The backlash against coal

Coal protestorsPhoto: Focus the NationIn the last few years, the anti-coal movement has exploded faster than a West Virginia mountaintop, becoming the most exciting and effective story in the activist world. More than 100 coal plants have been stalled or killed since 2001. Climate-science godfather James Hansen and many others have gotten themselves arrested to make the point that climate change won’t stop until coal stops — period.  And it’s not just coal’s climate-toasting impacts that are riling people up. The devastating practice of mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia — wherein coal companies blast away entire peaks and destroy entire communities — has been pushed onto the mainstream political agenda, with Obama’s EPA at least scrutinizing it more closely and delaying permits. The appalling coal-ash spill of December 2008 got the whole country thinking about coal’s dirty underbelly. More and more people are angry about mercury pollution from coal plants, which can screw up brain development in kids. We like to think none of this would have happened if Grist’s own David Roberts hadn’t supplied the movement with a catchy slogan: “Coal is the enemy of the human race.” You’re welcome, future generations!