“We’re living in a truly contentious time right now, but I do believe we have the capacity to find common ground if we have the right information.”
– Michael Bonfiglio, director of “From the Ashes”
One of the many challenges facing our country is our reliance on energy to keep us moving, working, operating, communicating, living. Do we fully understand where the energy comes from that illuminates a room when we flip a switch? What are the costs for this energy – not just from our wallets, but also our air, our water, our planet, our health and our jobs?
On June 15, SC Ministry Foundation hosted an advance preview screening of the National Geographic documentary, “From the Ashes,” to provide an opportunity to learn more about the coal industry and its effect on our lives. The screening was offered in partnership with one of the foundation’s grantees, Ohio Interfaith Power & Light (OhIPL), an organization which empowers a religious response to climate change by promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy with communities of all faiths. Sara Ward, executive director of OhIPL, facilitated a discussion with attendees following the film.
SC Ministry Foundation offered this learning opportunity as a way of promoting the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, whose mission calls to “care for all creation,” and whose vision compels members to “live simply in a complex world.”
“From the Ashes” features coal-mining communities across the country and the compelling and often heartbreaking personal stories from residents, environmentalists, and activists, to “put a human face on the complicated issues tied to coal production, such as the future of the energy sector, the risks to people’s health and livelihood, and the environment,” as stated by the film’s director Michael Bonfiglio.
The film explained the coal industry’s impact on health, evidenced by hazardous drinking water and increased cases of asthma from polluted air. The environmental impact of surface mining displaces plants and animals and leaves the land unusable for agriculture and/or development. The burning of coal not only pollutes the air we breathe, but is the single largest contributor to the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.
As the coal industry suffered from decreased demand with the rise of natural gas use, and many coal mining jobs were replaced with technological advances, hundreds of coal mining towns and their residents felt the impact deeply, as was poignantly demonstrated in the film.
Hope for the Future
Despite the challenges surrounding the coal industry, there are alternatives and viable options for energy sources and for sustainable jobs. The film shared how organizations are taking action to help coal communities transition to renewable energy industries and create sustainable economies by producing solar panels and wind turbines.
Other groups, such as the Sierra Club, are strong advocates in the movement to end coal pollution and promote alternative energy technologies. They initiated the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy campaign, a nonpartisan initiative for local leaders to commit to leading their communities toward 100% clean renewable energy sources. Cincinnati’s Mayor John Cranley recently joined this initiative.
Director Michael Bonfiglio stated, “After making this film, I’ve concluded that the idea that we must poison our air and water and render our planet uninhabitable to have jobs in this country is a falsehood. Hopefully this film will be part of a sane and rational dialogue about how to move forward as a nation in the 21st century.”
In the discussion that followed the screening of the film, one participant remarked that “the future of energy is not an either/or decision—clean energy or jobs—but that it is possible to have both clean energy and jobs through industries creating solar, wind, and other clean energy solutions.”
It is important for all of us living in the United States – no matter our political ties or region of the country – to support the efforts to transition to clean energy. The future of our children and many generations after them depend heavily on the decisions we make at this critical time in history.
For more information about the film:
“From the Ashes” film website: https://www.fromtheashesfilm.com/
A helpful educational resource from the film is available for download here.
The film will broadcast on National Geographic TV on Friday, June 30 at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
For a limited time, the National Geographic website is providing the opportunity for the film to be viewed online.
Video Clips from the film are also available online.