The term “overburden” is used for the rock, soil, trees and ecosystem that lie above a coal seam. It is also the title of Chad Stevens’ documentary about environmental devastation in the Appalachian coal mining region and the effect it has had on the area’s surrounding communities.
Stevens, director and cinematographer of the film “Overburden,” visited campus Tuesday night for Bowling Green’s first screening. Before the viewing, Stevens recounted the experience that inspired him to begin the project.
Stevens said a friend drove him up a mountain road in eastern Kentucky to an overlook, where he witnessed mountaintop removal for the first time. Stevens explained mountaintop removal as an intense form of coal mining.
“That was the moment that changed me,” Stevens said. After observing such destruction of the earth firsthand, Stevens said he was led to create the film.
The documentary follows two women, both residents of Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia.
The two women initially contrast politically regarding coal mining. One of the women, Lorelei Scarbro, is an environmental activist who worked tirelessly to put a stop to the destruction caused by coal mining. The other, Betty Harrah, is pro-coal and believes there is no alternative to the industry because of its economic influence.
However, a devastating explosion in one of the mines brought the two women together in protest against the coal company responsible for the deaths of 29 men in their community.
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