Surface coal mining is associated with both environmental and social injustices including loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution, health threats, and economic hardship. Strong, yet distinct, movements against surface coal extraction have developed within Appalachia, United States and Australia. As both countries are economic and democratic leaders, this study seeks to explain why the Australian movement has targeted coal corporations through mainly grassroots efforts, while the movement in Appalachia has taken a networked and professionalized approach to challenging surface mining through policy change.
To analyze these two movements, New Social Movement, Resource Mobilization, Political Opportunity Structures, and Ideologically Structured Action theories are applied to three organizations from each country. These groups were selected on the basis of comparable size and structure, as well as their ability to represent similar organizations within their respective country. The application of New Social Movement theory highlights that group constituencies are largely dictated by the way in which social movement organizations project their values. Resource Mobilization identifies that geographic concentration of organizations across Appalachia serves to support policy related efforts, but creates a barrier to such strategies across Australia. Ideologically Structured Action highlights that access to mainstream media may cause Australian activists to rely on both biocentric and anthropocentric issue frames rather than their U.S. counterparts who mostly stress the anthropocentric issues of coal mining as a threat to public health. The major findings of this study are brought to light through Political Opportunity Structures, as policies associated with mineral ownership and coal mine approval encourage political action in the U.S., but discourage these efforts in Australia. This study focuses on understanding the differences in the movements rather than providing suggestions for action or discussing which movement is more successful.
Mehrhoff, Jessie, "Communities vs. Coal: A Comparative Analysis of the Movements Against Surface Mining in Australia and the United States" (2014). Environmental Studies Honors Papers. 11.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.