Our guest blogger is Bo Webb, of Naoma, WV. The documentary film The Last Mountain opens in New York City and Washington, DC this Friday.
Although I had heard the words mountaintop removal coal mining, I never realized the term was literal until the year 2001 when I began to hear blasting on the mountain above my home. As the blasting became more frequent and closer I decided to take an old trail up the mountain to observe from an adjacent ridge. Over a period of two weeks I watched as bulldozers knocked trees down the mountain, pushing them into huge piles. Acre after acre of the mountain was stripped of its forest cover and vegetation. These piles of mountain ruin were then doused with fuel and burned. Next, they drilled hundreds of holes deep in the earth and filled them with what I later learned to be a mix of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel explosives. I watched as they bombed the mountain, loading dirt and debris into behemoth “rock trucks” as they dumped the mountain’s carcass into the valley streams. They did this over and over until reaching a seam of coal often only a few feet thick, pausing long enough to load the coal into trucks and then back to the bombing and dumping process. This 400 million year old mountain was being annihilated. My battle began as I joined an ever-growing citizen’s movement opposed to mountaintop removal.
My journey has taken me from the hollers of West Virginia to the halls of Congress, to the conference rooms of the United Nations, and yet mountaintop removal continues escalating. A coal industry public relations machine aided by corrupt politicians and coal baron friendly judges has managed to keep these Appalachian sacrifice zones from being exposed to the American People. But, through citizen’s persistence in a cry for justice we have managed to gain the attention of some, and none too soon, as our beautiful Coal River Mountain is now targeted for destruction.
When the film crew for The Last Mountain called and told me of their interest in making a documentary about mountaintop removal, and our last great mountain, Coal River Mountain, I felt that perhaps our work was beginning to pay off, but was it too late? When next they informed me that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would be a major part of the film, I felt like maybe our prayers had been answered. I had met Bobby Kennedy briefly at a speaking event that I helped organize and he understood how mountaintop removal was ruining our communities. I knew he was appalled by the injustice of this act, but to now have him involved in this struggle gives me great hope that America will soon learn about our fight and the urgency we face to end mountaintop removal. The Last Mountain accurately tells the story of the victims of mountaintop removal fallen to a greed so great that it wills to place profit above humanity. Those of us that live (and die) beneath this assault on our mountain communities are counting on “The Last Mountain” to give rise to Americans everywhere, to demand an end to this disgraceful abomination that is taking place within our own borders.