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The Last Mountain

View on The Global Environmental Justice site

Amity Doolittle, Senior Lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Why I selected this film
This film makes an important point about the practice of mountaintop removal (MTR) and its devastating consequences on communities and the environment. The film highlights how a small group of citizens in the valleys of Appalachia is trying to stop big coal corporations from continuing the practice of MTR in order to protect their health and environment.

Teacher's guide
Please see the teacher's guide for maps, background information, suggested subjects, questions and activities. The guide was written by Caroline Scanlan with research support from Liz Felker and Elham Shabahat, graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The Last Mountain documents the struggles of a small West Virginia community fighting to preserve Coal River Mountain from mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. While the film explains many of the detrimental effects that MTR mining has on local forests and streams, its true impact rests on the personal stories shared by so many residents whose health and well-being have been negatively affected by the nearby coal industry.

Ultimately, the strength of the movie lies in its ability to both highlight local efforts of resistance and contextualize the events occurring in Coal River Valley within greater national patterns of energy production and consumption. As Maria Gunnoe, a local activist, explains, "You're connected to coal whether you realize it or not. Everybody's connected to this. And everybody's causing it. And everybody's allowing it."

The environmental justice focus of the film.
People and residents living in Coal River Valley are suffering the negative consequences of the coal industry, including environmental contamination from MTR mining, high rates of asthma, brain damage, and cancer, among other health burdens. Environmental justice comes into play when residents organize against powerful coal companies through both local acts of resistance and partnering with outside activists who engage in non-violent civil disobedience. The difficulties that communities face in fighting these actors are also explored in this film, when powerful corporations (through financing campaigns and lobbying) are able to influence politics and the enforcement of environmental regulations.

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