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For Earth Day, Treat Yourself to an Inspiring Success Story

Documentary Film Burning the Future Shows the Power of Citizen Action

Spoiler alert: The documentary Burning the Future: Coal in America has an inspiring ending. The film’s heroine, Maria Gunnoe, wins the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work to end mountaintop removal coal mining. The Obama administration starts to become much more vigilant than its predecessor in scrutinizing, and at times halting, the wantonly destructive practice. Massey Energy, the longtime nemesis of environmentalists, gets bought out. And one of the main battles covered by the film — the effort to re-locate Marsh Fork Elementary School away from a massive coal sludge impoundment lake — has been a success.

Now, none of this is covered in the film itself, which is airing on PBS over the next couple of weeks to mark Earth Day and is available for free for a limited time at www.BurningtheFuture.com. All of those positive developments have occurred since 2008, when the film was released. This is one of the treats of watching a four-year-old documentary: Events have overtaken some of the problems detailed by the filmmakers. The film did its job well, helping to ignite grassroots opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining and to put the coal industry on the defensive.

Which is not to say that mountaintop removal is no longer a threat to public health, clean water, or biodiversity. Coal still accounts for nearly half of our electricity generation and much of it comes from Appalachia. Mining companies are still blowing the tops off of mountains to get at the coal seams below. And the mining industry is greedily eyeing markets in East Asia and planning to build coal export terminals on the West Coast. The battle against King Coal is as heated as ever.

But what a difference four years makes. A combination of grassroots opposition, legal maneuverings, and shifts in the energy market have led to the cancellation of more than 160 coal-fired power plants across the country. The Obama administration recently put in place strict new rules for future coal plants that will serve as a disincentive for building new ones. The coal industry is headed for the sunset.

Burning the Future has played an important role in this progress. Think of it as the Gasland for the anti-coal movement — a film that through its emotionally deft storytelling helped to galvanize people to action.

So if you’re looking for a way to mark Earth Day that’s uncluttered by corporate co-optation, take some time to watch this film. The topic might seem like a downer, but I promise it will be a pick-me-up. Just remember how much has changed since this movie was produced, and think of its story as the prelude to some important victories.

Jason Mark, Editor, Earth Island JournalJason Mark photo
Jason Mark is a writer-farmer with a deep background in environmental politics. In addition to his work in the Earth Island Journal, his writings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, The Progressive, Utne Reader, Orion, Gastronomica, Grist.org, Alternet.org, E magazine, and Yes!  He is a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots and also co-author with Kevin Danaher of Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power.
He is writing a book about wildness in the twenty-first century, to be published next year by Island Press.

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Comments

Go to the Burning the Future Website and register your email and you can watch it for free Earthday weekend.  Thanks for watching!

By Maria on Sat, April 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

http://www.burningthefuture.org/page.asp?s=burningthefuture&content_id=32926

copy and paste this into your browser and you can register and watch the film for free EARTH DAY WEEKEND ONLY.!.  TY and God Bless you all for watching and caring enough to help with this plight to save us all!  Our children will thanks us.

By Maria Gunnoe on Sat, April 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Thank you for having this screening.  Unfortunately, it is not being shown on any station that we get here in East Tennessee. I have sent this notice to all in my network, but I fear with the short notice most people will not be able to view it.  Sure would be nice to be able to download and view later.

By Harry Bryant on Sat, April 21, 2012 at 6:49 am

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