Oh, no. Another mountaintop removal movie. What’s different about “The Last Mountain”?
For one, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. appears, demonstrating his activism. For another, it shows hundreds of people putting themselves in the way, willing to be arrested. These people face jail for small crimes needed to fight huge crimes against humanity. Also, “The Last Mountain” presents viable alternative energy that not only begins to replace costly and dangerous coal. It can create sustainable jobs in otherwise devastated areas.
Jobs. That’s the second most strident flag that coal supporters wave against protesters. Fact is, mountaintop removal slashes jobs. Coal companies have systematically kept West Virginia one of the poorest states in the country while guys like former CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, made more than $150 million. Massey pays around $30,000 in yearly taxes to the local county, whereas wind farms on local mountains would pay around one and a half million.
Coal keeps the lights on. That’s the most strident flag that coal supporters wave against protesters. True enough, but what does it mean, that this cheapest form of energy fuels half the country? Heavily subsidized coal companies are not forced to pay for more than a tiny fraction of tens of thousands of violations of the law. They are not forced to pay for the illness and death they cause from pollution and flooding. You don’t even have to get to the topic of global warming before common sense shouts, “There has to be a better way to keep the lights on. There are better ways to keep the lights on.”
Outside agitators. That’s one of the more effective ways of shouting down protesters. Even though many local people fight for their lives and their children’s lives, it’s a national (actually, planetary) concern, and the real question is why not hear what outsiders have to say?
Anti-coal, especially mountaintop removal films, can feel daunting and tiresome, even somewhat old hat, as environmental films go, but “The Last Mountain” shows well that progressive action may be gaining traction. Anyway, big coal equals big badness more than anything you could choose to spotlight.