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 With the recent disaster along the United States’ Northeast from Hurricane Sandy, and the following television coverage and talks of the possible natural causes creating this storm, it only seems appropriate to take a closer look at environmental issues causing these harms. Coal Country is a film that takes a look at the coal industry in the U.S., and the environmental and human harms this process takes. Not only does the manufacturing of coal cause terrible harm to the Earth, but it in fact puts a terrible stress on human life.

Taking place in the Appalachian region of the U.S., most notable West Virginia and Pennsylvania, this film takes a look at the terrible detriment that the coal industry causes. It is centered around a long term debate in the region, where coal is the king industry creating tons of jobs, and those opposed to industry’s tactic of mountaintop removal. This process doesn’t only throw toxins in the air and water, but it also removes the beautiful mountain ranges that makes up these communities. On top of all of this, the results of coal mining has turned the water black, poisoned water supplies, and is the cause of sickness and chronic illnesses in the area.

At the core of the debate in Massey Energy, the company at the center of a huge disaster back in 2010. Massey has long be accused of poor labor practices and well as deliberate disregard for the waste and environmental damages the coal company creates. In this film, it pins Massey and current employees against private citizens and former employees in the battle over the land, the water, and the mountain range. The film helps by bringing in legal voices that add to the debate, and gives a great legal framework for the viewer.

What is the most compelling piece of the film is not that the immaculate production value, though it iswell done, but it’s the stories of those affected by the coal industry. These people are having their lives destroyed by the coal industry. From breathing issues to lung cancer, these residents are left in a terrible condition with little regard or compassion from the industry and its lobby. The water they drink is black, the air is soiled, and they have nowhere to go. What is a strong point to remember is that these areas are not well off financially, and the option to leave their homes is not present.

The only thing that might rival the human suffering, and possibly a big contributor to it, is seeing this beautiful region ripped to the ground in the name of capital gains. For anyone that has ever been to the region, you know that the mountains and environment plays a huge role to the people. Mountain life is impossible to have without those pretty peaks. The devastation that is done to these natural formations is heartbreaking, and you can feel the pain of the people on screen. Their stories are compelling and true, and there is no way you can’t be moved.

The highlights of this film shows everything that we are going through right now. There is a fight between corporate interest and human life. While this is not true for all industries, it is important to be aware of the constant effects some of these dangerous industries are having on the world. they aren’t only affecting the health of those in the region, but it is slowly destroying the environment, leading to terrible natural disasters and difficult to reverse climate change. Instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to these large corporations, we need to start protecting the people. At times this film is difficult and sad to watch, but it is something that is absolutely necessary in order to make a positive change.


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The Author

Peter Margolis

Peter Margolis

Peter Margolis is a film and television buff, and has a passion for documentary storytelling. You can find more information about him and his writing at his Film and TV Blog -