"Coal is mean, coal is cruel and coal kills," says West Virginia native and anti-mining activist Maria Gunnoe. It's hard to disagree after watching Bill Haney's new documentary, The Last Mountain, about the unpaid costs behind mountaintop-removal mining, a form of strip-mining that blasts several hundred feet off a mountain and buries stream valleys in the rubble. Coal produces nearly half of U.S. electricity. But the price is sick people, empty towns, devastated ecosystems and even lost mining jobs. Some 500 mountains and one million acres of richly biodiverse forests have already been claimed. The film tracks grassroots efforts to prevent leading MTR practitioner Massey Energy from taking Coal River Mountain, the last left standing in its southern West Virginia watershed. Haney follows newly awakened citizen activists, the tree-sitting protesters of Climate Ground Zero and visiting veterans like Robert Kennedy, who says, "We are cutting down the Appalachian Mountains, literally." Other voices include author Michael Shnayerson (Coal River) and the Massey spokesman who describes an MTR moonscape as "nothing more than a construction site that is unfinished."
June 22-28. Harris Theater, Downtown. The June 25 screening includes a panel discussion with the film's producers, environmental researchers and activists.