In the documentary ‘The Last Mountain’, we saw an inside view on the resistance movement against the coal mining industry. Following the steps of Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the nephew of Former President John F. Kennedy, we see the destruction the coal mining industry inflicts on the environment, but also on the very people and the family of the coal miners.
The documentary mostly focused on the destructive forces of Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR), which is a form of surface mining that involves the mining of the summit of the mountain. Normally explosives were used to expose coal at these summits.
There are many controversies surrounding the very act of MTR on the environment. The pros of such mining includes the efficiency and speed at which the coal can be extracted, the cost of extraction being cheaper due to not needing as many workers, and keeping up with the constant demand for energy (more than half the electric energy produced in america is coal based).
Cons of MTR as explained in the movie includes the environmental destruction of the local area. The explosions used to detonate the summits create a massive amount of noise pollution which can make the animals stressed and act out. The explosions, as well as the factories and vehicles create constant air pollution, though not visible, are microscopic and covers the surrounding area with a layer of soot. After the explosions, the upper soil has to be moved somewhere, to which the vehicles move the soil and other debris to nearby valleys to fill. Not only should the soil not be moved from a separate location to another location, but the constant moving of the vehicles will eventually start to degrade the terrain which the roads the trucks move over. When the valleys are filled, it forces the water ways to filter through the debris, which picks up toxic and radioactive materials which eventually goes to the water streams that leads to drinking and recreational waterways.
With the eventual introduction to major waterways, the water is hardly able to be filter to rid of toxins, which eventually leads to our drinking water. this tainted drinking water then has negative consequences on our health, which may range from mild illness, mental illness, birth defects, cancer and even sensitivity that leads to instantaneous death. Not only are the locals of these mines affected, but cross states do these mines affect the water. As the waterways where the mines are located are considered to be the source, it travels downstream, which can potentially affect 10 states if not kept in check.
We can see that the documentary was widely biased in the sense that MTR companies only had negatives, which ranged from scapegoating from paying fines and livable wages to environmental destruction. Especially utilizing Mr. Kennedy, an avid environmentalist, and seldomly interviewing the opposing side shows which way the film was trying persuade its audience.
I foresee the region going into turmoil, not only economically, but also environmentally. Once the coal is all dug out, the corporations will leave behind a Appalachia without job prospects and a landscape devoid of nature, people that are constantly sick and towns that were once prosperous turning into ghost towns.
We can see that the corporations had a local impact, by influencing the idea that the companies are the good guys and they’re doing everything they can for their workers. They were able to influence the workers as well as local and federal government that they are working for the people and not for corporate greed. This form of influence can be tied into the 12 step process that Helen Lewis explained in the recovery program, although not used in the form of embetterment of the people, but the embetterment of the corporation.