Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mountaintop-removal documentary criticized for narrow focus

The CNN documentary "Battle for Blair Mountain" is being criticized for its 'jobs vs. environment' approach "

The headline on the web piece is your first sign that the piece needs some help: 'Steady job or healthy environment: What would you choose?'," Kate Shepperd of Mother Jones argues. Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices questions the jobs vs. environment focus and suggests the focus "is devoid of any actual analysis of whether that frame is appropriate." (Read more)

Other flaws include the lack of coverage on public health and reclamation issues, Shepperd says. For example, the documentary doesn't cite recent studies linking mountain-top removal to cancer, birth defects, and lung and kidney problems. When the documentary speaks about reclamation, it focuses on appearance rather than the destruction of an ecosystem. (Read more)

Jeff Biggers of AlterNet Blog, credits O'Brien and CNN with outing Army Corps of Engineers's faulty stream mitigation practices in the film but suggests the documentary failed to "tell the other side" of the story by interviewing residents living under the fallout of mountaintop-removal operations.

Ken Ward writes on Coal Tattoo, the documentary presents "a pretty balanced overview of the different sides of the story." It includes statements by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and local residents -- like Chuck Kenney, a history instructor at a West Virginia community college who question mountaintop-removal and its impacts. (Read More)

The misuse of language and images in the documentary, however, are confusing. O'Brien equated conductivity with toxicity in interviewing Linda Dials, a strip miner's wife, about a test on the stream in front of her home. Conductivity indicates toxicity to life in streams but doesn't indicate toxicity to mammals that may drink from the streams. This point was further muddled when Jim Dial explains that they don't see dead deer. In addition, when the documentary points out that the Spruce Mine would bury seven miles of streams, the video showed a river or very large creek, much larger than the streams that would be buried by mountaintop removal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those of us in Central MO certainly have come across CNN being totally oblivious to rural life in the past when they contended a falling down bridge across the Osage River should not be replaced because only 200 people lived next to it. The 2,700 vehicles that crossed it every day had no meaning to CNN's correspondent. This was probably more of the same -- city people trying to explain rural life.