The first time I watched this is powerful new video, it stopped me in my tracks. It’s the debut video for our latest project, a photo series from Sierra magazine called “The Cost of Coal.” I think you’ll agree — the stories and images of these families who are facing the loss of their homes, loved ones, and lives to coal pollution are unforgettable. And while I was especially moved by the images from my home state of West Virginia, the real tragedy is that stories like these are being repeated across our nation.

The Cost of Coal
is new photography project we are launching today that lifts the veil on the devastating toll of coal on the lives of everyday Americans. It follows the life-cycle of coal, using sharp, poignant images to show the impact coal mining, burning and disposal has on families across the country.

The Cost of Coal project includes an 18-page photo spread in the November/December issue of Sierra magazine, accompanied by a new, interactive website with more than 100 powerful photos and videos of people and families suffering from coal pollution.

Sierra Magazine partnered with renowned photojournalist Ami Vitale to visit communities in West Virginia, Michigan, and Nevada and document firsthand the devastating consequences of coal on their lives. Through Ami’s captivating images, readers will learn about the effects of mountaintop removal mining on a husband and wife in Appalachia, coal burning on the health of a family in Detroit, and coal ash waste disposal on the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Nevada.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only places in America where coal pollution is devastating families and communities. Sadly, stories like this are all too common across our nation, though they rarely get the attention they deserve. Our hope is that this new series will lift the veil on the pain and devastation that coal causes throughout its life cycle, from mining to burning to disposal.

Seeing all the photos and watching the videos had a powerful effect on me, especially as a mom. Watching kids suffer with asthma and other breathing issues triggered by air pollution, I imagined how painful it would be to see my own toddler daughter struggle to breathe. This series puts an unforgettable human face on the very real suffering caused by coal.

I’m also especially touched by the look at West Virginia. Mountaintop removal coal mining has wiped out entire communities across Appalachia. My daughter is an 11th-generation West Virginian, and watching the following video, I was struck by the legacy of loss we are leaving behind for young children today in the Mountain State. No son or daughter of West Virginia should have to face losing their home, health, town, or mountains to coal – and yet it is happening every day. Here’s that video:

I encourage you all to take time to explore the feature in the magazine and online. Every one of us is touched by the health and environmental effects of coal. But we can do something about it. We don’t have to sit idly by while King Coal poisons our families and communities.

Thankfully, across America there are thousands and thousands of moms, dads, young adults, community leaders, students, people of faith — the list goes on and on — who are standing up to the coal industry and fighting for a transition to clean energy.

Join us to help protect our air, our water, and our families.