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As the debate rages about the “war on coal” and the environmental and economic impact of clean air and clean water legislation, filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio’s 2017 documentary From the Ashes presents the voices of the people most concerned with the decline of the coal industry: environmentalists, climate scientists, politicians, economists, and especially the coal miners and other residents of decaying coal towns. Through these differing perspectives, the viewer learns more about the multiple impacts of coal mining on our health, our economy, and our climate.
The discussion guide prepared by Journeys in Film leads the viewer to a better understanding of this complex issue by providing background information on the nature and history of coal mining, particularly the surface mining that is the primary subject of the documentary. It explores the reasons behind the shift from coal to cheaper and less polluting alternative energy sources like natural gas, solar power, and wind power. It also provides information on both current environmental laws and some of the environmental activist movements that encourage cleaner power sources even beyond what the law requires. Thought-provoking discussion questions help viewers further analyze the issues presented in the film and consider the environmental situation in their own communities. Additional resources and suggestions for hosting a screening are also included in the discussion guide.