“The Last Mountain,” a new documentary featuring Robert F. Kennedy, has received a tremendous amount of coverage in the run-up to its nationwide release this week. I was able to watch a DVD review copy of “The Last Mountain,” and I’m happy to say it’s a very solid piece of journalism and an effective documentary that could really help bring this debate home to a far wider audience.
I admit to some skepticism over “The Last Mountain” when I first saw the trailer above. I feared the movie would be as over-the-top and hyperbolic as the trailer, which could easily have backfired and eroded the credibility of the people and groups fighting mountaintop removal. Those fears were completely groundless, though.
I lived in West Virginia for 10 years and spent a good part of that time studying mountaintop removal. This film somehow condenses all that hard-earned knowledge and experience into a moving, understandable and affecting presentation that should make America stand up and take notice.
The aerial footage of mountains being blasted and bulldozed conveys the destruction in ways that words or still photos simply cannot. The interviews with residents of Coal River Valley give a human and sympathetic face to the victims of mountaintop removal mining. The producers of this film deserve an award.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – the best national advocate the anti-mountaintop removal movement has – is an effective narrator and driving force throughout the film. He puts the destruction and willful violation of laws meant to curb such environmental destruction into passionate, thoughtful words.
For instance, standing atop a “reclaimed” mountain with mine safety consultant Jack Spadaro, Kennedy looks around at a “forest” that is nothing but scrub grass and picks up a chunk of rock that’s supposed to count as topsoil. He says,??The extraordinary thing about this is how many lies they have to tell to make this whole fiction work. They have to say this is a forest. They have to say this is soil.? And the amazing thing is how many people believe them.?
Kennedy was also powerful when addressing one of the key areas of conflict among the residents of Appalachia: the notion that protecting the environment must come at the sacrifice of jobs. As Kennedy says in a discussion with Coal Association President Bill Raney, most of the coal jobs in Appalachia have been lost to mechanization, not to environmental regulations. Coal companies are extracting as much coal as ever with a fraction of the work force.
His explanation of idea of “the commons” and how the notion that America’s water and environment are owned by us all has been eroded is also very compelling.
Joe Lovett, Executive Director of the Appalachian Center, is featured prominently in the movie, though the focus is more on the citizens’ battles than courtroom fights.
I hope all the good press leads to amazing ticket sales. The more people who can see this movie, the better.
Radmacher is the Communications Director for the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment.