalachia, Coal Country puts the personal stories of residents of the hardscrabble coal towns at the heart of the story — both working miners whose livelihoods depend on the mines and longtime locals organizing against the devastation of their native preserves. Far from a one-sided polemic, the film is an intimate portrait of the complex issues facing these areas with a keen understanding of the need for jobs, and the relative prosperity that coal brings to areas that desperately need cheap energy.
The trailer gives a sense of the power, beauty, tragedy and inspiration of the film.
Produced by Mari-Lynn Evans and Phylis Geller, Coal Country brings us inside the lives of Appalachian residents who are directly threatened by mountaintop-removal, a destructive mining practice where mountaintops are blasted away to expose the coal with waste then dumped in the waterways of nearby communities, is one of the most egregious environmental and social justice disasters in America today. As it takes us through each stage of coal mining and processing, Coal Country reveals new dimensions to the cost of America’s over-reliance on coal.
As a bonus, the film has an awesome soundtrack with music inspired by the Appalachian Mountains and the important place they’ve played in American music, and songs contributed by John Prine, Natalie Merchant, Bonnie Raitt, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, Diana Jones, and Willie Nelson.
Buy a copy of the DVD and the accompanying CD, and support the Alliance for Appalachia, a regional alliance with the goals of ending mountaintop removal coal mining, putting a halt to destructive coal technologies and supporting a sustainable, just economy in Appalachia.