Sierra Club Partners with Award-Winning Photographer to Capture Human Costs of Coal

Sierra Club and Sierra Magazine release “Cost of Coal” Photo Project

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(ENEWSPF)–October 11, 2012.  The Sierra Club and Sierra Magazine released a new photography project examining the effects of coal on the lives of everyday Americans. The feature, “Cost of Coal,” 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, accompanied by a new, interactive website with more than 100 powerful photos and videos of individuals affected by coal. 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 the lives of people in these regions. Through her captivating images, readers 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 entire Moapa Band of Paiutes community in Nevada.

Visitors to the Cost of Coal website can browse through slide-shows, organized by location and story. Readers can also take action to help support solutions that would curb the dangerous mining, burning and waste disposal practices described in the article.

“Through the words and images of people most affected by coal pollution, the new Cost of Coal photo series puts a human face on the very real suffering caused by coal mining, coal-fired power plants, and coal waste,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Thanks to these powerful images and stories, readers can now see for themselves how Americans across the country must cope with the devastating effects of coal on their health and their communities, as they live in the shadow of King Coal.”

“Even though coal is what powers many of our homes, I had never seen coal in real life until I started on this project” said Ami Vitale, the award-winning photojournalist behind Cost of Coal. “I was so moved by meeting the people whose lives have been so deeply impacted by coal and by hearing their stories, that the first thing I did when I came home after shooting this story was to put solar panels up on the roof.”

“Coal pollution is one of the most dangerous threats to our public health,” said Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City, whose Bloomberg Philanthropies has contributed $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “These powerful photos allow us to see the human faces behind a problem that all too often is discussed in political, rather than personal, terms. Their stories serve as a strong reminder why we must continue this vital work of protecting Americans’ health and moving the country beyond coal.”

“This photo feature may be one of the most powerful stories we’ve ever done,” said Sierra Magazine executive editor Steve Hawk. “Our goal was to turn the camera away from wonky discussions about things like CO2 emissions and climate disruption, and focus instead on the immediate human costs of coal. I’m proud to be part of a project that, I hope, touches people on an emotional level through words, photos, and video.”

To read the full article and see the complete slide show and video library, visit