Last night, CNN aired “Battle for Blair Mountain: Working in America,” a documentary piece on coal mining hosted by Soledad O’Brien. While the piece makes an effort to represent both sides of the issue, it leaves out a critical voice: Appalachian families whose health and livelihoods have been in steady decline because of mountaintop removal coal minining.
It left out the voices of people such as as Maria Gunnoe (2009). She recently joined a coalition of environmental and public health advocates at a congressional hearing to release findings from studies about birth defects and cancer rates in Appalachia. It could have included the story of Judy Bonds, a tireless advocate whose battle against mountaintop removal was tragically cut short by cancer.
Instead, it chose the far simpler route of pitting jobs against environment, propagating the myth that one can only be attained at the cost of another. Appalachian families deserve better. They deserve jobs that pay well, protect their health, and maintain the mountain’s natural beauty.