Mountaintop removal
Mountaintop removal at Oven Fork, near Whitesburg, KY (Photo credit:

Growing up in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Mary Anne Hitt was surrounded by the lush Smoky Mountains.

So she was upset when she learned that local mining companies were blowing the tops off mountains to mine coal.

Hitt: “It was not only devastating to one of the most beautiful places in the world, which I love very much, but devastating to all the people living around these sites who are friends and beloved folks in my life.”

Hitt became an advocate for clean energy … and having a daughter made her even more committed.

Hitt: “In just my lifetime, over 500 mountains in Appalachia have been blown up and wiped off the map forever. She should be able to explore those mountains, just as all the generations of kids did before her, and she can’t.”

Today, Hitt is director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. She says climate change has made her work even more urgent.

”In Click To Tweet

Hitt: “In the same way that mountaintop removal is a permanent theft of something that should be my daughter’s birthright, I feel the same way about climate change. That we’re on the brink of destroying something we can’t put back together again. And so I’m very motivated not just to fight the good fight for clean energy, but to win that fight because there’s just so much at stake.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the Senior Editor of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist, and...